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Summary:

Every founder knows the pain of a sales call. Sales calls aren’t tough because ‘The Spiel’ is tough. Sales calls are painful because getting turned down is painful. What helped me and my cofounders make the Dean’s List in engineering school (while launching our peer-to-peer credit […]

Every founder knows the pain of a sales call. Sales calls aren’t tough because ‘The Spiel’ is tough. Sales calls are painful because getting turned down is painful. What helped me and my cofounders make the Dean’s List in engineering school (while launching our peer-to-peer credit company for college students called “Duck 9″:http://www.duck9.com/about-us.htm) doesn’t help us with the pain of hearing the word ‘No’. But wasn’t it the fear of hearing ‘No’ that drove us to succeed in the first place? We all want that one credential (a diploma?) that will serve as our silver bullet — allowing us to bust through any and all future ‘No!’s, right? Which leads me to *some tips I’ve acquired over time for getting to ‘Yes!’:*

*1) Turning pre-No’s into Maybe’s.*
Some gatekeepers can only say ‘No.” Beat them to saying ‘No’ with the Second Supplier Gambit (SSG). This means setting aside your need to sell something in lieu of fulfilling your prospects’ needs. Love them, meet their needs and turn them into possible maybe’s.

*2) Preparing for a probable ‘No’ with flowers.*
I have a staffer, Lillian Miller, that wanted veeeery badly to go to TechCrunch TC20 promo party at August Capital on tony Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, Calif. I already had 7 “plus ones”. I wasn’t gonna add a Duck9er into the mix. I did tell her to prep the ‘no’ with flowers and it works like this:

1= send flowers with note
2= personally deliver
3= hope that they remember you and say ‘maybe’ at the door.

I know 20 people that wanted to go, but none of then would risk rejection at the door. Lillian reduced her likelihood of hearing ‘no’ with flowers, and then braved the possibility of rejection. She got in.

*3) Spend $400 a year to hear fewer ‘No’s.*
Budget for thank you gifts. If someone would’ve said ‘No’ but then said ‘Yes’, you owe them something. If you ‘budgeted’ $40,000 for education, you can afford $4,000, or at least $400 a year on gifts. And get some Thank You cards, too.

*4) The premptive ‘No’ manuver.*
This is where you say ‘No’ before they tell you ‘No’. Nothing is started until the potential buyer first says ‘No, thanks’. Just like a long term personal relationship — it doesn’t start until the first break-up. Professionally this is risky because it can make you look pyschotic in that you’re saying ‘No’ because you’re wooing them. But try it, you’ll be surprised how taking an offer off the table makes someone want it again.

*5) Try to turn your ‘No’ into a ‘Waitlist’.*
A great way to turn ‘No’s into a ‘Maybe’ is getting waitlisted. “No you can’t come to film school”, this is what I heard from USC in 1998 when I retired from “United College Marketing Serivces, Inc”:http://www.ucms.com/. But I got my rejection commuted to “last-on-waitlist-status.” I sent flowers to the registrar as a thank you. Magically, twenty-some people dropped out, and I was in! When your next customer says ‘No’ ask him/her if they’ve closed the deal with someone else–if not, ask to be put on their ‘waitlist’ — and send a gift.

*6) Don’t be afraid to be a Puppy Dog.*
I don’t mean beg. I mean that happy, indefatigably enthusiastic puppies always get to ‘Yes’. I play this card on my co-founder all the time. He never wants to take a break from work. I just never stopped inviting him out. Eventually, I get him to Las Vegas or to a party for something quasi-work related, and before he knows it, he’s partying into the wee hours with celebs thanks to my puppy dog close. Play Baxter.

*7) Identify and seek-out people more likely to say ‘Yes.’*
Craft a ‘nay-sayer’ profile so you can identify people who are likely to say ‘Yes’ than ‘No,’ and adjust your strategy accordingly. For example, if someone hears ‘No’ a lot, they’ll say ‘No’ a lot, too, sometimes without reason. But ‘Yes’ is even more infectious. Karma is obvious, cyclical and readable. Approach people who hear ‘Yes,’ and chances are they’ll say ‘Yes’ to you.

*8) Hire people who have a tolerance for ‘No’*
Your business will be more successful if you surround yourself with people who can tolerate ‘No.’ As a rule the hungrier a person is, the more tolerant s/he will be of initial rejection. Consider:

(A) Prestige is often inversely proportional to tolerance for ‘No.’ In my experience when privileged peeps or top-tier educated people hear ‘No’ the wagon wheels come off. (My fellow Illinois alumni, Larry Ellison, Marc Andressen, Jeremy Stoppleman, Hugh Hefner, Thomas Siebel, etc. all faced hardship as young men. Hire people who can deal with ‘No’ like a high school drop-out, street smart billionaire.)

(B) Don’t hire a male supermodel. Derek Zoolander-types don’t _hear_ ‘No.’ When they do they implode. Even if he’s “hardcharging” avoid hiring an inflated egomaniac as your VP of Sales.

*9) Responses for the inevitable ‘No’s.*
A boxing legend friend of mine once told me, *”Larry, everyone has a plan until they get hit.”* It’s good advice for entrepreneurship as well. Several wrong-headed attitudes are adopted when a ‘No’ is heard. We all know that defensiveness kryptonite to entrepreneurship, so avoid these attitudes at all costs:

(A) You’re too dumb to “get it”
(B) You’ll be sorry when I’m proved right later
(C) I’ll never ask again; the offer is forever off the table to you.

*10) Practice and Learn to Love ‘No’.*
This is another way of saying thicken your skin. The more comfortable you are with hearing uncomfortable responses like ‘No’ the more likely you are to be successful at converting a ‘No’ to a ‘Yes.’ So practice hearing the word ‘No’ by:

A) asking outlandishly bold questions of people without fear
B) invite out men/women who are out of your ‘league’
C) try things you know you can’t do and get comfortable with little, transient (!) failures.

*Learning how to tolerate the juxtaposition of pleasure (‘Yes’) and pain (‘No’) is something entrepreneurs NEED to be good at.* So don’t get discouraged when you hear ‘No.’ If you are enterprising, and take risks in life, you will hear thousands of ‘No’s: ‘No, you can’t come to the JD/MBA program’ ; ‘No, we can’t fund Duck9′ ; ‘No, you can’t have a discount on your office space’; ‘No, I won’t go out with you.’ But take heart. Statistically if you can migrate 1 in 10 ‘No’s to a ‘Yes’ you are going to be succesful– and possibly very rich, too.

  1. neilcauldwell Friday, August 3, 2007

    Great post, Larry. I’m going to live by 10 b) from now on.}

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  2. Larry, Great Post.

    If possible, I would appreciate some more elaboration on number 4 above.}

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  3. Expanding on #4)
    4B) Set aside and prempt their “no”…
    My people at duck9 don’t call to sell access to students with a FICO of 750. They call to warn of pitfalls of giving away premium (pizza), tips using a SSP (second stage premium), fraud of wrong cellies, AND management of our 1,300 student representatives.

    4C) Set aside your need to sell something. Call when you don’t need to make numbers. Call when your en fuego. Make a sales call to socialize and add value while setting aside your need to make commission/profit.}

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  4. Treat the receptionist like the CEO and you’ll at least get more shots at actually pitching the CEO. It’s amazing how bone-headed people are; treating assistants like second-class citizens. I love the story (and it’s not apocryphal) of a sales team with an appointment with a senior VP at Customer X and it just so happened that the flu bug had ravaged the ranks and the senior VP, who obviously had a great attitude, was filling in for a half-hour at the front desk to let the beleaguered (and lone — there were usually four front desk people) receptionist get some lunch. The sales team got impatient at having to wait and started making assholish comments to “the help”. The VP left the desk when the receptionist returned and then let the sales team cool their heels for 2 hours before informing them that her calendar was just too jammed — for the next year.}

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  5. [...] 4) Get a mirror. Study what you look like. Your facial expression come through via the phone line. 5) Pause and re-start after the area code pre-fix when delivering your phone number. For example, I say, “call me back at 6-5-0… 2-8-3… hey grab a pen!!… it is Larry Chiang @ 6-5-0… 5-6-6… 8-0-0-8.” 6) Set aside your need to sell something. Instead, help them do their job. “I am calling to tell you about three new developments within credit marketing: one is use of a FICO score prep, two is the use of…” I cut out after two ideas and go into my phone number. The likelihood of a callback rises because #3 was left off. Closing a deal via voicemail means deliberately not selling in the voicemail. This is like backfiring forward and is example of what I call the ssg, a.k.a. the “second supplier gambit” where you set aside your need to sell something in lieu of fulfilling your prospects’ needs. Love them, meet their needs, and turn a ‘No’ into a ‘Yes.’ (See point #1 in Wooing People to ‘Yes!’) [...]

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  6. [...] Learning to love ‘no’ is a stretch, but tolerating a half a dozen no’s for one really good ‘maybe’ is worth [...]

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