Many years ago I read an article that said “the real challenge of sales begins when the client says ‘no’.” At the time it felt shocking. The concept of being encouraged to be a nuisance by interpreting a clear ‘no’ for a ‘maybe’. None the less, the phrase stuck and I learned to interpret it to mean ‘if you believe in something don’t give up until you have given it your utmost best’. But today, as I prepare for a tricky meeting where I need to convince two of my client’s employees not to be upset by a little set back but to focus on solving the underlying problem, I find myself reflecting on this simplistic phrase and understanding its deeper meaning.

Let me explain:

In the first instance the phrase means exactly what it says: “the real challenge of sales begins when the client says ‘no’.”  If you break the sentence into two parts you have: ‘the real challenge of sales’ and: ‘begins when the client says no.’’

The statement does not attempt to answer what the real challenge of sales is. But if you see the bigger picture, i.e. sales as a process from creating desire to cash in the bank, you can imagine that if the client says ‘no’ then the challenge begins, not by arguing or trying to persuade the customer further but by examining what went wrong.  Therefore the real challenge of sales is to:

  1. Re-look at the product or service offering
  2. Re-look at the pricing structure
  3. Re-look at the client, was he or she in the appropriate target group?
  4. Re-look at your sales pitch, was it relevant, clear and understandable?
  5. Re-look at the complete picture from your clients’ point of view
  6. Re-look at your client, maybe they don’t want their problem solved!?

Therefore if we can conclude that the art of self-criticism and cross examination is indeed the real challenge of sales, then I think the very same can be directly applied to change management.

In its purest form a sales person and a change manager are doing exactly the same thing – trying solve a specific problem. The significant difference between the two is that one is solving it by supplying a pre-defined service or product while the other is attempting to guide the customer into solving the problem themselves.

So this morning, when I go into my meeting, I will not go into all this theory but will just say, “look on the bright side: your boss didn’t actually say ‘no’ she just didn’t fully believe that the solution would solve the fundamental problem, so let’s look at it from her perspective and see what adaptations will need to be made to make it work.

My success has not come from always having the perfect solution but by observing and adapting what I have until the root problem is solved.  In a word, by innovating. So I am not going to give up, even if my client’s employees want to!

Have a good week,