There is only one thing I like more about sales than closing deals. It’s getting a quick ‘thanks, but no thanks’.

And when I say closing deals, I’m not just talking about revenue and partnerships, I’m talking about achieving buy-in from colleagues for decisions on internal projects.

Over the last five years, I have honed a technique to help get to a quick YES or NO from potential customers, investors and colleagues. A colleague overheard me using it this week and twigged to the fact I was using it regularly to good effect so I thought I would share it.

It is not rocket science but it has taken practice. On reflection, I started using this tactic because I found myself in countless meetings with people who didn’t know how to ask the right questions to close deals.

As I dug deeper into why this was happening, it seemed that the people I was meeting had lukewarm interest in engaging in a sale or had received no real training in how to have sales conversations. Either way, they were leaving it to me to drive the meeting.

I wanted to learn why people were saying ‘No’ so I could evolve the pitch and product. And as I’ve written about before time is my most precious resource and I wanted it back.

I had more people to pitch and while developing relationships is essential, wasting time to talk about unrelated topics before getting to business in the last 10 minutes of a one-hour meeting was (and is!) a waste of time.

Increasing the speed to YES or NO in sales

Here are the four steps to the tactic I use.

Step 1

Constrain meetings to signal more will be achieved in less time. If your default meeting duration is one hour, make it 45 minutes. If the default ‘short’ meeting is 30 minutes, make it 15.   

Step 2

Open each and every meeting with ‘This meeting will be successful if…’ and list the desired outcomes. I learned this from Jeff Weiner (CEO at LinkedIn).

Step 3

Say this:

‘Thank you for taking the time to meet today.

I know your time is valuable and I’m sure you would like to respect mine as well.

The reason we are meeting today is the discuss [insert topic].

We would love to work and partner with you.

If you feel the same I would like to understand the steps we need to take to start creating value for both of our businesses.

If you don’t think we can work together, let’s talk about why that is.’

Step 4

If business is to be done, specify and agree on the date to finalise the next immediate step in the process. Diarise it and nail it.

There will undoubtedly be other steps but get the people in the meeting focused on the next step and the rest will follow.

If business won’t be done, thank them for their time and then do the unexpected.

In two weeks time from that meeting, send them some value. It might be a study, an article or a video you found that they will benefit from.

Why do this?

Because ‘No’ only means no, today and by extending value, your stock just went up a couple of points in their mind.

Two last things …

First, in reading these steps you might think that this tactic is too abrupt. I can assure you that investors and seasoned sales and business development people respect this approach because they also understand the value of time.

Second, when people talk about increasing sales they usually mean increasing the momentum of sales. This means widening the universe of people and companies that are prospective customers, partners and influencers.

Momentum comes from rapidly understanding why people will or won’t buy, invest or partner.

Increase that momentum by giving that universe of prospective customers and partners permission to be candid and start generating value or move onto the next thing. Either way, this will accelerate how quickly you can sell and evolve your pitch and product.

And at the end of the day, people get time back in their day, something we all want more of.