Last week I had an interesting conversation with Richard Fenton who exhibited at our last Sales Leadership Conference in Las Vegas. I asked him what caused him to write the little paperback book entitled ‘Go for No’ (Amazon) that’s been a consistent bestseller on Amazon.com for the past three years. He told me that he got the idea for the book from a most memorable sale.
Since I love collecting memorable sales stories (we’ve published hundreds of them in Selling Power magazine) I asked Richard to write it down for me so I could share it in my blog. Here it is, Richard’s bittersweet, but inspiring sales story, as fresh as it had happened yesterday:
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“Years ago I was working for a menswear chain, selling suits for a living, and to be honest I wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire. In fact, my sales were so abysmal I was pretty sure they were going to fire me. That’s when I heard that the district manager… a man by the name of Harold… was scheduled to visit. And I thought: Maybe if I can impress Harold, they’ll give me more time to improve my sales.
Harold showed up about nine-thirty in the morning, we opened the doors at ten, and because I was the first salesman in that morning I had first “up”. And in walks this well-dressed gentleman who announces that he wants to buy an 'entire wardrobe' of clothing. And sure enough, within 30 minutes, I had an $1,100 sale and I was certain that Harold would be impressed.
After several minutes Harold sauntered over and said, “Nice sale, kid.” "Yep! $1,100!" I replied, my chest puffing out with pride. Then Harold asked me a question that would literally change the course of my life. He asked: "Out of curiosity, Richard, what did that customer say NO to?”“What do you mean?” I shot back. “That guy just bought a suit, sport coat, three shirts, six ties, shoes, socks, a belt and underwear! What do you mean, what did he say 'NO' to?”
Harold waited calmly for me to stop being defensive, then he said: “We’ve already established what the customer said 'YES' to, Richard. YES is always the easy part: All you have to do is take the sales check and look at the items listed, and those are the YESes. What I want to know now is... What did he say NO to?”
I thought for a long time, mentally reviewing the sale in my mind, I realized the customer hadn’t said 'NO' to anything. Everything I showed that man, he purchased. I said to Harold: “The customer didn’t say NO to anything.” Then Harold asked me the OTHER really important question: “Then how did you know he was done?”
Harold’s question hit me like a punch because I realized the customer hadn’t ended the sale… I HAD! And, why? Simple! You see, I had never spent over $1,000 on a shopping trip on clothing in my life, so when anyone went over a thousand bucks… my mental spending limit… hey, they were done!
Harold said, “I watched you sell and you’re not half bad. But your fear of the word no is going to kill you. If you can get over that… if instead of AVOIDING “NO” you could learn to GO FOR NO… I think you could be one of the great ones."
It was amazing… I had gone into work that morning hoping to keep my job, and I went home that night two letters from greatness.
And the letters were N... and O.
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