Why do people say no to working with you?

Simon saying "no thanks"

In marketing, rejection can be hard to take.

We’ve all had a no, when we were expecting a yes.

Perhaps you had a great conversation, and it was all pointing towards someone saying yes to working with you.

Maybe you spent ages on a proposal. It was really well received, only to be met with a no in the end.

Maybe a referral seemed a good fit and really keen to work with you, but ultimately it didn’t pan out.

One of the reasons for these ‘no’s might be your marketing.

In marketing, it’s all too easy to focus on attracting and connecting with new people and showing them how great your offer is. After all, this is the fun, sexy part that gets you that dopamine rush.

But marketing is also about helping people make well-informed decisions based on whether your offer is right for them.

So, how can your marketing help more of the right people say yes?

Don’t take the ‘no’ personally

When what you are marketing is ‘you and the work you do’, a no can feel very personal.

I believe more often than not it’s not you they’re saying no to. Other factors like money, time and – most often – effort are the real underlying reasons behind the no.

For example, when I’m talking to new people about what I do and offer them my book, they sometimes say no to buying it. At first, I couldn’t see why they didn’t want to spend just £12 to get the answers to their questions. Then I realised that it wasn’t the book (or me) they were saying no to, it was the work involved in reading the book and them putting those answers into practice. They were saying no to the time and effort that the book needed from them.

What do they need (from you) to be able to say yes?

Let’s be clear, this is not about getting a yes for the sake of a yes. That just leads to you working with a lot of people who are not ready to do the work – i.e. the worst-case scenario!

What we need to do is understand the factors influencing that yes – what do people who are ready to do the work (and would benefit from working with you) need to know, understand or believe in order to say yes with confidence?

Your marketing is about more than telling them ‘what they’ll get’ and naming a price. They need to know about the time it will take, the emotional, financial and perhaps even physical investment they will need to put into the work to get where they want to go.

Let’s think about a few reasons people give for saying no, and how we might be able to dive deeper into that persons thinking:

  • If they don’t feel ready, then ask what they think ‘ready’ feels like. How is it different to where they are now?
  • If they don’t have time, then ask them what they’re currently spending their time on – maybe the reason they feel stuck is because they’re spending their time on the wrong things and that’s keeping them where they are now?
  • If they can’t afford to invest financially, then ask them about what they would feel comfortable investing right now?
  • If they can’t make the commitment, then ask them more about where they want to end up; how clear are they on what commitment is necessary to get there?

Answers to these questions will help you understand their perspective… and increase their clarity on their own situation.

Asking why?

Asking these kinds of questions may mean continuing the conversation after someone has said no. This can be uncomfortable because you’re digging into the person’s reasons why behind the no.

Just asking why can come across as intrusive, or worse. Instead, try using a great question that coach Andy Bounds once shared with me:

“What’s your plan if you don’t do this?”

This question is not about you making a sale; it’s about them and their situation. You’re inviting them to share and open up the conversation – articulate their thinking without the need to defend their decision directly. And you get an insight into what their thought process is.

And I’ve found that asking this question can sometimes help someone go from a no to a yes. In trying to articulate what they are going to do instead, they realise they don’t have a plan, whereas what they’ve just said no to does offer a way forward. At this point, I invite them to take some time to consider it, sleep on the decision, and come back to me if they want to.

But… Is it ethical to try and change a no to a yes?

An important question!

I believe it is, as long as the motivation is not only for your benefit. If you’re chasing a yes because you need the money, then I’m not sure that’s ethical.

However, if you believe they are the right person, at the right time, to get the most out of working with you then helping them get clear on how you offer is the right fit for them is ethical. You’re not pushing a sale, you’re reaching for clarity. As long as the final decision is made by them, in their own time, then their yes is likely to be what they really need.

And if they stick with a no? That’s ok too. You can offer to stay in touch via your email list, social media, etc. and keep the exchange flowing. They might not be ready now, but they might be in the future.

Clarity is the key

When people say no to your offer, they may just not be clear on how it applies to them. Your marketing is not about changing their mind so much as making sure they are clear on how your offer relates to their situation and goals.

Your marketing content – posts, videos, guides, etc. – and the conversations that follow can help people get clearer on where they are now and where they want to be, as well as the work involved in getting there. You can help them understand what ‘ready’ looks and feels like so that they can make an informed decision about whether saying yes is right for them.

If you want to learn more about getting clearer on where your ideal client is now and where they want to be, as well as how to create content that helps them get clear on saying YES, then consider my book Reframing Marketing. It’s a 3 step guide to creating an effective and ethical marketing plan that isn’t focused on closing the sale or pressuring anyone into saying yes. It’s all about how to do marketing in a way that feels more like a conversation and a lot less like selling.

You can find out more and order your copy directly from me at reframingmarketing.com.