The power of ‘no’

As much as people strive for personal and business success and want to hear a “yes” to requests, there are times when the best thing to do is deliver a “no.” Manufacturer representatives are all too familiar with the discomfort of telling a dealer “no” to something placed on an order form — especially a new dealer who has finally agreed to place an order. This order, and “yes” from the dealer, could be the result of months — or even years — of work to obtain. However, all business professionals should act in a client’s best interests and speak frankly if a mistake is about to be made. After all, accepting an order with contents that will most likely end up collecting dust on a clearance shelf months later will surely guarantee a “no” from the dealer on subsequent requests for orders. Therefore, saying “no” to the wrong items, colors or sizes will benefit your customer AND you!

A great barometer of a sales representative’s integrity and knowledge is the ability to edit an order in a way that supports a customer’s success. If a rep is simply interested in a commission check and fails to evaluate and communicate how an order will impact a dealership, chances are that “no” will rarely be heard. These reps will accept every order received with an enthusiastic “yes,” perhaps try to add even more product if possible and shrug off an unsatisfied customer with unsellable stock. On the other hand, a rep who really cares about a dealership and a customer’s long-term success, will give feedback and a polite “no” when experience dictates that something is not likely to sell in a particular area or with the type of riders that frequent that store. Obviously, in the end, the dealer will have the last word on an order, but a rep who cautions the buyer on a purchase will probably be respected and appreciated.

For instance, I was recently able to place a new helmet line in an established dealership. The buyer (parts manager) had only spent about six months in the position and was too busy to work up the order during the sales visit. He engaged in the product demonstration, understood the program and committed to placing an opening order. When he emailed the order a few days later, red flags immediately began to pop up while reading over the mix of helmets selected. Unfortunately, the selection, in my experienced opinion, was not appropriate for his area. That is, he randomly chose a combination of models and colors of all price ranges with just a size or two of each helmet. The buyer was trying to represent the whole product line instead of focusing in on what would sell to customers. Instead of blindly sending the order in to be processed and shipped, I contacted him in essence with a “no,” and suggested a revised order with size runs of the best-selling models and colors that I was confident would turn quickly for him in his area.

Unfortunately, the buyer insisted that the order stand “as is” and I reluctantly submitted his selections. The next visit to this dealership was bittersweet. The buyer admitted that he was wrong to not heed my advice as suggested models had sold through quickly and the rest of the odd mix remained on the shelf. By the following visit to this dealership, a new parts manager was standing behind the counter. The buyer was not fired because of that one order, but because of the results from the mindset he displayed thinking he knew better than a rep that was trying to tell him “no.”

The same lesson also applies to how businesses interact with their customers. Tell your customers “no” when making an obvious mistake with a purchase instead of just making the sale! Sometimes saying “no” is the best way to support customer’s best interests — and the best way to earn trust, loyalty and satisfaction.

Scott Hochmuth is the owner of Real Performance Marketing, an Atlanta-based company representing ten different Powersports related product lines in the Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee areas. He comes face-to-face with over 200 dealers every 8 weeks. He has been in sales since 1982 and started in the powersports industry in 1989 as a sales representative for a helmet manufacturer.


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