Using NO at negotiation as a start of a positive process toward success

Several years ago, I was part of a company’s team – leader in the FMCG industry. The sales team there was the strongest and most successful one I have ever seen in my life. People almost always reached their targets, and when they did not, they created and executed robust plans to achieve results. At first, I thought that these people were not having so many problems on the market because they were selling a brand well-known worldwide. When I visited the market with some of them, I quickly understood that the seller always depends on the person and its reaction to the other side, no matter the brand. In 2014 the company decided to stop working with one of the largest retailers across Europe because of its unethical behavior and inconsistent demands. That made the market targets more challenging, but a couple of months later, these same sales teams have reached the identical market goals as planned at the beginning of the year. The sales team got its support from a group of sales trainers, who were there for the young and experienced and were doing their job to support sales targets and business developers’ actions on the market. At this time, I was an HR Business partner for almost half of the country sales team. I saw how good they were, and at the same time, I have had problems selling my HR strategy to the company’s executive board. So, at this moment, I turned to the sales team and took one of the most experienced sales trainers with me on a journey through the country. It was an eye-opening journey that helped me to better structure my skills and built the right attitude when negotiating. It also though me that NO in negotiation is often the first step toward a long way to success. I have learned a lot from this sales trainer, but there are several rules in negotiation I use to succeed until today. My list of rules is:

NO allows the real issue to arise

Have you been in a negotiation where everything goes smooth, and after you are sure that you have got the best deal, you start realizing that there have been many things in the background that are now stopping the process? If you hear NO in the conversation, something is missing for the other side. The NO answer allows us to get out of our comfort zone and focus on understanding better the situation and what planned and “confirmed” action can do to the other side. The NO answer shows that there is still something to be discussed, and we need to dig deeper if we want to reach a “win-win” situation at the end.

NO projects people from ineffective decisions

The often-used technique for selling by the mobile operators in my own country is the fast sale. Maybe you have experienced it in other industries. It goes like that” A salesperson calls you to present fantastic offer to you that is a persona, valid only for you and only now. No time to think. If you do not grab that “opportunity,” you will lose the chance to be a winner. It happens to me often. Salespeople from my current mobile operator call me at least once a month to present the next tremendous but limited-time offer.

My reaction is always the same – the first response is NO, and then I ask for time to consider if this is an excellent opportunity for me, based on the information and “limited” facts I have received from the salesperson.

NO protects from ineffective decisions by:

 – Slowing things down – the purpose of the fast sale is not to be customer-oriented but to make a good profit for the seller. Most salespeople who use it are counting on emotional sales without any logical reason after it. If you slow things down and insist on more time, there is nothing wrong. Just say something like: It is not comfortable to discuss this now. Maybe we can schedule a call for tomorrow.

This will give you time to think, analyze, and formulate more questions if needed to make the right decision for yourself and not the seller’s right decision.

 – Helping people to feel safe, secure, and in control – the time to think can make you more confident with the decision you take. It lowers the push and the pressure and gives you control over time, the quality and quantity of the information you have gotten from the other person. It makes your decision stronger and acceptable for you, in your logic, not the reason expressed from the other side in the negotiation process.

Moving efforts forward – we have two sides in the negotiation process who are trying to get the best option for themselves. It is always winning to have a win-win solution, but in the disruptive times we live in, often, the approach is a “win-lose” solution. To stop this, you will need to prepare that negotiation will be a long process. It is more like an alignment of what makes both sides winners. If you succeed in ensuring that your approach will lead to the alignment between your goals and the other side’s goals, you have completed the process as a winner. If not, you better think if you do not have to turn it down and start again.


People who are not skilled in a negotiation see a NO as rejection, but the NO answer is the beginning of the process. Everyone who understands that can achieve excellent results while putting effort into finding a winning solution for both sides negotiating.


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