Slow Turndowns = Bad Up Front Contract

Brad Feld has an interesting post about VCs not saying “no.”

Having experienced this many times myself, I was ecstatic when I learned the Sandler Sales Institute concept of Up Front Contracts, which I discussed in depth here.

I’ve found that the same rules apply with investors. Basically, before you get into your pitch, just ask a straight forward question: “Are you comfortable telling me ‘no’?”

Here’s the thing: they all will feed you a line of bull about how they’re real up-front about things and will give you an answer quickly. Don’t believe it.

Apply subtle pressure. “So if I call you Friday and you’re not interested, you’ll tell me no?”

He’ll say: “Yes, of course.”

Then ask: “What if I get voice mail?”

He’ll say: “I’ll call you back.”

You: “That day?”

This is where he’ll balk. “Well, it depends on when I get the message, what my schedule is blah blah blah.”

And you say: “Of course. We’re all busy. I just don’t want to waste either of our time.” And leave it at that.

On the follow up call, if you get voice mail, remind him that it’s still okay to say no, but you’d appreciate a call back.

If you don’t hear back, make one more call. On this one, say:

“Hey Bob, since I haven’t heard back from you, I’m going to assume you’re not interested. So unless you call me back by the end of the day, I’m going to close your file and be done with it.”

Say this nicely. You’re not confronting him. You’re merely stating the truth. If he’s serious about doing something with you, he’ll call you back quickly.

If you’re worried that this may somehow blow the deal, don’t worry. Just remember this Sandler truism: You can’t lose what you never had.

If you follow this approach, make no mistake: you will get a lot of “no’s.” On the other hand, you won’t get any “maybes,” and this alone makes your life a lot less stressful.

Don’t waste time chasing maybes. They almost never pay off, and they will drive you crazy.

When I started doing this, sales became a lot easier. Why? Because of another Sandler truism: People aren’t sold. They buy. If he doesn’t like what you have, it’s extremely difficult (and stressful) to try to convince him otherwise. And it almost always fails. So not only have you not made the sale, you’ve come accross as just another pushy salesman.

Of course, this doesn’t mean technique doesn’t matter. There’s a mountain of good information on sales technique out there, Sandler being my personal favorite. But ultimately sales is about understanding the buyer’s needs and presenting a solution that suits them. If you don’t have it, don’t waste your time. (Of course, Sandler has techniques for helping the prospect reframe the decision criteria, but that’s a separate subject.)

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