As a small business owner, you work hard to develop your products, processes and company presence. Unfortunately, if you can't sell the service or solution you've created, all of this effort will just go to waste. As a result, you and your team must work quickly to become sales specialists so that you can find ways to identify new leads and drive more conversions.

But what happens when sales leads give you the hard "no"? Is this the end of the line? Or do you still have a chance to shift the narrative and convert that "no" into an enthusiastic "yes"?

Know Your "No"

According to Forbes, small businesses account for 54 percent of all sales in the United States. While this means that you have the chance to take advantage of big market opportunities, it also means that you face increasing competition.

Thanks to advances in technology, even one-person startups can roll out global offerings and make worldwide connections. As such, you may hear the dreaded "no" from quite a few sales leads in a given time frame. This is especially true when you're just starting up, as prospective customers may not know who you are or why your offering is better than other established market choices.

So, what's the first thing you should do when you hear the dreaded two-letter word? You should start by determining which "no" you're getting.

According to Inc., "there are three generic types of no":

  • The "Wrong Information" No
    You may receive this particular type of "no" when you're unable to effectively communicate the direct benefit of choosing your solution or product. In this scenario, you should determine if there's anything you can clarify and try to do a better job of explaining your value.
  • The "Wrong Timing" No
    Budgetary constraints, corporate pressure or other outside forces may conspire and force sales leads to wait before saying "yes." Unfortunately, in this scenario, you must simply be patient and follow up with the contact at a later date.
  • The "Wrong Circumstance" No
    In this case, the "no" may be driven by the sales lead's contract with another vendor, a logistical hold-up or something else beyond the lead's control. Here, you must work with the prospective customer to overcome the applicable hurdles.

Figuring Out What to Do Next

Of course, figuring out exactly which "no" you're receiving is easier said than done. The most important thing to remember here is that the hard "no" — the one that has zero chance of turning into a "yes" — should be really obvious. If the lead displays little to no interest in your offerings or simply doesn't see how they'd be applicable to his or her business, then it may be time to simply move on.

In order to discover which of the above categories of "no" you may be dealing with, you simply have to ask questions and encourage feedback. According to Entrepreneur, you should start by thinking of a "no" as a "not yet." Next, take a minute and collect your thoughts and then start asking questions that can help you understand what is holding this potential customer back. For example: Do you need to create more effective sales materials? Was there a lack of information? Is the customer facing a timing issue?

So long as you've still got your lead on the line, they're likely at least somewhat interested, and you still have an opportunity to make an impact. It's also important to remember that this is a long-game scenario. Chances are slim that a "no" will suddenly become a "yes." Your goal here is to ensure that sales leads think of your company first when they start to change their minds.

Click here for more tips on how to create a robust sales pipeline.

Tags: Technology Sales