How the Word No Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

“If you lose today, win tomorrow.” ~Daisaku Ikeda

From the moment we learn to walk and touch things, we hear the word no far more than we will ever hear the word yes.

“No, don’t touch that.” “No, that’s not for you.” “No, you shouldn’t eat paint chips.” OK, maybe that last one was just me, but you get the picture.

We are told no so much more than we are ever told yes during the course of growing up, so why is it as adults that hearing the word no can be so devastating? Shouldn’t we be used to it by now?

As a rookie salesmen every time I heard the word no I got discouraged and thought I must be doing something wrong. I would constantly beat myself up.

“What am I doing wrong?” “What can I do different?”

These were great questions to ask myself; however, it’s the answers I supplied myself that turned out to be misleading.

I figured that if people were saying no, it was because the process was failing me. How wrong I was.

With sales, as in many aspects of life, there is a process—a start and a finish. Whether it’s setting and achieving goals, getting dressed, or cooking dinner, everything has a process, whether we consciously think about it or not.

Like a naïve cocky rookie, I decided to abandon the process and started to do things my own way. Much to my surprise, I now heard no twice as many times.

I just could not understand what was going on, so I got even harder on myself.

“Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” “Maybe I’m no good.”

My manager pulled me aside and sat me down to ascertain what was happening.

I explained my thoughts and he laughed. I was puzzled until he had this to say:

“You’re looking at this all wrong. Life is a numbers game. It’s just the law of averages kid.”

He continued to explain, “You can’t let every single ‘no’ into your head. You better learn to use it as fuel to keep you going instead of letting it slow you down. You will hear a thousand more nos than yeses in this business. Get used to it. If everyone was as hard on themselves about hearing the word no as you are right now, the whole lot would have a rain cloud over it.”

After our talk it made sense to me I didn’t need to change the process but my outlook and perception of the word no. Every no I get puts me one closer to the yes I‘m looking for.

It’s that simple. It’s a numbers game. You just have to change your perspective. Why not turn hearing no into a positive?

I’ve heard no six times today—my yeses are coming any time now. Or you could prepare yourself ahead of time for the whole day: I may have to hear no at least 24 times to get the 6 yeses I need today. Then start counting down—play the odds.

Stop fearing rejection and instead view it as simply part of the process.

It’s time to start seeing it in a positive light rather than a negative one.

This best part is that you can apply this outlook to anything in your life because it’s just perception. And as we all know, perception is reality.

Whether its sales, job searching, or asking someone out on a date, you need to find a way to take rejection and turn into drive. Drive is the difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t.

Remember how when you were a kid and you wanted something, nothing would stand in your way? If you can channel that same drive, speed bumps don’t have to turn into brick walls.

If you have the drive to ask or try enough times and get through all the failures and let downs, you can get on with the triumphs and victories that come after all those nos you worked so hard to get.

How do you cope with nos so that they don’t keep you from getting to yeses?

Photo by shoothead

About Mark Bryan

Mark Bryan is a salesmen by profession, a gentlemen by nature, and a proud volunteer with Safe Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is also the owner/operator of the organization Keep Charlotte Boring. Connect with Mark on Linkedin.

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  • Anonymous

    Mark – Being in a sales-ish position, I can totally relate to this post! Turning rejection into drive is essential to keep our heads above water in a world who incessantly delivers “no”. Thanks for sharing your journey to realizing this. I think I’ll be sharing this with my co-workers.

  • Excellent article Mark as a entreprenuaer I hear a lot of no’s from people it’s perfect fuel to get to that YES! Thanks for sharing your thoughts I will definitely share this with my friends.

  • no = Not Over
    no = Next Opportunity or New Opportunity

    I don’t see “no” as a rejection, but as the other person making a statement of their own personally defined limits. If I hear and accept their “no”, I’ve learned something about them, about the place they feel comfortable. We can accept their limits, or (as in the case of sales people, I’m guessing) help them re-evaluate their limits and find ways to feel comfortable with newly defined limits. I’ve never been in sales, but I’ve sure been on the customer end enough ;). As a buyer, I encourage you as a sales person to make your clients feel HEARD, including and especially when they say the word no. If I feel truly heard, I’m more ready to listen to reasons I might want to extend my “no” limits. In this plan, “no” is simply a discussion point rather than a rejection or a dead-ender in the conversation. It becomes a New Opportunity for both parties.

  • “If you lose today, win tomorrow.” ~Daisaku Ikeda .. This sets the tone of the day 🙂 Amazing!

  • Robin kilburn

    I find I try to turn “no’s” in to some thing like well, it’s no this time but maybe next time it will work.As well I try to keep perspective on the situation, after several or many failures, I think, now I know 27 ways not to get lost or what ever. I agree it is all in how we look at something, as to weather we throw up our hands and say forget it, or think may be if I try doing it this way, success will eventually come and much more sweeter because of learning both ways.
    No one born knowing how to do anything, we all had to learn by seeing others or our ability to reason out what we want to do. So it is just a matter of keep working and thinking.
    Great post.

  • Well said Kate. I agree usually in sales the word no is just a defense mechanism. I have been taught through reading, experience, and mentors that every customer first wants to be understood then to understand. Unfortunately in some cases a no is strictly a no for whatever reason and these are the nos I want people to understand are just stepping stones on the path of life, so don’t go beating yourself up over it. Learn and move on.

  • Yeah, I really liked that quote I think it fit well with the message I was trying to convey. Thanks for the comment Amit.

  • Robin, I was always taught. Perception is reality. Like you said “…as to weather we throw up our hands and say forget it, or think may be if I try doing it this way,… ” You get out what you put in. If you want to throw up your hands and quit you will continue to be unsuccessful if you want to look at it in a positive light you will learn, grown, and be wiser. Acknowledge failures as part of the process then it’s easier to keep moving forward in that process to the end where the prize is.

  • Thanks Karl. It really is key to remember you will be told no a lot, so you might as well just get used to it. I think when you have that mind set it cushions your motivation for the blow and helps you bounce back much faster. I wish you nothing but the best in your entrepreneurial endeavors.

  • Good, remember like I said above to Robin “Perception is reality.” You wake up everyday and make a conscious decision to how that day is going to go, whether it’s good or bad. So why can you make a conscious decision to be positive and say “Hey, nos really aren’t that bad. Just part of life.” Thank you for your comment Madam, I hope this helps you keep your head above water while the rest drown in the undertow.

  • From one asshole to another: thank you!

  • No, no. Thank you.

  • doing sales for my small company was not easy because i have never considered myself a “salesman” but i had to do it to get things rolling. i am pretty sure i came across the following nugget in “how to become a rainmaker” by Jeffrey J. Fox. he recommended turning every “no” into an opportunity to better your product/service and your sales pitch… whenever you are turned down, kindly ask them “why” they said no. do not do this to open up a nasty can of argument, but rather just jot down there reason and thank them for the feedback. you are now that much more prepared for the next sale! your list of objections turns into a driving force behind your sales pitch and it allows you the opportunity to turn a shitty situation into an enlightening one. 😉

  • Nancy

    great reminder! it’s so easy to forget that not everything in life goes exactly as planned – and that sometimes no can be the exactly what is needed.

  • Tim Black

    “No” just means, “What you are offering does not meet my needs/expectations.” The question to ask is, “How can I win your yes?”

  • This really hit home and I so appreciate this post and all of the comments.
    As an artist, my greatest challenge is “selling” my work. The feedback I get is great, but making a sale is much harder than I imagined. It is really hard not to take the NO as personal rejection which leads to questioning my talents and abilities.

    The timing of this post could not have been better for me as I have been considering taking some time to re-evaluate my objectives, convincing myself it is time perhaps to “get a real job”.

    If it is all about the numbers then I am due for a YES soon- that is a great way to look at it and I am thankful for this perspective.

  • That’s awesome. It makes me very happy to know I did my part to keep you from giving up. Just play the odds, If you ask 200 people 20 of them are bound to say yes which means you have to hear 180 nos, just keep chipping away. “The best way to make it through is to realize two out of three ain’t bad.” Thanks for the comment.

  • Well put my friend.

  • Perception is reality. Everything is exactly what you make of it. It reminds me of the saying. “Whether you think things are good or bad you’re right.” Thanks for your comment.

  • Alapati Anilkumar

    Very Nice one