Via Forbes : There are many lessons that I’ve learned in starting nine different companies over the last twenty years, but there is one lesson that I preach to aspiring entrepreneurs at the Founder Institute and Founder Lab more than any other.
No is not an acceptable answer. If you ask a question and get a “no”, there is nobody to blame but yourself.
This lesson took me many years to learn, but I believe it is a mentality that all entrepreneurs need to embrace.
I don’t accept no for an answer, and this is not rhetoric – it is a structured process.
Here are five very practical ways that you can avoid getting no for an answer across almost any aspect of business.
1. Don’t ask a question unless you know the answer is going to be “yes”.
This is by far the easiest thing you can do to ensure you don’t get no for answer. If you’re not sure you will get a yes, then don’t ask!It’s that simple.
So how do you ensure that you get a yes? Read on.
2. Only target an individual that can say “yes”
You can waste a lot of time, and even prematurely ensure a “no”, by asking the wrong person. For example, they may not have the authority or budget to say yes. Even worse, they just may not be comfortable with you, or have adequate knowledge of what you’re offering.
Finding the right person is usually not that hard. For example, my team has hacked together many rudimentary org charts using public information from LinkedIn LNKD -1.29%, a company’s website, press statements, and speaking engagements at events (especially videos). Or, you can research the company’s current partners and leverage your network.
However you get the information, just make sure you do your homework.
If you ask the wrong person a question, the answer will almost always be no – even if they want to say yes.
3. Find the Overlap
This diagram is comically obvious, but your ability to define “the overlap” correctly is by far the most important way you can get to a “yes”.
First, do your research to best to understand what they want, and keep the following in mind;
Start with their wants, versus your wants. In other words, don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole.
You don’t pitch companies, you pitch people. Look at the person’s background and published content, and get an idea of not only their business goals, but also their vision and values. Do you both share philosophical beliefs? If you can identify a vision that you both share, it’s like having an ace up your sleeve.
Second, based off your research, define one area where there is definitely overlap between you and your target. Not a 99% chance of overlap, but a 100% chance. This area is where you will start.
Third, it’s time to listen. Now you can begin having meaningful and focused conversations with this person, but don’t talk – listen. Ask questions. Your one goal with these conversations is to ask, listen, and calibrate your understanding of the overlap.
4. Circle the Wagons
As I mentioned earlier, you don’t pitch companies – you pitch people. And, people don’t willingly give a “yes” to someone they’re not comfortable with.
Even after you have built rapport with someone, they still have people that they listen to, like colleagues, advisors, friends, and family. Soft pitch these people to a point where they know what you do, so that when the time comes, they can positively reinforce your message.
Also, keep in mind that the harder the question you are asking (ex. cost, time, level of effort, etc), the more that circling the wagons is necessary. When I pitch a big partnership deal, I never think about pitching a single person. I think about circling the wagons first, and sometimes it is necessary to spend many, many months doing it.
5. Find out their “one condition”, and fulfill it
Now that this person is comfortable with you, it’s time to get to the real questions, and identify the condition that needs to be met in order to get to a “yes”.
There are always conditions. They may be untenable, or there may be several, but they always exist, and you need to identify them by asking the right questions.
For example, only a fool would come out and ask “Will you sponsor us for $100,000?” Rather, you need to find out what conditions need to be met in order for that deal to make sense.
For example, let’s say that my target’s sole KPI right now is to drive paying customers to their newest product. Here’s how I would approach asking for a $100,000 sponsorship;
ME: “How many new customers would we need to bring you for a six figure sponsorship to make sense?”
THEM: “It would probably take about 500 customers.”
ME: “If I can get you 600 customers, would you do this deal with me?”
In this case their condition was “500 customers”, so I over-delivered with “600”, and got to a “yes”. Then I’ll build a proposal that will get them 600 customers.
Then, and only then, if I believe that they will say yes, will I ask the final question to close the deal.
And I almost always get a “yes”.