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  • rickwimberly1

Sometimes You Need to Say No in Government Sales

No doubt, as you build your government sales pipeline, you want to impress your government sales prospects and customers with your company's abilities. In fact, you want to dazzle them, right? That's fine, but sometimes you're better off telling them "No". Top government sales performers have learned this lesson for one reason. Company turn-around consultants have learned it for another.

For someone trying to win a government contract, it's pretty obvious that they shouldn't say "yes" when the real answer is "no". It's just wrong.

I take it a step further and argue that you may not be able to build the trust you need to win government contracts without a "no" here or there in your sales cycle. Prospects know that "yes" isn't the correct answer all of the time, and may have difficulty trusting you if they never hear a "no" from you.

I also argue that a question about a feature or capability is not necessarily a requirement; it's just a question.

Working with a new vendor just this week, I was asking a lot of questions. It seemed like his response to most of the questions was a long explanation that I thought was trying to convince me that what I was asking about wasn't the right course to take. I really wasn't trying to set a course; I just wanted an answer to the question, mostly so I would know what I was talking about. Sometimes we assume that a question has a hidden meaning when it's really only a question.

I spent a number of years working with a turn-around consultancy. One of my clients was involved in government sales. That's how I got into this space in the first place. That's also where I got my first taste of the harm caused a company when they tried to say "yes" to all of their prospects. Granted, they may have been serious about making changes to their product to turn no's to yes's, but they used the no-to-yes strategy to control their product development efforts.

Don't get me wrong. Companies need to listen to customers and prospects. Of course, they do. But, they don't need to be led around by salespeople who can't stand to say "no" and convince the company to change its product roadmap for this one prospect who will "make us all rich". A dangerous culture develops, one that's hard to get out of. As a turn-around consultant, and later as a government sales consultant, I've seen this culture often. It doesn't work.

So, dust off your NOs, and really listen to what prospects and the markets are telling you.

Check out my Myths of Selling to Government podcast episode on the topic here or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

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