“I will take ‘no’ for answer; I won’t take ‘no answer’ for an answer.”
What is life but a series of questions (including this one)?
Some are big…
– Will you marry me?
– What is the meaning of life?
– Can I have one of your kidneys?
…while others are less consequential:
– Can I borrow your stapler?
– What’s today’s date?
– What was the name of that other guy in Wham?
Regardless of their relative levels of importance, every question needs an answer. And when it comes to business, a lot of the ‘big questions’ terminate in a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
As a writer / director and creative consultant, sales is half the game. As such, hearing ‘no’ or ‘not now’ — while an undesired response — is all part of the process. To make it in sales (and we’re all salesfolk on one level or another, agreed?), ‘no’ must be an acceptable answer. You don’t have to like it– you shouldn’t like it– but you must be able to roll with it and move on.
But what about when there’s no response? Do you assume the answer is ‘no’ and move on? Or do you keep pushing?
Two quick real-life scenarios:
One, a production company a producing partner and I pitched. The producers we spoke with were very enthusiastic about the project and promised to get back to us ‘soon.’ But a day went by, then two days, then a week, then two weeks… no promised response.
Two, a conversation with a successful business owner back in December. This CEO was interested in possibly hiring me as a creative consultant to help form and lead an in-house marketing team. I’ve consistently followed up with him this year and yet, no returned call.
Now, ‘the rest of the story…’
We followed up with the production company and– long story short– the deal is going through. Big win all the way around.
Re: the CEO who needs creative help… still no response. I have a strong feeling his answer will eventually be a ‘no’ or ‘not right now.’ But what if it isn’t? What if he’s been too busy? What if– like a lot of people I eventually get in touch with– he says ‘thank you so much for your persistence. I’ve just been swamped lately’ ? What if I stop following up and in so doing– to use a metaphor from success guru Zig Ziglar– I stop pumping the handle just a few seconds before the water would have started flowing?
Now, an important note: does the person you’re querying owe you an answer? No. Absolutely not. Following through on a question assuming someone owes you an answer doesn’t make you persistent; it makes you a stalker (sidebar to Jodie Foster: did you get the hair clippings I mailed you? They’re a symbol that we’re meant to be together. CALL ME!!!)
Therefore, the CEO I’m currently following up with in no way owes me anything at all, including an answer. Period. Conversely, I owe him nothing as well, including the obligation to assume his silence is his ‘no.’ And again, ‘what if?’ What if, like the production company, the CEO’s silence isn’t a ‘no’ but a ‘yes-in-progress’?
So, to sum up: before you write off an opportunity because you’re not getting an answer, first ask yourself if losing a potential ‘yes’ is a risk you’re willing to take.
And finally– and I can’t stress this enough– Andrew Ridgeley. Andrew Ridgeley was the other singer in Wham.
– Matthew Porter
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