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The Southern No

Is there anything in sales that is more frustrating than the old-fashioned “Southern No?” Even if you have not heard this term, if you are in sales here in the South, you have probably experienced it. It normally appears as the “Definitely Laters” or the “Maybe next months” it can even be as sneaky as an “I am ready to do this but have to finish something else first.” The salesperson, being diligent and respectful, schedules follow-ups just to get the same response or a different variation next time around. This is the “Southern No.” It is the inability of your prospect to just tell you what they want, which is, I’M NOT INTERESTED! In these situations, often the best practice is the push for No. But how do you do that? Also, how do you determine if it is even time to do that? The first step is simple, albeit introspective.


In order to determine what the next best course of action is, you are going to have to look at the situation holistically and see a few things. First, what does the prospect’s business look like right now? Are they going through a massive change or are they currently working on a big job? If that is the case, then yes, it probably is just not the right time. Also, consider the time of the year – if you are approaching a business owner during the busiest part of their company’s year you may get pushed off. Second, look at your research and proposal. Double-check that what you prepared makes the most sense for them. Look over your notes and see if there is something they said that may make you rethink your proposal and tweak it. Often times this can be found in subtle remarks made by your prospect that at the moment you may miss. Finally, consider the prospect themselves. Look at their body language, the way they respond, and the way they react to you as a salesperson. If they aren’t fully engaged, they may just be trying to be polite when they’re really not interested.

Push for No

Once you have looked over everything and determined that the ask is right, the timing is right, and you have no obvious personality conflicts, it is time to figure out the next steps to move forward. The push for No can be handled in quite a few ways but should be done respectfully. The goal is to allow you to move on from a dead-end prospect so you can focus on better alternatives, it is not to burn the bridge with this prospect so you can never go back. At the end of the day, unless you are a mind reader, you will never REALLY know what someone is thinking, so you have to leave the door open for future opportunities. Here are three ways you could handle it.

The “Last Touch” is one that I often focus on. It normally is just me reaching out and simply saying “Hey propsect, I do not want to bother you or waste any more of your time. If this is not right for you right now that is completely fine. Just let me know and I can follow up next year. If you are still interested, let me know any final questions I can answer for you to get those going.” I like this because it not only gives them an out but it also gives you the ability to touch base in the future and gives you one final chance to close the deal.

The “Fear of Loss” tactic is not my personal favorite, but I have seen it be useful on a few occasions and I know sales reps that swear by it. You have more than likely had this happen to you, especially in the home services industry. It looks a little bit like this: “Hey prospect, I wanted to reach out and let you know that with everything getting more expensive we are on the verge of having to increase our rates/prices. I want to lock you into what we discussed, so if this still feels like the best deal for you let’s lock it into place so you don’t have to worry about paying more later.” This can also be used with competitors: “Hey Prospect, one of your competitors reached out to me about our services – I really enjoyed working with you and wanted to touch base one more time to see if we can get the ball rolling before I respond to them.” These are a bit more salesy but effective.

The “Blunt Approach” is only going to work with certain prospects, but if you land the right person with it you will get the sale. The Blunt Approach can look something like this: “Good Morning Prospect, I am reaching out one final time as I do not want to waste either of our time anymore. When you are ready to see more success (or whatever solution you are providing) you know how to find me. Until then I wish you the best of luck and I hope you will see the benefit of this deal sooner rather than later.” This can look different but the point is the same. Your goal is to stir the thought in their mind that you hold the key to success and you are done chasing them.

Remember, the whole focus of these tactics is to know when to cut bait so that you can focus on increasing your book of business and not waste precious man-hours. If you need help identifying prospects or closing more deals, check out our Power Up Your Sales page for the next available workshop.

Author: Matthew Thomas, Business Coach in Louisville, KY

The Southern No