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In sales, the best answer from a prospect is “yes”.  The second best answer is not “maybe” or “I don’t know” or “not now”.  The second best answer is “no.”

Why? Because with a firm “no,” a salesperson can stop spending her/his time on a non-productive prospect. They can strike the prospect off the list and say, “Next!” But HOW you say “no” can make all the difference to both you and the seller.

After more than a decade serving at the same company as the head of marketing and IT support, my name and email address were on thousands of prospect lists.  I got dozens of prospecting emails and a several phone pitches every week.

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It’s tempting to ignore these emails and calls, and hope your silence will convince the seller to stop contacting you.  The trouble with this approach is your lack of response – if the salesperson really thinks you’re a good prospect – is not the same as a “no.” A tenacious salesperson will keep trying to reach you.  A quota-driven sales manager will keep asking the salesperson if they’ve tried other ways to reach you. Each of those prospecting calls and emails wastes more of your time and contributes to decision fatigue.

To a salesperson, you’re a good prospect until you’re not.  That’s why I believe the kindest, most-effective response to shut down a sales process is simply, “I’m not a good prospect for you.”  Even though it takes a minute to send this reply, it is also the surest way to make sure more of your time won’t be wasted by another half-dozen (or more!) emails or calls from the same salesperson.

To respond to personalized email solicitations sent by a real person, I use the “auto-replace” feature on my Mac (other text-expander tools also work) to replace a unique acronym like “notnx” with the following in my reply:

Hi.  My company has not budgeted for this solution and we do not expect to need this in the foreseeable future.

So I am not a good prospect for you.  Will you kindly remove me from your prospect list?  Thank you.

I wish you much success growing your business.

-Bruce Milligan

This is a respectful “no” with a legit but vague reason – using specific words a salesperson will clearly understand.  “I am not a good prospect” is a hard stop for almost every salesperson.  You clearly understand their process. They have every reason to believe you.  And why would they continue to waste time on a low-probability prospect?

Most salespeople will actually appreciate the response.  I’ve received a number of replies from salespeople who told me thanks and that they hardly ever get a clear reply like that.

Most email marketers and telemarketers are legally obligated to remove you from their sales database if you ask.  Including this request reduces the chance the same company will contact you again.  It also reduces the likelihood that company will sell your information to another company or a list broker.  (At our home, we make this same request to every telemarketer or fundraiser who manages to get our attention. Over the years, it has kept our names and phone number out of many databases, despite being an attractive prospect household for a range of solicitations.)

So consider doing the next salesperson a solid by simply telling them you’re not a good prospect.  It’ll help reduce the number of solicitations you’ll receive and the seller will appreciate it too. (And don’t forget to use a text replacer/expander or automated rule to minimize the time this activity takes you – your time is still your most valuable asset!)