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  • Writer's pictureMatt Aird

When Yes isn't enough in sales

Think back to the last sales call you made. Did it feel like a 2 way conversation? Do you think the prospect felt as though they were in control? Were you doing everything you could to keep them from hanging up for as long as possible. Chances are if you said yes to any of those it’s because you were trying to get a ‘Yes’ by any means necessary. And if you’re relying on this method it could be costing you sales. In this post we’ll define both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in the context of a sales call and give a few examples of how they’re being misused in most sales teams today.

What is a yes set question vs a no set question?

A yes set question is a question which is guaranteed to get the other person to respond with a yes. And it’s counterpart, a No set question aims at getting a No. It makes sense to get your counterpart to say yes, and in certain situations it’s the right thing to do. However sometimes, getting the opposition to agree by saying no can be the key to moving a sale forward.

Why is a no-set question important?

A no-set question is just another tool to help get sales you otherwise would have lost. It has 3 important uses. When your counterpart’s natural reaction would be to say no, when your counterpart is feeling out of control and when your counterpart is guarding information.

The natural response “no”:

The obvious example of this is when you cold call a prospect, they pick up the phone and you ask them if they have time. Now let’s assume that this prospect does want your product, as soon as you ask them for time to explain their natural response will be to say no even if they have the time. By changing the way you ask for that time, you can force the prospect to break their natural pattern. For example “is now a good time” vs “is now a bad time”. In the first scenario the immediate no response will succeed in getting a quick dismissal, often without thought. In the second scenario, inorder for the prospect to dismiss you a small amount of thought is required to change the pattern, and often this thought will result in the prospect granting you some time.

The control restoring “no”:

When a prospect feels as though the control is out of their hands there is absolutely no way to progress the sale. Trust and fairness must be established or re-established. Often asking yes-set questions will do little to restore trust as responding with “yes” has undertones of approval, and at this point it’s clear the prospect does not approve. Asking a no-set question bypasses these undertones, and allows a sense of control whilst still progressing the negotiations. For example, a phone salesperson might ask “Is your phone sluggish” vs “is your phone fast”. Both end up at the same result however if the prospect doesn’t yet trust you, saying yes at this point in the sale might feel like giving away too much control and essentially opens the door for the phone salesperson to attempt a sale.

The information guarding “no”:

When you’re at a point where you feel the counterpart is unwilling to give you the information you need, a strategic misrepresentation may be enough of a push to get the ball rolling. For example, you’re negotiating a price and the seller is standing firm when you know there’s wiggle room. You could intentionally misrepresent the seller’s intentions by saying “it seems like you want me to walk away from the deal” which would naturally result in a “no, I don’t want that”. This response gives you threads to pull at, using silence, mirroring and questions to uncover the full truth behind the seller’s price point.


Getting to Yes is obviously very important for any sales person. But keep in mind you can navigate your way there by using no question sets strategically throughout your sales process. You can document possible no -question sets that can be used at stage of your sales process in your teams Sales Playbooks. If you want a template sales playbook to build from shoot me an email at and I’ll send you the exact template we use for every new client.

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