How to make money from hearing “NOs”

I started my sales career, selling books door to door one summer. With 14-hour work days, knocking on doors of strangers, it was not the most glamorous of jobs, nor the easiest, but it sure was a good way to learn to sell.

Nothing built my confidence more than receiving an order, or even better, receiving multiple Yes’s in succession. On the flipside, getting a streak of No’s diminished that confidence level pretty fast. All it took was one bad day to go from a feeling of “I can sell to anybody” to “Nobody’s buying and I wonder if anyone ever will”. The latter is the worst emotional state I’ve ever experienced when it comes in sales. When it’s a slump, it’s a slump.

The good news is that there’s a workaround that has helped me keep my head up at the toughest of times: put a price tag on your key sales activity. On average, I sold $375 worth of books each day. To do that, I started 65 conversations, which resulted in about 30 proper conversations (read: when I was not slammed the door on after the first sentence). I put the two together and calculated the “value” of each attempt. I then knew that with every conversation I literally made $12.5 ($375/30).

So, using a bit of math, I had a ‘trick’ to avoid really intense low-points, like zero days. At the end of a no-sales day I had a good reason to conclude that I had made $375, but it just hadn’t materialized that day . What kept me going was the knowing after every freaking “No” that it was worth some dollars. This simple technique has served me and sales people I’ve coached well during the dozen years since my summer of door-to-door sales. If you haven’t yet worked out the value of each “No”, here’s how to do that.

  • First, calculate average daily sales revenue from your monthly revenue target. For me it was $375.
  • Next, count or calculate how many sales attempts you do every day. I used the 30 “proper” conversations figure, not the 65 attempted conversations to keep the numbers as real as possible.
  • Last, calculate the “value” of each attempt. For me, it was $12.5 ($375/30).

As some of you already know, we’ve created some tools to make this easier. The Sales Pipeline Calculator helps to get to the number of calls or meetings you need to make to reach your sales goals. And the don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously NO Calculator visualizes the amount of NOs you have to hear each week, month and even during your whole lifetime.

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Timo Rein

CEO and Co-Founder of Pipedrive

  • Anonymous

    I love this Timo. Getting down to the basics. The real stuff!

  • DDB

    Doesn’t each ‘no’ include a door slammed in your face? That’s a pretty big ‘no’ to me. And the value of each ‘no’ equals the lost opportunity. So each ‘no’ is “worth” negative $12.50 (assuming 30 attempts and not 65, which sounds like the correct number). Am I missing something?

    • Sounds logical :), doesn’t it? Doing the job, I just viewed and calculated the whole thing the way I did because it helped me. 

      I took the doors being slammed at me as ‘no’s to me as a marketer, so I did not count them as ‘no’s to me as a salesman – being alive billboard, so to speak, was really character building in this job :).

      And of course, I had no intention to take the ‘no’s as lost opportunities and negative steps away from what I could be making – rather, I looked at them as positive steps towards what I was able to make this day.

      So, I don’t think you’re missing something – this way just resonated so much better for me while doing the job.

  • Riley Klein

    love it!  🙂