The Power of No! – By Andrea Waltz

What if the greatest success strategy in the world was not to go for yes, but to go for no?

For many salespeople, discouraged by the failure and rejection that can come with building your business, the word ‘no’ doesn’t have to hinder you. In fact, it can empower you to achieve a whole new level of greatness you never dreamed possible.

When I was in my early sales career, I was always second-guessing what I thought the customer might say when I suggested an additional option with their purchase. Constantly judging what they would do and if they would say ‘yes.’ I pretty much operated with a philosophy that went something like: if you think they will say yes, then ask, if not, don’t! It was based entirely on fear of failure and rejection.

That’s at least the way I operated until I heard Richard Fenton’s story. He taught me to look at “no” in an entirely new way. Here is the story he told to me:

I had been working for a menswear chain for several months and, as usual, I wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire. The district manager, a man by the name of Harold, was scheduled to visit and I really wanted to impress him. I was worried that if my personal sales didn’t improve they were going to let me go.

Harold showed up about nine-thirty in the morning and everybody said their hellos, had coffee and donuts and all that. At ten o’clock we opened the doors. Because I was the first salesman in that morning I had first “ups.”  In walks this finely dressed gentleman who announces that he wants to buy an entire wardrobe of clothing and within thirty minutes I had a $1,100 sale, the biggest of my career. I was certain that Harold would be impressed.

After the customer left, Harold finally sauntered over and said, “Nice sale, kid.” “Eleven hundred dollars!” I proclaimed, my chest puffing out with pride.

But Harold just stood there not seeming overly impressed. Finally he said, “I’m just curious, Rich, but what did that customer say no to?” 

“What do you mean?” I shot back. “That guy just bought a suit, sport coat, three shirts, six ties, shoes, socks, a belt and underwear! What do you mean, what did he say no to?” Harold waited calmly for me to stop being defensive, then he said, “We’ve already established what he said yes to, Rich. What I want to know now is, what did he say no to?”

I thought, mentally reviewing the sale in my mind, then sheepishly I replied, “Well, nothing. The customer didn’t say no to anything.”

“So,” Harold asked, “then how did you know he was done?”

Harold’s question hit me like a punch because I suddenly realized the customer hadn’t ended the sale… I had!  Why? I stopped because the customer had hit my mental spending limit. You see, I had never spent over a thousand dollars on a shopping trip in my life, so when anyone went over a thousand bucks, hey, they were done!

The salesperson never decides when the sale is over, Richard, the customer does,” he continued. Then he looked me in the eye and said, “Your fear of hearing the word no is the only thing standing between you and greatness.”

After that story, I was completely sold on hearing no! I realized that I was not hearing ‘no’ because I was afraid of hearing it.  So I made it my mission to hear more no’s from my customers as long as I was doing it in a customer-focused, customer-centric way. My sales improved but more than that, so did my confidence.

Little did I know that eventually Richard and I would begin teaching this philosophy to groups and companies all across the US and later the world!  All because one person took the time to share 3 little words that changed his life and then my life.  With any luck, they just might change yours too!


Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz are owners of Courage Crafters Inc. and “Courage” the Cat. They are the authors of “Go for No!” a short story written specifically for people who must face failure and rejection to be successful. Go for No is available at visit