Why you want your customers to say NO.

One of the best pieces of business advice I ever got was to get my customers to say no more quickly and more often.

Don’t worry, I was really dubious too.

I mean, don’t we want our customers to say yes?

Yes to buying our products, yes to joining our mailing list, yes to following us on social media, yes to telling all of their friends about us. No really isn’t the outcome that we’re looking for.

Well, yes….and no. Because not all potential customers are equal..when it comes to your business.

In fact, there are three types of potential customer.

Customer Type One

The first type of customer is that person who will buy from you no matter what. Maybe there’s a ceiling on what they’re prepared to pay but they don’t care if your website isn’t great, if you don’t take credit cards, or if you haven’t quite got the hang of Facebook yet.

These guys love what you do so much that they just want to buy your lovely thing right now.

They tell their friends about you. Maybe they even buy your work as gifts for their friends….ALL their friends.

We LOVE these customers.

Customer Type Two

Then there is the second type of customer. This is the person who will never buy what you’re selling, no matter what the price and no matter what you do to try to persuade them.

Maybe they are just interested in your process and how you do what you do, but they have no interest in buying from you. Maybe they are die hard minimalists and they only own 100 possessions. Maybe your product isn’t made for them and they have no reason to give it as a gift. Maybe they hate your style and don’t mind telling you so.

You might think that these kinds of customer won’t bother stopping at your art fair stand, or following you on Facebook but that isn’t always the case. People are strange and they do strange things.

You might wonder why they would waste time telling you why you should make your pom pom hats in grey because everyone loves grey, even though they hate pom pom hats and will never buy one. There are many mysteries in the universe and why people give advice on stuff they don’t like and would never buy is one of them.

In any case, we should NEVER listen to the second type of customer….on anything. And we also don’t want to waste our time and energy marketing to them, because they’re much more likely to never open our emails or even worse put them in to the spam folder, say annoying things on our Facebook page or bend our ear at art fairs while blocking ten other customers from getting to our stand.

Whatever we do, we are wasting our efforts.

Customer Type Three.

And, then there is Customer Type Three. This group will make up the vast majority of the potential customers you encounter. Type One and Type Two customers are few and far between but there are LOTS of Type Three customers. These guys like your work and they might even buy it. They MIGHT…under the right circumstances.

But what are those circumstances?

Maybe it’s price. Maybe they will buy if you make it easy for them with a website that is easy to navigate or an art fair display that isn’t too overwhelming.

Maybe they will buy if you accept credit cards and only if you accept credit cards. Maybe they will buy if they trust you because you present yourself and your business in a professional way.

Maybe they will buy from you if their friends like your stuff. Maybe they need to know a little bit more about you or get to know you before they would buy from you. Maybe they will buy if you provide excellent, helpful service.

The truth is, we don’t know.

Your job as a business owner is to give as much love as you can to customer type one, completely ignore customer type two, and to figure out under which circumstances customer type three would buy your work.


But of course, not all type three customers are the same.

Some might care about learning about your processes and some might not. Some might care about your delivery charges or your returns policy or whether you accept a certain payment type. And here’s the really tricky part:

You won’t know which customers care about which things until you start asking them.

Ok - so, if you’re like me you just got a little shiver down your spine at the thought of asking your customers why they aren’t buying your products. It just sounds awful and pushy and guaranteed to alienate people right?

Here’s the good news.

Every time you give people an opportunity to buy your products, they will give you feedback.

Without you having to ask them.

Either they will say yes and purchase (Great! Keep going) or they will not purchase, which means they are effectively saying no to your offer.

Every time someone says no to you, they are giving you valuable feedback for your business.

Every time your customers have an opportunity to buy from you and they don’t, you are getting valuable information about what is holding them back.

every "No" is a piece of feedback.
you just need to decipher it

So, how on earth do you go about deciphering this feedback and figuring out what makes your customers say yes and what makes them say no?

Well, like a good student scientist, you create a hypothesis and you test it, and then you repeat the process until you find something that fits.

Let's look at an example.

Say you’re not making many sales through your website and your hypothesis is that the reason for this is that your prices are too high (a hypothesis that most of us come to with very little evidence either way).

The way to go about investigating this would be to consider what would be a possible indicator that your prices are indeed too high. So something like a large number of people viewing your products on your website but not purchasing would be a good place to start. Price isn’t the only explanation for this, but we can keep testing until we find the actual explanation.

If we find that not many people are viewing your products in the first place, then we can’t say that price is the reason people aren’t buying, because not enough people are even getting to the point where they would see a price or consider a purchase.

So we just don’t have enough information to say that prices are too high. What we need to do, in order to test our prices, is to get more people to visit our website.

And that's because the initial problem here is not price - it’s that customers aren’t visiting our shop. We can’t get any feedback at all from them if they’re not there.

So, let’s create another hypothesis. The hypothesis this time is that customers aren’t visiting our shop because we aren’t asking them to visit often enough. How would we test this?

We might look back at our email marketing and our social media posts and our advertising to work out how frequently we’re giving people an opportunity to visit our website. Are we posting on Facebook or Instagram every day? Are we emailing our list regularly?

If the answer is no, then we need to try increasing the frequency of how often we communicate with our customers and encourage them to visit our website by creating interesting posts that link to our store.

If the answer is yes, then the problem lies somewhere else - maybe with what we are saying in those posts.

So, you can see how much more valuable it is to investigate the problems in our business, rather than getting emotional about them or making assumptions about what is causing them when the truth is that we don’t really know.

It's a path you can follow to figure out where things aren't working as well as they should.

But, we still haven’t got to that “No” from the customer have we? What we’ve found is that there might be a lot of other things getting in the way that stop the customer from even getting to the point where they make a yes/no decision about purchasing your products.

And, until we get to that point where the customer has the opportunity to look at everything and say Yes or No, we can’t know if our prices are too high, or our website is confusing, or our delivery charges are too high.

So, the key to it all is making it your goal to get to the No (Or the YES) as quickly as possible. Because, when you get to the No, you get direct feedback that you can act on.

So many of us are making decisions for our businesses that are not based on customer feedback. They’re based on emotion or confidence or untested negative beliefs.

Let’s get to the No as quickly as we can so that we can start to run our businesses based on real facts and real feedback, rather than worry and doubt.

What can you do today to give your customer an opportunity to say No to buying your product? And how can you make sure that you gather some information about the reason for this No, rather than assuming you already know?


I'm Nicola and I founded the Maker's Business Toolkit to help all Artists & Makers to build profitable businesses.

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