If you’re in sales, at some point you may have received the advice—or read in an article—that you should NEVER say “no” to a client during a sales call. Specifically, you shouldn't say “no” even when a customer asks if you have a feature that doesn’t exist in your product. Instead, according to this advice, you should redirect the conversation to explain how another feature offers a similar solution.

When I first received this advice, I had an opportunity to try it a few weeks later. An existing client asked if a specific type of data was displayed in our standard dashboard. It wasn’t. I responded by saying, “Well, you can access that data—and other data—with our export feature and you can even build your own dashboards.” (Yes, it was probably that cringe-worthy.)

The client responded by saying, “What I’m hearing is, ‘no.’ It’s not possible to view that data in your standard dashboard.” While I’m sure a more experienced salesperson would have better wielded the “never say no” technique, the client knew what I was doing and addressed my evasiveness.

That was my short-lived attempt at using an off-the-shelf sales technique. I’ve learned that although these tactic may get you a short-term win, it’s always at the cost of your client’s trust. The tactic in this example damages trust because it's a display of high self-orientation. You're more interested in your own success than your customer's success if you choose to evade a direct question and respond to it by talking about your product.

Advice like “never say no” and similar persuasion techniques are designed for sales roles whose strategy is founded on brute force and probability. For example, if we know we close 2% of our calls then we just need a room of 100 representatives on the phone who can make 50 calls a day, read this script, and use these tactics.

If you’re reading this article, that’s not you.

Are there phrases or words you shouldn’t say in a sales conversation? Sure, but they’re things you shouldn’t say in any professional setting. Effective selling involves being hyper-aware of what you say and how you say it, but first it involves listening. And if your customer asks you a direct yes or no question, you should start your answer by saying “yes”, “no”, or “I don’t know.”

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