by Jeff Molander, Conversation Enablement Coach, Speaker & Founder at Communications Edge Inc

"Thanks, but we already have a vendor." Or "Thanks, but we already have a solution." Oh how I hate, "We're good, thanks."

Or the common, "Not interested."

It's tough to read email objections. So here is how to respond to "not interested" emails.

"Not interested" means you failed?

Tough love time. When customers respond, "Not interested," you've:

  1. failed to provoke them into a discussion,
  2. not proven you're worth a discussion and
  3. asked the wrong question (you caused the rejection)!

However, there is a positive side to "not interested." 

Your cold outreach message should not be seeking a meeting, nor asking for a conversation -- to see if your solution can be placed. Effective prospecting email doesn't ask clients to find ways for your solution to be considered! Thus, "not interested" usually is responding to someone asking, "are you interested?" or something along those lines.

In most cases our customers are receiving "not interested" because their ask is too big. They are usually asking for:

  • A meeting
  • Consideration
  • A demo 

It's easy to reduce the "not interested" replies if you simply avoid asking for unrealistic commitments. Instead, pivot and provoke conversation about a possible meeting, demo or which could lead to consideration.

Go slow(er). This is courtship. Tease. Don't ask for what you want. Provoke curiosity by not sharing so much.

The upside of "not interested"

When customers object with "not interested" this means you:

  • avoided the spam bin (you got delivered... which isn't easy!)
  • avoided the prospect deleting or marking you as spam
  • successfully caused the prospect to read the email and reply 

When prospects reply to "not interested" it can be an invitation... in some cases. (not all) Almost like a dare.

There may have been a strong (curiosity-driven) element within your message which caused the prospect to honor you with a reply. They simply cannot give you consideration right now. They're too busy to consider your (overwhelmingly) large ask.

The only way to understand if "not interested" is being issued as a challenge to your persistence is to respond back. 

Should you respond?

Yes. Always. Because a majority of the time "not interested" means:

  • I don't get it... I need more time to grasp what you're saying
  • I'm buying... but you're not worth my time
  • We are making this decision later, not now

It means you've provoked curiosity.

One of my students, Mark, works hard to create above average cold email provocations. This makes responding to "not interested" rejections easier and less risky.

In fact, this tactic helps him turn "not interested" into qualified conversations.

Mark runs a successful business helping professional association leaders grow revenues and memberships. These professionals are volunteer Board members who feel passionately about their work and give back to their industry by donating time. He literally takes over daily, mundane operations of small associations so leaders can focus on leading their associations. He allows them to outsource the boring and tedious parts of running a professional trade association.

Like most small business owners, Mark prospects new customers on regular basis. Unlike most of us, he does it effectively. Really effectively.

And this includes knowing exactly how to respond to those "not interested" emails.

Starting off with a provocation

Mark prospects using LinkedIn as a research tool, locating his targets and qualifying them. Sometimes he starts with LinkedIn, providing he's connected with the prospect. Other times, he goes in cold with email. Either way he practices sparking curiosity -- using a "less is more" tactic.

His subject line in this example was simple and effective: "Succession plan?"

Mark's approach is deadly simple and effective. He wisely focuses on topics customers usually don't consider often enough ... or at all. In this case: "What will happen when the Board President retires?" The question often results in prospects reflecting on it and realizing there is (currently) no succession plan. This often provokes replies and starts discussions for Mark.

Mark makes sure his email messages:

  1. Are able to be read in 15 seconds or less
  2. Prove (in sentence one) he's researched his target
  3. Provoke response using a non-biased, facilitative question (an advanced technique our members practice)

He quickly points out facts that prove he understands his target's situation. For example, "Hi, Steve. Noticing how Sally Jones has more than 37 years of diligent service in her career."

Next, he asks how his prospect will move forward when Sally approaches retirement. He follows by asking if the prospect has a strategy in place. And, if not "What would cause you to consider discussing one?"

Not "would you consider having one?" A yes/no question is not ideal here as it is biased to what

Mark wants: A discussion. Instead, "what would cause you to consider discussing one?" is a more neutral, un-biased question. 

This helps prospects focus on their own decision-making process, not feel vulnerable to answering your question with a "yes" or "no." It also encourages them to provide you with valuable information in the reply.

Study each word when rejection comes

Mark's first touch (cold) email didn't generate a response. But his follow-up did. His target, Colin, replied:

"We already have a plan in place."

Mark immediately wrote his trusted email coach (that's me) with, "How the heck do I respond to this??? My gut tells me to write 'Care to elaborate?' But, I probably need to write a little more to lighten this guy's likely knee jerk reaction of saying 'no.'"

As a habit, Mark rarely gives up. Like many of my students he pays close attention to word choice in responses that come back negative.

For example, a prospect may push back with "this will probably be too disruptive for us to consider." Use of the word probably often signals a soft spot. There is a perception of too much disruption ... it is relatively uncertain for the prospect. 

Remove the word probably and the sentence takes on a more final or definite tone. "This will be too disruptive for consideration."

In many cases every word counts. Words contain clues.

How to respond to not interested objections

Remember: "not interested" most often means:

  1. "I need time to grasp what you're saying" and/or
  2. "I don't think you're worth my time -- even though I DO have a need." 

This happens when you've piqued someone who is super busy. More insight is needed to determine if a conversation should take place. 

And this is a good situation! (in disguise) 

When we first discovered this a few of my students said, "Jeff it's like we've created an irritation in them." But not a negative one. Just a rushed one. In their haste they rifle off "not interested" although there may be sincere interest in near or future term.

Remember: If they're not interested why didn't they mark you as spam or ignore your email... or hang up on you?

Why did they reply -- at all?

See?

I recently hosted a workshop on the subject. Check it out. You'll take away a tactic to hear this objection less -- and confidently challenge prospects when it happens.  

How Mark responded

Most of all, study the rejection, word for word... consider it for a moment. Most of my students find gold within rejections, but only if you take the emotion out. Remove your disappointment and expectation.

In Mark's case:

The prospect is not saying no to a discussion; he's just saying he has "a plan in place."

Mark got him! The prospect did reply initially. If he wasn't open to hearing from Mark again would he have replied at all?

The cold email and follow-up worked: It was provocative enough for Colin to quickly understand — and reply to. It was easy for him to do so.

The prospect should expect that Mark might reply given his response.

Getting the "not interested" email could have discouraged Mark from going forward. Instead, he knew exactly how to respond to the "not interested" email. Thanks to his belief in an unconventional practice.

He knew he should reply, but carefully and casually--without sounding needy or disappointed. 

This part is key. Mark's reply should remain neutral and embrace Colin's cold email rejection.

Mark replied:

"Thanks, Colin. Sorry if asking was pushy. May I ask what your plan is? If you choose to not share, it's ok. I ask to understand, not push you."

Affirming your prospect's right to choose is a psychological trigger. An unconventional, learn-able pattern disrupt.

This tactic indirectly says to your target: “I am not threatened by your right to say no. I'm at peace with your power over me.”

It’s the one really easy persuasion technique everyone should know when learning how to respond to "not interested" emails: Affirming your prospect’s right to choose. Supported by 42 studies on 22,000 people it’s practical, can be applied in almost any situation and works consistently.

Remember: The more you need the meeting, discussion or sale, the more your prospect feels it ... and the more you will be rejected. Simply because your words telegraph "I'm wanting it very badly."

We cover this technique and other Sales Copywriting Tactics in this workshop series.

How do you respond to cold email rejection? Do you politely accept that rejection, yet probe a little deeper ... as a habit? Selectively? Provocatively?


About the Author

Jeff Molander is the authority on starting conversations with busy people. As founder of Communications Edge Inc. he teaches a proven, effective technique to spark buyers curiosity in sales outreach & marketing messages. He's an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded the Google Affiliate Network and what is today the Performics division of Publicis Groupe. Jeff served as adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s school of business. His book, Off The Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You, is first to offer businesses a clear, practical way to create leads and sales with technology platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs.

Jeff Molander

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  • Great advice, I wish more people understood the importance of the words they use.

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