I think we’ve all witnessed the inevitable disaster that awaits those who are surrounded by yes-men. Oh, you’ve seen them – the athlete, the rockstar or even politician. Every so often hearing a firm "no", is quite healthy for their growth. While this lesson in humility plays out, most of us find a secret sense of satisfaction when the entitled are finally put in their place.

What about you? How does an emphatic “no” strike you as a small business owner? Have you been told recently? Most entrepreneurs (including myself) are not so eager to chew on a hearty "no" – especially when it comes from customers. Quite frankly, it can be infuriating – particularly when you're getting low on cash and patience.

For today’s piece, however, I’d like to invite you view “no” as important data regarding your marketing and operations. Author, Simone T. Bailey once stated, “Failure is feedback.”  Going forward, I’d like you to adopt a similar mindset.

When you are told no, you gain real-time feedback on whether your product, approach or integrity resonates with the consumer; it’s a two-letter research department. Many are taught to “shake off” negative experiences and push on to the next prospect. That’s a mistake. Spend time documenting the circumstances resulting in the loss of the sale. If you’re wise enough to glean lessons from your prior “feedback,” you stand a better chance with your next candidate.

Having stated that, the following may be used to uncover the treasure tucked away in the ubiquitous “no”:

Ask
The quickest way to understand what you’re doing wrong is to ask. Politely invite the customer you’ve lost to openly critique your marketing, presentation or company. Most are happy to share their thoughts as long as you do not continue to scheme for the sale while they speak. What went wrong? Was it timing, price, the pitch, reputation, or something else?

Run Some Tests
When you receive no to little response from advertising, you’re being told no. Don’t continue to beat your head against the wall by running even more of the same type of ad. Instead, do a little testing - run completely different types of commercials at one time. Initially, this method may feel like throwing stuff against the wall, but that’s exactly what’s going one; see what sticks. Once you know, you’ve got your yes and a new path away from previous rejections.

Small Changes
If you’re being denied and not getting anywhere, it does not automatically mean there’s a catastrophic failure afoot.  Sometimes a small tweak is enough to get things on track.  Before uprooting your entire sales or marketing effort, go over everything with a fine-tooth comb.  Maybe a slight change in verbiage will make all the difference. Maybe you should consider updating your look when heading out for a sales call.  Don’t throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater. A small change may convert a negative outcome into a positive one.

Walter Dailey is a marketing speaker, consultant, and creative director for DSV Media, a creative services firm and ad agency specializing in Small Business Marketing for companies all over.  Ask your questions: walter@dsvmedia.com.