Needs don’t go away when the answer is no.

Needs don’t go away when the answer is no.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at



Needs dont go away when the answer is no.

I forgot my socks.

7:00AM Wednesday Atlantic City, New Jersey, Caesars Palace Hotel. Im in my room preparing to give a seminar in front of hundreds of people, put on my shirt, pants, reached in my suitcase where my socks always are and panic no socks.

For a brief moment I considered wearing no socks. Tacky. Then I thought to myself, hey, Im in Caesars Palace, Ill call downstairs and someone will get me some socks. I figure I cant be the first person who ever forgot his socks. The operator transfers me to the front desk. I said, “I forgot my socks, I need a pair of black socks. My presentation begins in an hour.” The front desk person says, “The gift shop doesnt carry any socks, and the earliest any store opens is 10:00AM.”

“Does that mean I no longer need the socks?” I inquired.

“Well sir, theres nothing I can do, the gift shop doesnt have black socks.” And I repeated, “Does that mean I no longer need them?”

“Can I speak to the Manager on duty?” I inquired. (I was afraid I was going to get the following response and I did.) “I am the Manager on duty.” she said.

I replied, “Then why dont you use your managerial skills, and find me a pair of socks? Start with your gift shop,” I said. “Maybe they know where to go. I expect a call back in five minutes.”

The Front Desk Manager is now certain she is dealing with a jerk. And vice versa. And Im still sockless in Atlantic City.

Three minutes later the phone rings. “The bellman is on his way up to your room with a pair of black socks,” the Manager said sheepishly. “It seems as though the gift shop had them after all.”

I said “Do you get what happened here maam?”

“Oh yes” she said. “I apologize for not knowing the gift shop had the black socks.”

“No, no” I said. “The point is I needed something, and the first thing you decided was to tell me every way that I couldnt get what I needed. The fact that you didnt know the store stock has nothing to do with the idiocy of your communication. If you would have simply said, You have no socks Mr. Gitomer, Oh thats horrible! Ill find you a pair of socks in the gift shop or another store, or Ill call my Dad and see if he has an extra pair he can lend you. And you could have changed a frustrating hassle to a positive memorable experience.”

The manager could have made me feel there was hope, and that she was willing to make an effort to help, instead of making me feel frustrated. That was her choice. She started with “no” instead of “yes.”

Okay, now lets get to the heart of this matter: How does this affect you and the way that you deal with your customers? What are you telling your customers that you cannot do: Out of stock? Close at 5:00PM? Dont take credit cards over the phone? There are millions of examples of every day business transactions where the customer is told what cannot be done instead of what can be done. And every one of those transactions are wrong.

NOTE WELL: When a customer has a problem, in more than 75% of the cases, a “CAN” response ends up as a memorable event. (For the record, so does a “CANT” response, but its a bad memory).

As we approach an era of tightening competition and new global awareness, the customer is only concerned with what you can do. It might be a good idea for you to add this simple policy to your companys strategic agenda: No one is allowed to say what they cant do without also adding what they can do. As a customer, if I call your company, Im looking for answers and solutions. So are you when youre a customer.

Its not about socks, its about training. Its not about apologies, its about corporate philosophy. The right philosophy, if trained properly, will keep the customer loyal, and create positive wordofmouth advertising. The “cant” philosophy will drive the customer to the competition with one phone call or a click of the mouse (and the accompanying badmouthing).

If youre looking for a benchmark, go back to when you were 4 years old and your Mother was reading you The Little Engine That Could. “I think I can. I think I can.”

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Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlottebased Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/3331112 or email to

1999 All Rights Reserved Don’t even think about reproducing this document without written

permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer 704/3331112