Service of No

March 11th, 2013

Categories: Actors, No, Sales

I interviewed a crack salesperson and a busy, flourishing actor to discover how they seem to be unaffected when they hear “no” in the course of their day.

If, like me, you consider the hardest part of the new business search the dusting oneself off from a harsh “no,” you, too will also be interested in learning how they motivate themselves to do what I consider the second hardest part—the follow up after the initial outreach.

A Good Deal

“I used to take ‘no’ personally,” Vicki Noble** told me, “but I don’t anymore.” [**This is not her real name.]

She’s been in the fashion business for 30 years selling embellishments, such as buttons, buckles and labels—even distinctive packaging that she designs–to manufacturers and retailers. The companies she represents are part of a team that a designer assembles to distinguish lingerie, shirts, dresses, sweaters—you name it. “Details are a critical part of a brand,” she’ll tell you.

“Most often,” said Noble, “the reasons people don’t want to give me a hearing and my sample books a viewing has nothing to do with me. Some are happy with the status quo and their current vendors. I understand loyalty. Yet they don’t realize that they owe it to their brand to see what’s new and out there. Others don’t want to rock the boat in this shaky economy. You can’t blame them; it’s not a good time for risk-taking.”

Do you go back if someone says ‘no?’

“You always go back because a manufacturer or retailer might suddenly be unhappy with their current supplier. You don’t want to be so annoying that a potential client sees your email and hits ‘delete.’

“I communicated with a woman who works for a major brand who asked if I represented any company that made ornamentation in Bangladesh. I didn’t at the time. I recently followed up to tell her about a company that was setting up there and she invited me in for a meeting.”

How many times do you follow up after hearing “no?” “You never give up.”

Are you by nature a hopeful person? “Yes. You have to be hopeful in life. If you’re not, what is there?  Don’t get me wrong, I get discouraged, but it only lasts for so long.”

How do you get yourself to pick up the phone to follow up when you are not in the mood? “A lot of communication is done via email rather than by phone these days so if you don’t hear back, which happens most of the time, no harm done and if the answer is “no,” an email often muffles a rejection. Everyone is so busy but people do read emails. Have you noticed how people never put down their phones?”

The Show Goes On With or Without You

MoniqueSanchez1Next I spoke with Monique Sanchez, an actor.

When you hear “no” what makes you go on?  “In terms of acting, you don’t hear ‘no’ very often; you just don’t hear anything. It’s not personal. If they are not interested in you they have decided well before you open your mouth. It has little to do with your talent.

“I grew up in a Cuban family with two brothers. My entire life my parents told me I couldn’t do anything because I was a girl. Basically when you tell me ‘no,’ I take it as ‘You want to bet?’ I’ve learned early on, not only can I do it, I have to do it better than the boys.”

If a director and/or casting director has previously rejected you, are you reluctant to return for an audition? “Usually it’s not a problem unless something has happened to make it one, such as if they go out of their way to be nasty.

“I had an audition for Dracula. When I walked in the director made a comment about my height which I’ve learned means I’m not a contender. Ten seconds into the monologue he interrupted me and asked me to tell a joke, which I had to come up with on the fly. Then he asked me to recite movie quotes from memory. I knew he wasn’t’ going to hire me, he just wanted me to entertain him. I won’t return for an audition if that person is involved.

“However if a director gives me good feedback, I’ll surely go back.”

Monique Sanchez2Do actors follow up? “You are supposed to follow up because directors meet so many actors daily. Actors have the narcissism to think they are special and that they stand out but you need to follow up. It’s important to show that others want you –the people you consistently reach out to will want you too.

“Following up is time-consuming, like another job. Most directors don’t want to get email; they want a postcard which includes a headshot with info like ‘This is what I’m working on….I’d love to come and read to you sometime.’ They prefer that you don’t call unless they establish that you can.”

Are you an optimistic person? “Normally yes, though too many unfortunate things have happened to me in the last five months.”

In sales and acting, following up by telephone seems to be largely off the table while it’s part of what I must do with media a business prospects.

Do you prefer to be emailed or called in follow-up? What do you think is the most effective way to sell yourself, a product or service–phone, email or direct mail? How is it in your industry? Have you developed techniques that help you accept “no” gracefully so you can move on right away?

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8 Responses to “Service of No”

  1. Hester Craddock Said:

    My hat goes off to both the women you interviewed. What tough jobs they have!

    Although I’ve had sales training galore, and have been told repeatedly that a “No” can be turned into a “Yes” if one is diligent, I still tend to take for “No” for “No.” I guess that’s why I was never a great salesperson.

    Also, I’m fed up with the endless sales pitches that are now everywhere in our lives. It has gotten to the point where if the phone rings, and I don’t recognize the voice of the caller, I hang up without waiting. This may be rude but I believe justified by the callers’ unwanted invasion of my privacy.

    Which brings up another point: Wouldn’t we all, especially the unborn among us, be better off if we had a little less selling and consuming, and a little more saving so future generations will be able to have their share at some of the good things in life.

    I deeply admire great acting, and I’m also glad that New York is the theater capital of the country, not just because it gives people like Monique a better chance to find parts, but also having so many theaters means that our many restaurants can tap into a ready labor pool of skilled performers to recruit waiters. After all, acting and waiting are quite similar as they both involve creating illusions.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Your reaction to phone calls may be one of the reasons Vicki and Monique prefer to follow up using email and postcards, respectively.

    It’s true that many actors support themselves between shows by working in restaurants but Monique does many other things from modeling and retail promotion/selling to assisting executives, all the while learning new roles and acting mostly at night. This talented juggler has a whip-smart business brain as well as a way with words.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    “No” is not to be taken personally as a rule. Someone doesn’t want something, period. One way saves everyone time and trouble: Caller ID. No pick up, so there’s no time wasted on either end of the line.

    The suggested “follow up” doesn’t work with everyone. Persistance is a fine quality so long as one knows when to quit. Hounding, as acted out by various charities and financial institutions go a long way towards building a mountain of resentment. Because of years of mail blitzes, I will never get an American Express card or give to “Smile Train,” not to speak of various American Indian tribes who send “free” gifts and even money in the expectation of donations. This is not salesmanship, but rather harrassment.

    It comes as no surprise that actors might make the best salesmen. Living in a world of fantasy helps, no sarcasm intended. Even I might be persuaded to listen and even reach for the checkbook, should a Nicholson, Dench or Gere drop by.

  4. RCF Said:

    The other question is whether those saying “no” have learned how to say it so that it is accepted gracefully, but not over done or encouragingly.

    If I say “no,” I mean that, and would prefer those to whom the “no” is directed to accept it and leave it be. “Please take me OFF your mailing, calling, emailing list” is an example. “Please do not call, I open my mail.” “I would give money to your organization, but I fear it would just be wasted on the enormous number of mailings you put out. Spend the money on those you purport to help!”

    When people say “no” to me, say for signing a list of people supporting a nominee for government, I feel my insides melt, I get all wobbly and say “of course, thank you…” and beat a hasty retreat. Would I were bolder!

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    To your follow up point, a friend who works for a large corporation confided in me that she was annoyed at being hounded by a vendor we both know. She’d worked with him in the past and knows that if she had an opportunity would give him a chance to bid. She considered his too-frequent badgering an intrusion that angered her.

    As for celebrities promoting charities and products, while expensive, it appears to work very well–at least until the celebrity does something nutty that embarrasses those associated with him/her.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree that robo-callers, even if live, are frustrating yet obviously successful or organizations and companies wouldn’t continue to pay for them. They should take people off their lists when asked and I don’t think that they do.

    And I fume when I get a bunch of stuff from a charity asking for more money that between paper, printing, postage, handling and creative costs amount to more than my donation. Grump. Again, there must be statistics that show if someone has given once, they should be hounded.

    However I’ve seen time and again a client take a few years to cotton on to an idea that is good for them where they might even contact me and say, “How much would it cost to do thus and such?” If, after the first refusal, I mention the concept or idea again I show additional benefits and instances in which having that marketing tool would have helped. If the idea is worth repeating, I do, using humor if necessary.

    Like you, I can’t say I feel wonderful when being refused, especially if rudely, because I carefully craft each approach. If I am looking for funds for a good cause or press coverage for a client, I don’t take refusals personally though I tend to when asking on behalf of my own business.

  7. David Reich Said:

    No is a pretty tough word to hear when your income depends on getting a yes.

    In PR, we hate to hear no from editors, since much of our success or failure is defined by getting “ink” or airtime. But we have to do two things — prepare in advance to try to minimize the likelihood of no, and know when to accept a no and move on.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I can’t forget Dustin Hoffman in “Kramer vs. Kramer” where he had to get a job before going to family court or he’d lose his child and he got a “yes” at an ad agency during a holiday party. That’s the movies. In reality, this kind of timing doesn’t usually happen.

    Once at an art show a gallery owner pleaded with me to buy something and tried to make me feel guilty if I didn’t as she expected me/this sale to cover her expenses for going to this show. I didn’t really like the piece I’d looked at and didn’t want it. It was awkward.

    When following up with the press in PR it’s crucial to have something new to add. So many PR people think that asking “Did you get my ______[email; phone call; postcard…..whatever],” is following up. In three words: No, it’s not.

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