You’ve won a lot of sales by saying, “yes.” “Yes, our widgets work for all people everywhere.” “Yes, we’ve handled plenty of projects like yours.” “Yes, we can get you that tomorrow.” Negative words like “no” are the bad guy. “No” limits opportunities, turns away customers, and drags down business. Clearly “no” and its cousins – “not,” “never,” and “can’t” – don’t belong anywhere near your sales and marketing messaging. Or do they?
Your positive message may be positively forgettable.
A recent study found headlines with negative words (like “never” or “worst”) get 63% more clicks than headlines with positive words (like “always” or “best”).* “No,” it seems, has more power than “yes” – and not just on the Internet. Look to the B2B bookshelf: Don’t Make Me Think; Never Eat Alone; Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play; Never Split the Difference. These negative titles make you stop what you’re doing to find out what you’re missing.
When everyone else is saying “yes,” “no” gets attention.
Psychologists have known for a while: Negative thoughts have more influence on your brain than positive ones. Dubbed “negativity bias,” this phenomenon is why it’s so hard to break your prospect free from the status quo. Because of negativity bias, people are more motivated to move away from bad situations than they are to move towards good ones. “Stop wasting your time on X.” “Don’t know where your budget’s going?” “Never miss an X again.” Negative phrases nudge your prospect towards your solution by highlighting the danger of inaction.
“But we can’t build our brand around a negative message.”
When Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff launched The End of Software campaign with a big red no-software logo, employees recoiled. According to Benioff in his book Behind the Cloud, they hated the message so much they would wait until his back was turned, then scrub the logo from as many marketing communications as they could get their hands on. These employees’ objections were reasonable: We can’t build our brand around a negative message. What if we offend our software customers?
But, as Benioff points out, the differentiating power of the no-software message overrode their concerns. By leveraging the power of a negative message, Salesforce was able to:
- Wake prospects up to their pain, offering empathy and a way out.
- Position the brand in stark contrast to competitors and carve out a unique position in the market.
- Become one of the most highly valued cloud computing companies today.
Just say “no” – and “don’t”, “can’t”, “never”, “stop”, “not”,….
Picture your prospect. What frustrates, annoys, or scares him? Maybe he’s struggling with an outdated technology, being pulled in too many directions, or worried about meeting his boss’s expectations. If you start your pitch by addressing his pain, you can lead him directly down the path to the relief your product provides.
You may find your negative words create some positive results for your sales message.
*SOURCE: Study by Outbrain, a content marketing company