When to Start with “No” In a Negotiation

You might have noticed by now I’m a pretty big fan of the word “yes.”

In fact, pretty much my entire fitness selling process is built around getting a prospect to say a string “yeses” before I ask them to sign up, so that they’re in an agreeable mindset when I ask.Melange yarn yes on wool texture

Now some people might look at that and say it’s creepy or manipulative, but that’s only if you do it wrong. When you use the “yes” principle correctly, like I do, you’re really just reminding your prospect of the deep, REAL reasons they have for getting in shape.

If you offer genuinely effective personal training, and your prospect has a whole list of reasons for wanting to get in shape, then you’re actually doing them a huge favor by selling them on your program. You’re helping them make a commitment that isn’t necessarily easy to make in the moment, but with dramatically improve their quality of life for years to come.

All that being said…there are certain situations where you don’t want to go straight for the yes.

Sometimes you need to start with “no.” I’ll explain why.

What “Yes” and “No” REALLY Mean


Here’s the funny thing about “yes” and “no” …in the realm of human psychology, they sort of mean the opposite of what you would expect.

You would think that “yes” is a powerful word because it’s the word that makes things happen, makes others happy, and creates room for opportunity.

Yet, the vast majority of prospects feel very scared and vulnerable when they say “yes.” They get anxious about committing to a program they think is too tough for them, or walking into a scam that won’t actually help them lose weight.

And look at “no” – you’d think that word is the calling card of lazy people who don’t care how they look. “No” is for people who don’t care about health and wellness, people who are too lazy to make the commitment to real fitness results.

Yet, people often feel at their most powerful when they say “no” to something. On a psychological level, “no” let’s people set the boundaries of their personal being. “No” equals “I am not that, I am this.”

If you want to see a crystal clear example of this, just pay attention to any child who is in their “terrible twos” phase. Those kids LOVE to shout “no” at the top of their lungs, often times without anyone even asking a question.

Stubborn,sad,upset  little boy,child  isolated over grey backgroBut the reason why is that those little guys feel how small and vulnerable they are.

“No” is how they get power and start to define themselves.

And to be honest, that dynamic doesn’t change much as people grow up. The human ego loves to say a good “no” at pretty much any age.

So now that you understand what’s really going on with yes and no, how can you use this information to effectively manage troublesome clients?

When Things Get Tense, Get The “No” First


Tense conversations are inevitable in the life of a fitness entrepreneur.

Maybe you get a training client who’s furious and looking for a fight. Or maybe you have a trainer threaten to leave and start their own business down the street. Or maybe you’ve got a crazy landlord that likes to change the rules on you every month.

In all those cases, you’re going to end up in a hostile negotiation…and if you’ve been there before you know it can be just as tough trying to control your own emotions as it can be managing the other person.

Lucky for you, I’ve got a technique for you that will cool down the negotiation really quick.

Here it is: you gotta get the “no” early in the conversation. 

And just like when you’re using the yes principle, you can get the “no” by asking a question where the answer is obviously going to be “no.”

In fact, you can often just take a “yes” question and flip it around to make a “no” question.

For example, let’s say you have a bootcamp client flying off the handle because you won’t let her kids participate in your boot camp.

Now you know that isn’t going to work because it will slow the whole workout down and be a disservice to everyone who’s there for serious fat loss (including the mother).

You might be tempted to ask her something like “You want to get an effective workout, right?”

But that’s a yes question. That’s not what you need right now.

Instead, try this:

“Should I give everyone here a less effective workout?”Chess knights. The concept of confrontation

Now here’s the most important part: you need to ask this question in a genuine, curious way. If you’re at all angry or confrontational, this technique won’t work.

The obvious answer to that question is “no,” so that’s what she says.

And this is where the magic happens.

See, once she’s said that “no,” her ego gets that satisfying jolt of power I talked about earlier. This effectively starts the process of disarming her, because it makes her feel like she’s in control.

That’s the funny thing about this technique: when you do it right, you change the client’s mind but they get to feel like they were totally right the entire time. In a weird way it’s a total win-win.

And once you’ve gotten that first “no” out of the way and defused the client’s raging ego, you can start building a chain of yeses to reach a point of agreement, AKA her understanding that you need to run your boot camp a certain way for your clients to get the results they want.

Getting the Most Out of the “No” Technique


As I just explained, this technique is great for defusing angry clients.

However, there are many subtler situations where you can use this same technique to your advantage.

This technique is especially powerful when you have to deal with someone who is in a higher position of authority than you are, or when the other person has a lot of leverage over you.

Prime example: landlords. Man, there are few things in the process of running a boot camp that suck quite as much as a crazy landlord.

You can cut a crazy client. You can fire a crazy trainer. But a crazy landlord? Unless you can afford to completely uproot your bootcamp, where you’ve already invested in fitness equipment and branding, you’ve got to deal with them.

Luckily, you can use the “no” technique on them.

However, you need to tweak it slightly.

See, when you’re in a position of higher leverage, you can afford to be a little more targeted with your “no” question, like in my previous example.

When the other person has the leverage, you need to be indirect with your question, because if they even slightly perceive a threat from you they can just pull the rug out from under your feet.

(It always amazes me the kind of crap a bad landlord will pull. I know several fitness pros who literally had their businesses ripped out from under them while they were out of town. Sheesh! This is why you need to learn this stuff and be able to protect yourself.)

balloon manSo if your landlord comes to you with an unreasonable request, ask them something like this:

“I want your opinion: should I install one of those dancing balloon men like they have at car dealerships?”

Or something similar. A request that is believable but ridiculous enough that the obvious answer is no.

And when your landlord says “no,” they’ll get the double ego jolt of getting to say “no” and also feeling like an expert, since they effectively just gave you business advice.

At that point, it’ll be easier for you to lead them into a state of agreement and get them off your back.

Now go out there and get some “nos” (so you can get even more “yeses”)!

Committed to your success,


P.S. A lot of people struggle with learning negotiation strategies by reading – they need hands-on experience with a real person. If you can relate, I suggest you join one of my live coaching programs by signing up at www.fitnessbusinessignition.com. I cover all sorts of topics relating to getting more clients, closing higher value contracts, and boosting your income – and that definitely includes negotiation! Check it out today!