“The meek might inherit the earth, but they won’t get the ball.”

— Charles Barkley

The Power of NO is both an assertion and an acronym for neediness and options. Buyers exercise The Power of NO by leveraging the Neediness of sellers and Options of buyers.

Neediness, meekness and weakness (real or perceived) position sellers to lose. Neediness destroys relationships. Meek ness invites exploitation. Weakness empowers counterparts. This principle does not imply that humility is not a virtue or that arrogance is an appropriate attitude. It does imply that in sales and negotiation confidence and strength are allies, not enemies.

In Mandarin China, the kowtow was a ritual shown to a superior by formally kneeling and touching the head to the ground. Far too many sales people perform the equivalent of a modern kowtow by yielding to every whim of a buyer.

It’s important not to appear weak, desperate, needy or obsequious to buyers. Do not be Mr. Milquetoast or become a “yes man.” Rid yourself of happy-face pins, particularly those that read, “Have a nice day!” Throw away those bumper stickers informing other drivers that you brake for small animals. Being OVERLY friendly is deadly in negotiation and can inadvertently project neediness, meekness and weakness.

The secret to The Power of Neediness is to focus on the buyer’s needs without revealing your own.


Most often interpreted as strictly a buyer power. After all, what options does a seller have with a buyer who has the ultimate ability to say “Yes” or “No?” Is this fear justified? Do sellers have any power to say “Yes” or “No” or walk away from a sale? Of course they do.

Many sellers have a limited vision of their power in comparison to buyers. Sellers often imagine that buyers do not have to make a decision, that they can just say “No” or “Not right now” and merrily go on with life. In B2B sales, this is rarely the case. Most buyers are forced to make purchasing decisions because of personal, production, quality, financial or other related pressures.

Noted authors Roger Fisher and William Ury wrote in Getting to Yes, “The more easily and happily you can walk away from a negotiation, the greater your capacity to affect its outcome.” The primary way sellers exercise The Power of Options is by projecting demand, communicating options and avoiding any indication of being desperate or needy. Desperate sellers project that they have no options or that they are unwilling to walk away from the sale. The “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to earn your business” attitude conveys an image of weakness rather than strength and destroys a seller’s status as an equal. Always be prepared to walk away from a sale.

The single best negotiating strategy in the world, bar none, is having a full sales pipeline. A full sales pipeline gives you options. A lack of pipeline leads to desperate decisions, unnecessary discounts and unwarranted concessions. The more options you have, the more power you have.