When it comes to approaching a prospective client, are you more like the sales dynamo Zig Ziglar or the Greek mythological figure King Sisyphus?

Zig Ziglar, you probably know, was famous for his successful sales and motivational techniques. King Sisyphus was punished for his arrogance and forced to repeatedly push a huge boulder up a hill, only to have it come rolling back down to the bottom.

As a 1099 contractor, your success is not defined by your talent but by your ability to sell prospective clients on the need for your talent. Ziglar said prospective clients have five basic objections: No need, no money, no hurry, no desire or no trust. If you have a polished response ready for these objections, you will make the sale.

Contractors using the Sisyphus approach blindly cold call potential clients and employ the same script each time. When confronted with the inevitable “no,” the metaphorical boulder comes rolling back down crushing the contractor’s spirit and self worth.

So, whom should you be like? Actually neither.

When a prospect says No

Rarely will a prospective client answer “Yes” on your first query. The temptation, when that non-Yes arises, may be to fall back on a predetermined response and continue to try to sell your product or service. Instead, stop the selling and take the time to talk to the prospective client about his or her needs.

Rick Stromoski, an award-winning cartoonist and humorous illustrator, says that No rarely means Never. “In my industry, art directors change on a regular basis,” says Stromoski. “Often, a market that may be inaccessible one day becomes accessible the next because of a change of art director. The key is paying attention to the changes in your target markets.”

In his article Frank Underwood’s Sales Tips: How to Turn “No” into “Yes”, Jeff Charles recommends doing homework on the company you’re pitching. Charles suggests setting up a Google alert using industry keywords and subscribing to the target company’s newsletter. If you receive a No, still stay in touch with the company. Congratulate them on an award they won. Follow them on social media. Email them a link to an interesting article in their industry.

Stromoski agrees. “The key is to research what their needs are,” he says. “What sort of services are they buying? Try to look ahead.” These are all effective ways to nurture a relationship with a prospective client.

Understanding every No is different

Knowing how to decipher the different types of Nos companies will offer and how to best respond to them is a valuable skill for every independent contractor.

“My approach has always been one of keeping rejection amiable,” says Stromoski. “Never take it personally. There are a multitude of reasons why a particular market may not wish to use you at any given time. The buyer may have just used someone with similar talents to yours, they may be looking for someone with a different style right now, sometimes it can be as simple as the Art Director just had something bad personally happen to them and you’re catching them on a bad day.”

In his great article 10 Ways to Convert More Customers using Psychology, Gregory Ciotti encourages sellers to offer a small action as a good start when confronted with a No response. Often people more amenable to making a move with a minimum order, he says. Rather than something costing $1,000 a year, for example, the same service for $84 a month sounds a lot more manageable to prospective clients.

When does No actually mean Never?

“Never try to convince a market that has rejected you they have made a grave mistake,” says Stromoski. “It’s argumentative and annoying. Never get personal because your reputation will suffer.”

“Word gets around in every industry,” he adds, “and you are your best ambassador. Always be gracious and professional. Taking things personally or being confrontational will permanently shut the door. Accept the rejection as real, but again remember it can be for a variety of reasons and adapt to it.”

If you are receiving a steady stream of Nos, Jeff Charles suggests you evaluate your own presentation. Ask yourself: what have clients objected to? Be proactive and adjust your pitch to address the concerns. It’s important to note how your product or service will help the prospective client solve their problems, Charles says. The cost of your service should seem small in comparison to the benefit they will receive.

Not all Nos are created equal

For your 1099 contractor career to thrive, you must learn how to interpret and respond to each no you receive. By blending solid research of your target markets and employing research-based techniques, you can forgo Ziglar’s aggressive objection and Sisyphus’ cycle of failure and establish a pipeline of clients to keep you busy, financially stable and satisfied.


David Karch freelance writes copy for both online and offline clients ranging from websites and blog posts to newspapers and professional journals. In addition to freelance writing, David is an Orlando, FL-based Learning Specialist and works with students in K-12 on academics, standardized test prep and Executive Functions.