The life of a salesperson is filled with rejection. We typically hear far more “no’s” than we do “yes’s.” Actually, we probably hear “no” every single day of our selling careers. Moreover, unfortunately, it isn’t just from prospects we hear “no.” We hear it from our companies, our suppliers, our sales manager, and almost everyone else we deal with. Our life is filled with the word “no.” Nevertheless, in order to get to our “yes’s,” we must hear the “no’s.”
How we handle the “no” is one of the keys to succeeding in sales. It seems that there are some people who can just slough off “no’s” without a second thought. But for most of us, a “no” is a personal rejection.
Depending on how you market, dealing with a “no” can be a direct, in-your-face rejection, or can be an anonymous trashing of our direct mail letter. However, all of us must, at some point in the selling process, deal with face-to-face rejection.
If you cold call, your rejection is immediate—and if your cold calling is done on the phone, can appear to be very personal. When you call a complete stranger and they hang up on you or rudely tell you to get lost, the tendency is to take that as personal rejection. The salesperson that has sent out a thousand direct mail letters actually suffers the same rejection, but is protected by not knowing the recipient did not even look at it, but instead immediately threw it into the trash. In actuality, the rejection is the same—the individual is rejecting your offer, not you. But one salesperson must hear in a loud, clear click his rejection, while the other never hears the soft drop of the letter into the trash.
Worse, once you get the opportunity to get in front of a prospect, the “no’s” continue to come. You make your presentation. You get your no. You answer the prospect’s objections—and you get your no. You drive home your close—and you get your no. Repeatedly, at times, it seems that no is the only word people know.
Then, finally, you get a qualified yes. The prospect agrees to purchase if you can do a little something out of the ordinary. YES! Finally, someone who has his checkbook out and ready to go. All you need is a little help from your sales manager. And, then, it happens again. NO. Sometimes you feel that you not only have to fight prospects, but your sales manager also.
You managed to get your manager on board? Great. Now all you have to do is get the warehouse to agree to nudge a delivery in a little earlier than the calendar allows. And, again, no.
Do the “no’s” ever stop? No.
Of course, there are the yes’s—and that is what keeps us going. Striving to get to the occasional yes. However, all of those “no’s” can stop us dead in our tracks if we allow them. How we handle the “no’s” is the key to how we get to the “yes’s.”
Attitude is one of the great limiters of salespeople. People have a tendency to anticipate outcomes and many times that anticipation has an influence on the actual outcome. If you approach a task with a defeatist attitude, there is a good chance that you will fail. If you approach the same task with an attitude of success, there is a good chance you will succeed. Why? Several reasons, but two are of importance to our discussion.
First, if we assume we will fail, we will not give our best effort. Why should we? We already know the outcome before we even try to tackle the problem. After all, we are just wasting our time.
Secondly, out prospect can read our defeatism in our voice and body language. Moreover, if we do not believe in what we are saying, how in the world can we expect a prospect to believe it?
Consequently, in order to be successful, we must be able to take the rejection we experience and deal with it in a positive manner. We have to find a way to eliminate the residual negative feelings we have from the rejection that seems to be all around us.
Advice for handling rejection has generally centered on either understanding that each “no” gets us closer to “yes,” or understanding that, since the prospect does not know us as an individual, the rejection cannot be personal, but is rather a rejection of the offer we made.
Both of these are true statements. For many of us, neither gives us much relief.
So, if the traditional methods of dealing with rejection do not seem to work very well, what can we do to rearrange our attitudes? It seems we need to find a format that will give us the opportunity to offset the rejection with success. We need to institute a program that will allow our brains to regroup and experience the joy and positive reinforcement of getting the yes’s that offset the “no’s.”
How can we create a method to give our brains the positive yes’s it needs to readjust after receiving a chorus of no’s?
One method that has been very successfully used by a number of salespeople is to set aside tasks during the day where they know for certain they will be successful. You have a contract to sign with a new client? Try to schedule it later in the day, after you have done your cold calling tour of duty for the day. End the day on the positive note of signing a contract. Have a couple of very strong referrals to call? Again, make the positive calls after you have made your cold calls. Save the best for last.
Some salespeople have found that reversing this schedule leads to more productive cold calling time. Having just come from signing a contract or having made two very successful calls to strong referrals gives them the positive mental attitude needed to sound strong and convincing on the phone when they make their cold calls.
Better yet, try to arrange your schedule where you have two or more positive tasks to perform each day and split them up so your brain is readjusted several times during the course of the day. The more regularly you can feed your brain positive experiences, the easier it is to deal with rejection. Rejection becomes the exception, rather than the norm.
Other salespeople use bribery to handle their rejection. Bribery comes in all forms and fashions. The salesperson will assign themselves a certain number of phone calls or presentations or other tasks that they must perform and then, as a reward, they allow themselves to do something they desire to do—work on their sales files, go to lunch, work on marketing materials, or some such. Others reward themselves with new cloths or some other object. Others will allow themselves to go home early or take a day off at some point in the future.
Other salespeople have found that detaching themselves from the rejection allows them to ignore their rejection. These salespeople will use a number of impersonal prospecting methods, such as direct mail, email blasts, and advertising. By not experiencing the rejection first-hand, they believe they can be more positive and successful when dealing directly with a prospect when making a full presentation.
My experience has been that methods two and three have serious drawbacks. Let us take each in turn:
Bribing yourself can become expensive—both in terms of the rewards you give yourself, whether buying something for yourself or allowing yourself time off. In addition, it really does not reprogram your brain. All it really does is encourage you to get through the task as quickly as possible to get your reward. If the reward discourages quality work during the task, it really is not a reward for doing the task, but is rather a reward for putting on the show of doing the task.
The third method—using an impersonal prospecting tool to replace direct prospect contact can also be dangerous. There certainly is not anything intrinsically wrong with marketing via direct mail, advertising, emails, and such—as long as the object is not to avoid prospect contact. Besides being relatively expensive, these methods of prospecting should be a supplement to your direct prospect contact, not a substitute. Unfortunately, if your objective becomes avoiding prospect contact to insulate yourself from direct prospecting and rejection, the task of sending out direct mail pieces, sending emails, constructing ads, etc. become the goals in and of themselves. They no longer become a format for increasing your potential pool of prospects, but rather they become the reason for your existence—you live to create the perfect direct mail piece that generates interest and sells your product or service without your involvement at all.
Arranging your schedule to allow daily activities that reinforce your positive selling activities, including prospecting tends to be the most successful way to deal with rejection. Certainly, if you happen to be one of the lucky few who can simply ignore the rejection you receive, I envy you. Nevertheless, for the vast majority of us in sales, we must find a format that allows us to reformat our brains after experiencing sustained rejection. Allowing our brains to experience success on a regular basis, particularly after having experienced rejection, seems to be the attitude adjustment mechanism that works best for the majority of us. Try arranging your schedule to purposely take advantage of the successes you know you will experience everyday. Place them in your schedule when you know your attitude will need their positive influence and you will see a marked difference in the way you handle rejection.