February 2, 2010

Salespeople: Develop the Means to Handle Rejection

By Thomas P. Reilly

How well do you handle the feelings of rejection that accompany failure? If your answer is “not well,” all is not lost. You can develop strategies that enable you to cope more effectively with the emotional trauma you experience when your objectives are not realized.

Rejection has been defined as accepting someone else’s opinion that you are worthless. Eleanor Roosevelt once said that no one can harm you without your permission. There are a handful of professions that offer unlimited opportunities to get rejected. Selling is one.

After muddling through the initial job-hunt rejection, the salesperson gets rejected in a number of ways. Weary prospects are reluctant to meet with unknown salespeople and use a variety of excuses to avoid them. Overprotective secretaries and receptionists are often so skilled at evasion tactics that they dissuade even the most persistent salespeople.

Assuming we penetrate these first two lines of resistance, there are still many ways in which the salesperson gets rejected: “Your price is too high!” “I want to think about it!” “I’m happy the way things are!” “I don’t see any need to change!”

All of the above represent potential rejection situations for the salesperson. When these are coupled with feelings of alienation from his or her company and peers because the salesperson is not meeting the sales quota, the potential for emotional crisis exists. How these potential crisis situations are met determines the likelihood of one’s sales success.

Proactive salespeople understand rejection and handle it well. They have a greater chance at a longer and more productive sales career. Proactive salespeople have developed a healthy personal philosophy about rejection. They know that they will enjoy making a sale.

Conversely, they accept that they will feel an appropriate amount of disappointment when they do not sell. They do not accept that “phony macho image” that it does not hurt. Proactive salespeople are realistic. It is this focus on reality that permits them to persevere in the face of disappointment.

Proactive salespeople have a variety of methods for dealing with rejection. They are able to divorce their egos from the sale. They understand the difference between performance failure and self-worth. The self-esteem comes from healthy self-respect as worthwhile people.

Consequently, they do not engage in distorted self-talk such as “I’m no good because I missed that sale!” or “I’m really worthless today – l haven’t sold a thing!” A proactive salesperson will skip this step and perform a situation analysis to determine what went wrong.

Another strategy is a “leveling technique” in which the salesperson examines the rejection situation and might use more positive self-talk like “How can they be rejecting me as an individual – they don’t even know me!” Someone once said, “If we could read the secret history of another person, we would find enough pain, sorrow and hurt on the pages of that diary to disarm all hostility toward that person.”

Proactive salespeople believe this and perceive the other person accordingly. Proactive salespeople allow an appropriate amount of disappointment if it is due. If you have worked hard on a proposal and lose the business, you are going to feel disappointment. Try to moderate the emotion by asking yourself how much misery it really deserves.

Another proactive strategy for dealing with rejection is to plant a lot of seeds. Salespeople who generate a lot of activity have very little time to mourn over one piece of business that is lost.

Because proactive salespeople positively anticipate rejection, they are never overwhelmed by it. They know they will get rejected because it is part of the game. They expect it, but do not create it. Positively anticipating rejection means giving thought in advance to how one should handle it or which response method to use.

Proactive salespeople do not rationalize. However, they recognize that there may be other variables to consider which may prevent the salesperson from writing the order. It is very possible that the timing is inappropriate for the sale to happen. Budget constraints or shared decision authority can create legitimate delays. It is imperative that the salesperson correctly perceive this reality which places the salesperson in a tenuous position.

Below is a summary of proactive strategies for dealing with rejection:

1. Divorce your ego from the sale – the prospect is not attacking you personally!

2. Remember that this “intimidating” individual you are facing may have a lot of problems that are creating this facade.

3. Do not automatically assume that the problem is on your end.

4. Plant a lot of seeds!

5. Admit to yourself that not buying could be a rational business decision at this time.

6. Positively anticipate rejection so you are not overwhelmed by it.

7. Watch out for distorted self-talk where your worth as a human being is associated with your success as a salesperson.

The results of handling rejection well are obvious. You are happier, feel better about yourself and are more productive. Time is not wasted in self-indulged pity.

Perhaps the best way to remain on course is to take this advice I once read in an article written by a psychiatrist:

Give your failure the minimal amount of attention it deserves, and keep on trying.

Tom Reilly is president of Sales Motivational Services, a company which specializes in sales and sales management training. For more information please write, 2024 Meadowbrook Way, Chesterfield, MO 63017 or call 314/ 227-1651.