Understanding “Rejection” in Sales

productivity Feb 29, 2020

No. A word that novice sales people don’t like to hear. Most sales people enter into a sales conversation fearing the word. 

  • What if I spend two hours presenting, and the client doesn’t like what I have?
  • What if they don’t sign up with me today?
  •  What if they say NO?

Most sales people’s fear of rejection is greater than the actual rejection. This fear can immobilise them and affect their motivation and performance. I have seen many sales people avoid cold calling, not turn up to calls, or avoid the sales conversation even when they do turn up, because of this one fear alone.

It makes no logical sense and can be crippling. Where do these behaviours and this fear stem from? Very simply, we don’t understand the fear and why it is showing up. Our fear of rejection is part of our primal instinct. We live in a 2020 body and world with primal instincts that send messages to the heart and mind constantly as a mechanism to protect us. 

We don’t realise that the depth of our fear stems from our mind’s need to protect us from being rejected from the tribe/herd which could lead to isolation, sickness, lack of food, make us more susceptible to predators which could all lead to death. 

Hearing the word, NO, someone not accepting our offer, not being called back after a proposal, or a client parting ways with us will not be as catastrophic as what we think it may be. It certainly will not kill us.

In fact, Tom Hopkins says it best – “I only begin to sell when I get my first NO”.

We need to stop looking at the word NO as a negative and allow it to fuel us to learn from it and carry on. Sales is all about consistency. The only time you fail is when you STOP!!

After many years of working with successful salespeople, I have collected many learnings on how to overcome the fear of rejection, how to use it as fuel to keep going, and how to grow beyond your expectations today. 

Here are Just Nine Points to Consider:

1.  NO makes you stronger.

If you had never experienced failure, would you be who you are today?

Of course, mistakes in the first instance are not easy. But if you look back over your life, my guess is it is around the times when you have changed careers, lost your partner, or endured some other hardship that you really grew. You emerged from these setbacks stronger — with new skills, experiences and opportunities.

You have also most likely been able to tell jokes of that “one time” story to others as a means to help them grow. Steve Jobs said – “You can only connect the dots looking backwards.”

Looking back at all the rejections and NO’s I have faced, I realise that they are what have shaped me and helped me grow and find the success that I enjoy today. I hope my failures and rejections today will catapult me to a whole new level again and again in the future.

2.  Are You Sure It Was a NO?

Before you go down the road of determining how to deal with sales rejection, it’s good to ask yourself a few times: Are you sure your offer was declined?

Sometimes a reply along the lines of “We don’t have the budget for that at this point in time” could actually mean just that.  It is more like a “Not Yet” than a NO. I can’t tell you the number of times people have come back to me to let me know they are ready to close that deal, months after the original conversation.

Rather than simply walking away, consider asking the company when they will be reconsidering their budgets.

If a reply consists of “we already have a solution,” consider asking them about the solution and work out when contracts are up, then simply set yourself a reminder to revisit the conversation at that time.

In the meantime, stay on their radar by connecting with them on LinkedIn, Twitter, possibly Facebook, and even face-to-face events.

Continue demonstrating your value and your willingness to help them solve their problems no matter what. 

3.  NO makes you listen.

When I first started selling, I decided to learn and practice rebuttals for every possible objection a customer could throw at me. I wanted to equip myself with solutions to any problem I thought a customer might have.  I became the “Queen” of solutions.

It wasn’t until I watched my coach handle objections that I learned my approach was not the most effective one. By answering them instantly, I was in effect proving my customers wrong. I was not dealing with their concerns, they didn’t feel like I was hearing them.

What I learnt from my coach was that when customers feel shut down every time they express a concern, they stop telling you their concerns. Instead I learnt to listen to and welcome their concerns. I asked questions like, “Tell me more, how does that affect you”? “How has a decision like this backfired in the past”? “What would you do differently if you could do it all over again”? “What is your biggest concern this year”?

I become more interested in the customer and their needs rather than worrying whether or not I had an immediate solution, and would I get the sale?

4.  NO gives you courage.

Getting through the “NO’s” in your life takes courage, so keep in mind: The word “courage” originates from the root “cor” — the Latin word for heart. When you care enough about your product, your customers, and yourself, your heart will outweigh your fear.

Courage is not something that happens to you; courage is generated by your actions. Courage needs to be practised. If you wait until the fear dissipates before you make a move, the inspiration will never come. The trick is to take the inspired action no matter how small you think it may be.

5.  Make Sure You Are Not Consumed with Self-Doubt

Rejection happens to the best of us. It is an inevitable and a much-needed part of the journey. No one who has done anything of any significance has avoided experiencing rejection, failure, and their share of NO’s. It’s that simple.

Do yourself a favour and don’t allow your negative self-talk to take over. Keep reminding yourself that it’s all about the ebb and flow and you have to enjoy the contrast. You have to go through the lows to enjoy the successes even more as a result of these experiences. Just make sure you learn from it and do a self-assessment to self-correct and improve in the next call/encounter.

6.  Rethink Your Approach

If you get NO a lot, then maybe it’s time to reflect and self-correct as mentioned previously. It becomes about the process of elimination. If one thing does not work regularly, then try a different approach. If that does not work, what another approach can you take, and so forth.

Go through your sales process and revisit your sales presentation to see if there is something that needs to be changed or improved.

7.  Preempt the Objections

This clever move will put you ahead of the curve and catch your prospects off guard. Be careful not to overuse it though, but it does have its place from time to time.

Instead of waiting for the person to bring up a certain objection, you could be the one to mention it first. This way you will be in control of the conversation which will allow you to steer it towards a YES.

Use your previous experiences to predict what the objection might be, and handle it in advance before your customer even perceives it as an issue.

8.  Focus on Those Who Say Yes

As humans, we have an amazing way of focusing on what is going wrong. Train yourself to focus on what is working well and those who are saying YES. Sales is a numbers game. The more people you talk to, the more YES’s you will get. 

The more people you meet, the more you can practice, the better you become at helping people find a solution to their problems, the higher the acceptance rates. Again, it’s that simple. Set yourself a KPI of how many people you will meet each week and make sure you turn up. Then focus on those who accept your proposal and add value to their lives and business. Success begets success. You will soon find yourself with a path to an agreement more often than not. It just takes consistency, perseverance, and the right mindset.

9.  Focus on Your Goal

Adopt a “Solutions Focused Approach”. Focus on your goal by starting with the end in mind. Ask yourself “What do I want?”, then work from there. It’s far easier to reverse engineer from what we want than to try to find solutions to all the problems that we are currently facing.  

Finally, and most importantly, have fun along the way as life is meant to be enjoyed. Build the structure and the right mindset and then just enjoy the flow.

If you are interested in a customized workshop on any part of the sales process or how to overcome rejections in sales send an email to [email protected].

We look forward to hearing from you.


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