Being a salesperson can be a challenging – and at times even downright daunting — occupation (which is perhaps why they are usually very well-compensated). Selling involves a number of skills that many people are either weak at or don’t possess at all. The best salespeople are outgoing, friendly and sociable. They are never intimidated and are comfortable talking to anyone. They genuinely like people and people like them. They are skilled communicators, knowing what to say and what not to say to gain a potential customer’s interest. They are able, savvy negotiators, adept at overcoming objections and finding a solution that meets the needs of those involved. But most of all, the best salespeople are tenacious, with tremendous perseverance and a deep capacity to accept rejection and keep going. In fact, being able to handle rejection well is perhaps the most important skill of any professional, full-time salesperson. After all, most salespeople will hear “no” many, many times before getting a “yes.”
According to Bo Bennett, a tech entrepreneur who sold his tech company for $20 Million at the age of 29 and author of the best-selling book Year to Success, “A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.” Indeed, it’s been said that selling doesn’t begin until a customer says “no.” In other words, if after pitching a product or service, the customer immediately says “yes,” then the person didn’t really sell… they educated and took an order. Selling is actually what happens after the first “no.” So if sales and rejection go hand in hand, how does someone who wants to be a top salesperson overcome the fear of rejection?
Tackling the Fear of Rejection
Fear is a powerful thing. It keeps people from their achieving their goals and living their dreams. In the case of sales, fear of rejection is often what keeps an otherwise qualified and capable salesperson from making a sale and achieving a goal. In fact, often it is the fear of rejection that actually keeps a salesperson from asking for the sale in the first place, and that becomes the reason that the sale is not made. In essence, the fear of rejection actually becomes the source of the “no sale”… and the fear of rejection turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But how does one overcome the fear of rejection? This is not an original question. Salespeople have grappled with this very question for ages. After all, fear is a powerfully controlling thing. Motivational speakers are constantly addressing this issue.
For salespeople, here are some common suggestions on how to deal with rejection.
1. View the up side of rejection.
A salesperson should try to see the good in rejection. Rejection is a positive — not a negative — because if no one rejected salespeople, then salespeople would not earn above-average incomes. If selling was easy, everyone would do it and therefore it would not pay as well. Therefore, rejection is good in that it makes for a great earning opportunity.
2. View rejection as a constant.
Salespeople get rejected every day. It is a fact of daily life; an expected part of the job. Although the entire purpose of selling is to overcome objections and not accept no for an answer, the reality is that no is often the answer. But if it is seen as inevitable, it shouldn’t shock or catch anyone off guard. Salespeople should have ready responses, such as “That’s fine,” or “I understand,” etc.
3. View rejection as nothing personal.
Prospective clients are not rejecting the salesperson. They are simply rejecting a product or service that they may or may not completely understand. Salespeople should remember that it is not personal. The prospective client isn’t rejecting the salesperson, just the sales pitch. If the issue is the sales pitch, then the rejection is an opportunity to improve the pitch and zero in on what is wrong. One way to do that is to ask if the pitch or proposal was a 10. If not, ask the prospect what would it take to make it a 10.
4. View rejection as the path to something better.
Salespeople can take a more fatalistic view of rejection. What is meant to be, will be. Therefore, if a client is rejecting the sales pitch, then the salesperson is being redirected to something better.
5. View rejection as a numbers game.
If it typically takes on average 99 “no’s” to get a yes, then a salesperson should consider each rejection as a stepping stone toward getting to that next “yes.” And perhaps the salesperson can even make it a challenge to reduce how many “no’s” it takes before getting to the next “yes.” 99. 95. 92. 87. etc.
6. Consider that a rejection may not really a firm rejection.
While there are times in life when “no” really does mean “no,” in sales, a rejection may not necessarily be firm. Sometimes, it’s just an easier answer than “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know” or “I’m not ready at this moment to give you an answer.” Some business people say “no” because it saves time and is simply easier. So first a salesperson should determine if “no” is really just a way to buy time.
Aversion Therapy for Fear of Rejection
Fear of rejection is not just a problem for corporate salespeople. It also plagues writers, entrepreneurs, actors, artists, musicians, and anyone who wants to sell or promote something they made. And that same fear of rejection bleeds into personal areas of life. Just ask any man contemplating asking for a woman’s hand in marriage. It is something that most every person faces at one point or another in life.
Here is how one man handled and overcame his fear of rejection. Jason Comely, a freelance IT guy from Ontario, Canada had become something of a recluse after a string of personal and professional rejections in his life. He had reduced all social interactions in order to avoid rejection, until one day he realized that he was basically alone. When he thought about why that was, he realized he was afraid of being rejected. That fear was controlling his life. At that point, he decided to tackle the problem with soldier-like training. He was going to face the problem head on until it no longer bothered him. He invented Rejection Therapy, a social game with one rule: the person must get rejected by another person at least once, every single day. It is a form of aversion therapy, in which a person is exposed to a negative stimulus repeatedly in order to desensitize from the pain, anxiety or stress of that stimulus and thus overcomes the fear.
Mr. Comely sought daily rejection for a year. Each day, he went out and did something which he thought would result in a rejection. “Ask a complete stranger for a ride across town.” “Ask a random person for a piece of chewing gum.” “Request a lower interest rate from a lender.” “Ask for a discount before purchasing an item at a store.” Each interaction or request was intended to generate a rejection. The game worked. Mr. Comely got lots of “No’s” as expected. And little by little, he became desensitized to the rejection. In fact, getting a rejection became a positive because he wanted to be rejected, and was achieving that goal. Interestingly, he also got a lot of unexpected “Yeses.”
Mr. Comely decided to turn it into a game. He wrote down the things he did/said in order to get rejected. He released the game to the public in October 2010. While Mr. Comely refers to it loosely as a game, he reminds anyone willing to try it that “the game involves your life and the treasures are real.”
According to Comely, the five objectives of Rejection Therapy are:
1. To be more aware of how irrational social fears control and restrict our lives
2. Smash the tyranny of fear and reap the treasures (treasures include wealth, relationships and self-confidence)
3. Learn from, and even enjoy rejection
4. To not be attached to outcomes, especially when it involves the free agency of other people.
5. Permit yourself to fail.
By embracing rejection, Mr. Comely overcame his fear and turned around his life. He came to realize that rejection really can lead to something better, and that a lot of anticipated “no’s” are just figments of our own negative imagination.
The next time a salesperson (and basically that means everyone who is trying to convince someone else of just about anything) is paralyzed by a fear of rejection, embrace the idea of a rejection. Accept that the answer might be “No.” But the answer might also be “Yes.” And there’s no way to know what the answer will be until the question is asked. So take a chance. What’s the worst that can happen? A rejection. That’s okay. That’s just one step closer to a “Yes.”
Quote of the Week
“The biggest hurdle is rejection. The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is the successful people do all the things the unsuccessful people don’t want to do. When 10 doors are slammed in your face, go to door number 11 enthusiastically, with a smile on your face.” John Paul DeJoria
© 2015, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.