1. Look at the Bigger Picture
Rejection is a natural obstacle on the road to financial freedom, says Tom Hopkins, founder & chairman of sales training organization Tom Hopkins International. “Life is a game, and selling is a game,” he explains. “Everything you want, like a new car or home, money in the bank, paying for your kids’ educations, is a yes. But they’re hidden behind the no’s. So you often have to do what you fear most. That includes prospecting, when you’re putting your ego on the line.”
2. Pre-Qualify Prospects
Instead of jumping into cold calls, first determine the ideal prospect for your product and services. “It minimizes the possibility of rejection,” says Core Strength Strategies’ Michelle Parisi. “Then when you have them, focus on needs-based selling rather than the product.” And don’t call until you have the energy. “You have to talk to them as though they just won the lottery, and they’re the lucky ones who have a meeting with you,” she adds.
3. Practice With Peers
Have sales teams engage in mock cold-calling to brush up on technique and hone responses to objections. “Some will say, ‘I don’t need [to practice],” says Mike Schultz, co-president of RAIN Group, a global sales training and consulting firm. “But is it actually silly, or are they still feeling the same pit in their stomachs that they feel before they get on the phone? It’s OK to be nervous. You can get through it without a bloody nose.” Consider basketball great Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics, says Schultz; he led his team to 11 NBA championship wins, but not before throwing up prior to every game.
4. Prospect More
To compensate for the inevitable rejections, Parisi advises casting a wide net to increase the success ratio. “Don’t put yourself in a situation where you have to get a yes from these next five prospects to make your quota,” she says. “Pitch to 10, and then aim for five. You don’t make 100% of your free-throws. But if you put yourself into play more frequently, you have more of a chance of success. It takes away the sting of rejection.”
5. Consider Other Factors
Rather than self-loathing after an unsuccessful call, realize that a myriad of circumstances often compel prospects to put sellers off. “There is so much complexity behind the scenes,” says Scott Edinger, founder of Edinger Consulting Group. “Maybe they’re having a lousy day, or it’s an organizational constraint. The interaction with the buyer makes up a fraction of the decision.” If it’s still a no despite your efforts to make in-roads, understand that many of the reasons for it will remain a mystery and accept that the prospect is not a fit.
6. Bolster Your Pipeline
Rejection can actually help sellers strengthen the quality of their pipeline. “It’s better when they just tell you they won’t buy from you, instead of stringing you along hoping you go away,” says Parisi. “You want them to tell you the truth. It might be an opportunity for a referral from them, at least, and then you can replenish with better leads.”
7. Don’t Overreact
While being rejection-averse isn’t necessarily bad, Edinger warns against extreme reactions. “A no shouldn’t destroy you or make you question your worth on the planet,” he says. “But avoid thinking, ‘I can do anything, they can’t resist me!’ Because when they say no, you’re crushed.” Focus on the value you offer and if you’re still not making progress, cut your losses and move on.
8. Convey Appreciation
If it is indeed a flat-out “no,” don’t hang up in obvious disgust. “Always express an unshakable confidence in yourself and your company,” says Michael Levitt, president of MRL Promotions (asi/258167). “Have a positive attitude, and show them appreciation for the opportunity.” Why is this so effective? It’s simply not something the buyer hears often. “Thank them and ask if there’s something you could have done differently,” says Larry Alford, vice president of sales at Axis Promotions (asi/128263). “Even if you just leave a voicemail, you’re saving face. Hold your head up high. You only failed if you didn’t plant a seed for a future opportunity.”
Psychotherapist and best-selling author Amy Morin delivers a compelling Ted Talk on “The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," discussing mental exercises that will help regulate thoughts, and offering advice to guide productive behavior in the face of changing circumstances.