• Duane Cashin

The Science Behind Rejection Resistance

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

No. That’s a tough word for anyone to hear, and it's salespeople have to hear a lot. It’s just part of the job. 

Everyone instinctively knows that rejection comes with the territory, but it’s amazing how many salespeople are so completely afraid of it that they become immobilized, or cannot rebound from it once it (inevitably) happens.  

Fear of rejection and difficulty recovering from rejection are problematic because they cause a chain-reaction of events that I’m sure you’ve seen a thousand times.

A fairly high percentage of salespeople become so defeated by rejection that they become afraid of hearing ‘no’ and become unwilling to put themselves in a position where a prospect could reject them.

They stop prospecting, preparing, approaching decision-makers, and so on. They become paralyzed and give up.

How did people so afraid of rejection get into sales in the first place? Did they not acknowledge this tendency about themselves before they took the job?

Did their sales managers fail to recognize their rejection issues during the assessment and interview process? 

More importantly, is there anything that can be done to help them overcome their fear of rejection? What about helping them rebound from rejection once it happens?

Overcoming fear and handling rejection (rebounding from it and knowing how to move on) are what we call being “rejection resistant”, and it’s critical to sales success. 

In the B2C and B2B sales arena, we will encounter some level of resistance from the prospect/buyer. If a salesperson is to succeed, they will need to effectively deal with the rejection by not taking it personally.

Being “rejection resistant” is just what elite salespeople are.

Consider the following stats from Objective Management Group:

  • Nearly 100% of the salespeople who are in the elite top 5% do not have issues with rejection.

  • Nearly 100% of the Salespeople who are in the bottom 74% do have issues with rejection.

In short, the stronger a salesperson is, the less likely rejection is to have a major effect on their success. They simply don’t take it personally, and they move on.

Note that there is a distinction between fear of rejection and difficulty recovering from rejection.

My partner organization, Objective Management Group, measures the latter because that is a more significant indicator of performance.

When a salesperson can’t recover from rejection, it’s because they have taken the rejection personally, and as a result, it could take a day or a week for them to get back in the groove and prospect.

So, what can you do to help your salespeople be more effective in dealing with their rejection issues?

  1. First of all, teach them how to effectively qualify sales opportunity.

  2. Once you are confident they understand how to qualify an opportunity and they understand the definition and criteria found in a “qualified sales opportunity”, then give them permission to get some no's.

  3. Help them understand the tactical and financial advantages of moving on from a poorly qualified deal and investing their time and energy in opportunities that are much more likely to close. 

  4. When evaluating their pipeline in their weekly one-on-one meeting, make note of poorly qualified deals that they walked away from and congratulate them, support them, and help them see that their world didn't end and they became stronger and better at the same time. This is coaching at its best.

Taking rejection personally and allowing it to immobilize you are common sales hurdles, but they are ones you can help your team overcome. ​ If your organization is struggling with this, give us a call.

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