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9 top tips on how to deal with rejection in sales

Fear of Rejection in sales
Why the fear of rejection happens in sales
9 tips to help your sales team handle rejection
1Deconstruct sales perceptions
2Shift the sales process focus to activity metrics
3Show salespeople how your products help customers
4Build your reps’ confidence by investing in sales training
5Let reps practice on low-risk prospects
6Help salespeople analyze their calls
7Celebrate every “no” as a step closer to a sale
8Remind your salespeople of the job’s benefits
9Understand sales rejection isn’t personal
Final thoughts

Sales reps everywhere experience the same challenges when handling sales rejection. It’s natural to want to avoid the “pain” of rejection but it’s a fact of life and a significant part of the job that every rep must overcome.

Your team must be able to put themselves out there and handle multiple objections to make sales and improve your bottom line.

In this article, we share tips on how to deal with rejection in sales and help your team shift their mindset from fearful to fearless

Why the fear of rejection happens in sales

Rejection is part of everyday life, but when there are quotas to meet and careers to make, the pressure to succeed can feel even greater.

Wanting to avoid being turned down is perfectly natural. In fact, several well-researched psychological principles explain why salespeople fear rejection.

Here are three of the cognitive biases humans share that play a part in avoiding rejection:

  • Negativity bias. We tend to let unfortunate events significantly impact our mental state more than positive events. Avoiding sending that cold email “protects” us from feeling the negativity of a poor answer – or none at all.

  • Loss aversion. The pain of loss is more potent than the joy of gaining. A lost lead will impact us more than when we gain a lead.

  • The Ostrich Effect. Instead of dealing with negative information or feedback (even constructive criticism), we avoid it and bury our heads in the sand. Putting off that call to a lead who seems unlikely to close may indicate you could be experiencing this effect in action.

It’s also important to note that each rep will react to and handle adverse situations differently. For example, one may take a deep breath and shake off the rejection before heading to the next prospect. Another rep may take it personally and let their anxiety impact their next meetings.

As a sales leader, it’s up to you to help sales reps reshape their thinking to reduce the fear of rejection.

9 tips to help your sales team handle rejection

As every sales manager knows, rejection is inevitable. Once your salespeople face their initial fears and make the call, how can you help them deal with the inevitable “no”?

Follow these nine tips to help them overcome common objections, stop self-criticism and boost their self-esteem.

Here is how to handle rejection in sales:

1. Deconstruct sales perceptions

Encourage your salespeople to stop making assumptions (about others and their own abilities) and keep an open mind.

Don Surath, author of Conquering Cold-Calling Fear: Before and After the Sale and a multimedia solution developer at CBS, rarely gave anyone in his university courses a grade higher than a 93.

However, one student who wasn’t a “stereotypical salesperson” got a 98 and was the only one of 50 to land a sales meeting. Even if reps have constricting self-beliefs, they must stress that they can still succeed.

These assumptions can also apply to potential customers. For example, reps research those who are a good fit for the company’s product when qualifying prospects. However, there is still much to learn about each person.

Your team should go into each sales activity with an open mind to avoid misunderstandings and missed opportunities due to assumptions.

Remember, sales is about listening to understand the prospect’s perspective and adapting your approach accordingly. Make sure they know to take each objection as it comes and use it to refine their pitch or offer a more tailored solution.

2. Shift the sales process focus to activity metrics

Instead of putting pressure on broader sales goals, shift reps’ focus to celebrating quick wins (activities). Doing so helps reps shift their focus from the result they can’t control (a closed sale) to the action they can control (picking up the phone and making a call).

According to Surath:

If you make 20 calls a day for five days, you’ll get rid of fear and you’ll have success: you’ll get three appointments and one sale.

You can implement customer relationship management (CRM) software like Pipedrive to help reps keep on top of their activities:

Pipedrive activities

Use it to help your sales team keep track of their outreach and break down sales success into bite-sized activities like video calls and emails.

Activity-based selling like this keeps reps focused on their actions rather than outcomes. Removing the worry of results can help your team feel more in control and fuel their confidence by completing smaller, achievable daily goals (e.g., making a set number of calls).

It’s also easy for reps to assume they’re the only ones experiencing this “fear of rejection” challenge if they don’t communicate, which can worsen things.

As the business owner or sales leader, you can share the team average of the calls it takes to get a “yes”. That way, your salespeople know they’re not alone and it’s a predominant part of the sales process.

3. Show salespeople how your products help customers

Help sales professionals by sharing evidence of customer success to prove your products help real people and companies. That way, you can get them excited about delivering value.

Some reps may feel slightly uncomfortable with coaxing people into spending money. However, you must work to reframe this thinking into a more positive mindset to help them succeed.

For example, create and distribute case studies to convey your product’s real-world value for customers. This will give reps confidence that they’re offering something of value and help them sell better to specific groups with relevant customer stories.

Here are a few examples of Pipedrive case studies we use for lead generation:

How to deal with rejection in sales with customer success

Potential customers can read through your case studies and relate to those in similar situations. The results may even lead them to sign up for your product themselves.

Let’s say you sell social media services and one of the case studies focused on a small business owner who saw a huge upturn in her LinkedIn following. If your rep is pitching to another entrepreneur looking to boost his LinkedIn, referencing those results could help clinch the sale.

Giving your reps these tools (e.g., targeted content) to pitch more accurately and effectively can help reduce the rejection rate and the fear of it.

4. Build your reps’ confidence by investing in sales training

Help your salespeople build self-confidence by training them in soft skills to qualify prospects, better explain your product’s value, handle objections and follow up more efficiently.

For example, when Don Surath challenged his students to arrange a sales meeting, “a lot of people picked the president of Google or Facebook”. However, none of them landed a meeting. The only student who got one in Surath’s class picked the president of a local brewery.

While the other students had high aspirations, the successful student used soft skills like critical thinking, adaptability and creativity to pick a more realistic subject.

You can arrange more specific sales training for reps to help build their confidence, such as:

  • Workshops (e.g., sales pitch training)

  • Guest speakers (e.g., an expert on cold calling)

  • Role-playing exercises (e.g., extreme negotiating)

  • Free learning resources (e.g., video series and e-books)

For example, here’s a video from the Pipedrive library on handling the “It’s too expensive” objection:

To organize the most impactful sessions, ask your reps which part of their sales process could benefit from training. That way, you’ll allot time to beneficial coaching that your team truly values.

Note: Take a look at the rest of the Pipedrive blog for more free sales training resources.

5. Let reps practice on low-risk prospects

New reps who are fearful of rejection should avoid dealing with the highest-value clients immediately. Instead, they should practice with lower-risk prospects to hone their negotiation and pitching skills.

These prospects have less potential impact on revenue or sales quotas, reducing pressure for reps. The interactions can also act as valuable lessons and learning experiences to boost your team’s confidence over time.

For example, low-risk prospects can include:

  • An employee who isn’t the company’s decision-maker

  • One of multiple decision-makers within a business-to-business (B2B) company

  • A contact at a smaller business that wouldn’t bring in much revenue

After successfully navigating these interactions, they’ll be better positioned to communicate, handle objections and close deals with higher-value clients.

You can also give new salespeople a script to refer to during phone calls or emailing. Their sales talk will be second nature when they move on from low-risk learning opportunities and begin calling high-stakes prospects.

6. Help salespeople analyze their calls

Sometimes your salespeople reach a prospect at a bad time but take a “not right now” as an outright “no”. Listening back to sales calls can reveal that the rejection was due to the wrong time, contact or product feature being highlighted.

For example, reps may analyze their call and realize they missed that the prospect was about to head into a meeting.

Reps mustn’t panic if they call at an inconvenient time and write it off as a rejection. Implementing software that allows salespeople to listen back to calls can help them pinpoint when they do this.

For example, you can use Pipedrive’s call-tracking and insights software to allow reps to refer back to specific conversations:

CloudTalk Pipedrive Integration

Integrations like JustCall and CloudTalk enable your team to automatically log all text and call data (e.g., activities, recordings and voicemails) within Pipedrive to streamline sales communications.

Ensure reps analyze calls from different sales pipeline stages to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses from prospecting to closing. Doing so can help them more effectively plan calls to improve future results.

7. Celebrate every “no” as a step closer to a sale

As a sales manager, it’s important to encourage your reps to celebrate their courage. Overcoming insecurities is part of the game in sales and every objection is an opportunity to kick the fear of failure to the curb.

You can phrase it like this for reps:

If it takes you an average of 100 calls to close a sale, facing your fears and making one call means you only have 99 calls left. After the next call, you’ll only have 98 calls left to make and you’re one step closer to the next sales opportunity.

When teaching how to overcome the fear of rejection in sales, the best advice is to tell reps to put one foot in front of the other and take the next step. Successful salespeople face the next activity head-on, even if it’s scary.

Don Surath offers advice for reps who doubt themselves:

When people ask what I do, I say, ‘I call people who don’t want to talk to me.’ You have to give yourself credit for this courage.

Sales requires perseverance and a growth mindset to become successful. Ensure you give reps credit for pushing on in the face of adversity.

8. Remind your salespeople of the job’s benefits

Sales jobs (especially outside sales roles) can offer some of the most desirable perks and benefits. When reps fear rejection, remind them of the enjoyment they can have along the way.

For example, your company may offer an elusive commission or compensation plan. You may also give reps perks like:

  • Company cars

  • Flexible working

  • Wellness memberships

  • Private insurance

  • Paid meals

Don Surath explains:

It’s a pretty cool job. Your time is your own. You make more money. The company pays for you to take people to dinner and games. I got free tickets to the Super Bowl opening night in San Jose, California, because I work at CBS. I took my best clients to the game, bought them hot dogs – and CBS paid for this. People who are not in sales don’t get these perks.

Of course, learning to love a job in sales and getting past what’s holding reps back won’t happen overnight. Team members must nurture low self-esteem and social anxiety over time.

As the team or company lead, you should reframe the risk of rejection as an opportunity to improve sales skills and overall well-being.

Explain that facing rejection repeatedly can help gradually desensitize reps to the instinctual fear response. Over time, what once seemed overwhelming can become more manageable.

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9. Understand sales rejection isn’t personal

Clarify that reps shouldn’t tie rejections to their self-worth or take them as reflections of their character. It’s simply a natural part of sales.

While a bit of apprehension can help focus the mind, too much of it can be debilitating and impact sales performance. To avoid this, reps must understand the psychology of objections that lead to rejections:

When someone objects to your pitch, they’re signaling a gap in their understanding or have a pain point you must address.

When reps view rejection more objectively, it doesn’t feel personal or critical. Instead, they can view these objections as opportunities to qualify prospects further and hone their sales strategy.

Whenever they feel fear of rejection, teach them to acknowledge that the emotional response is natural but just misplaced.

The ABC model is a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that can help reps break down these feelings and reshape them positively:

  • Activating events. The adverse situation takes place.

  • Beliefs. We create an explanation for why it occurred.

  • Consequences. Our beliefs trigger certain feelings and behaviors in response.

ABC Model

Once salespeople learn to handle rejection and realize it’s a common part of the sales process, they may find their footing and forget why they struggled in the first place.

Final thoughts

Fear of rejection is a natural instinct but every sales rep has to learn to deal with it. Instead of viewing each rejection as a personal knockback, reps can use them to develop their negotiation or pitching skills.

As a leader, you can highlight the multiple activities it takes every team member to make a sale to level the playing field. You can also provide targeted content to make selling more seamless.

In addition, track your team’s successes and setbacks with a CRM system like Pipedrive to highlight the upward trend as reps conquer their fears.

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