Salespeople constantly put themselves out there, and no one is safe from fear of rejection.
Author and sales trainer Wendy Weiss, better known as the Queen of Cold Calling, remembers a client who was so frozen in fear, he didn’t meet his sales goals. “He was afraid to lose his job, and it affected his personal life,” she said. “He fought with his wife, his family, and was all around miserable.”
He’s not alone. Sales reps everywhere experience the same challenges when it comes to fearing sales rejection, and business owners struggle to help them handle objections so they can make sales. It’s time to change that.
In this article, we’ll share tips for how to handle sales rejection and help your sales team shift their mindset from fearful to fearless.
Table of contents
Why fear of rejection happens in sales
We live in a culture where career success is often directly linked to self-worth, and we all want to be accepted and loved. Fear is our signal that we’re putting ourselves out there and going outside our comfort zone, and that when we do, we risk failure and social rejection.
Humans are great storytellers; so, many of us make up stories and live a life inside our heads that’s often disconnected from reality:
“If I can’t make the sale, I’ll lose my job. If I lose my job, I won’t be able to make ends meet, my spouse won’t be attracted to me and my parents will have proof I can never amount to anything.”
“Salespeople exhibit a lot of the same qualities of people who are depressed,” Weiss said.
She brought up two of 10 forms of thinking experienced by people who suffer from depression, as identified by Dr. David Burns in his book Feeling Good – The New Mood Therapy:
Mind reading. According to Weiss, sales professionals assume prospects aren’t interested based on no realistic reason.
Fortune telling. Salespeople are “projecting into the future, thinking ‘nobody will be interested, therefore I won’t make any phone calls,’,” Weiss said.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
How to help your salespeople overcome fear of rejection
Fortunately, there’s plenty a business owner can do to help salespeople overcome fear of rejection and win the sale.
Deconstruct sales perceptions
Don Surath, author of Conquering Cold-Calling Fear: Before and After the Sale and a multimedia solution developer at CBS, never gave anyone in his university courses a grade higher than a 93. But one student got a 98 – and it wasn’t a stereotypical salesperson. “This boy wasn’t good-looking. He’s never been popular. And he had a heart condition, so he had to miss a few classes because of treatments,” Surath said. Yet he was the only one of 50 students to land a sales meeting.
Encourage your salespeople to stop making assumptions. For example, salespeople need to qualify prospects, but “the definition of a cold call is calling someone you do not know, so you can’t know what they’re thinking,” Weiss said.
Ask your salespeople, “‘Is this fear you have about what’s going to happen when you dial – is it real or are you making it up?’ If people can shift how they think about it, they can shift the behavior,” Weiss said.
Shift the focus to activity metrics
When you fear rejection, it’s easy to assume you’re the only one experiencing this challenge, which makes things worse. As the business owner advising on how to overcome fear of rejection, share the team average of the number of calls it takes to get a “yes,” so your salespeople know they’re not alone. This helps them realize that the experience of rejection is not only part of life, but a very common part of the process.
Shift the focus from the result they can’t control (a closed sale) to the action they can control (picking up the phone). “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,” Surath said.
Show them how your products help customers
Many salespeople can’t stop associating selling with scheming people out of their money just because they took a sales job.
Help them out by sharing case studies of customer success, to prove your products help real people and companies, and get them excited about delivering value.
Build your salespeople’s confidence by investing in sales training
When Surath challenged his students to land a sales meeting, “a lot of people picked the president of Google or Facebook,” he said. None of them landed a meeting. Remember the only student who got 98 in Surath’s class? He picked the president of a local brewery – and landed a meeting.
Help your salespeople build their self-confidence by giving them skills to qualify prospects, explain value, handle objections and follow up better.
Get them practicing on prospects that don’t matter
Surath suggested taking the pressure off. “Decide who’s the person you absolutely want to call – and don’t call them first. Practice with other people you don’t care about,” he said.
Give your salespeople a script to read during calls. Explain to them that “People can’t see you. They don’t know you’re reading,” Surath said. By the time they move on from low risk learning opportunities and begin calling the high-stakes prospects, it’ll become second nature.
How to help your salespeople deal with rejection and move on to the next call
As every business owner knows, rejection will happen. Once your salespeople face their fears and make the call, how can you help them deal with the inevitable “no”?
Follow these tips to help them overcome common objections, stop self-criticism and boost their self-esteem.
Help salespeople analyze their calls
“It’s very interesting what salespeople think about ‘no,’” Weiss said. Her clients often tell her prospects aren’t interested, and when she asks for more information, she learns the prospect was in a meeting or asked to call next week.
Sometimes your salespeople reach a prospect at a bad time, “but if they’re in the heart of terror, they think they’re being rejected,” Weiss said.
When her client realized this, he changed jobs and improved his relationships with his wife and family. He chose to stay in sales, and he’s now happy and reaching his sales goals.
Celebrate every “no” as a step closer to a sale
“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. A lot of people don’t go into this because they’re scared,” Surath said.
As a sales manager, it’s important to encourage your salespeople to celebrate their courage. Overcoming insecurities is part of sales – every time they experience sales objections is an opportunity to kick fear of failure to the curb. If it takes your salespeople an average of 100 calls to close a sale, a salesperson who faced their fears and made one call only has 99 calls left to make.
Sometimes, when teaching salespeople how to overcome fear of rejection, the best advice is to tell them to put one foot in front of the other and take the next step. Successful salespeople face the next opportunity head on, even if it’s scary and feels like the end of the world. After the next call, your salesperson will only have 98 calls left to make. They have never been closer to their next sales opportunity.
Remind your salespeople the benefits of being salespeople
“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,” Surath said.
Of course, loving your sales job and getting past what’s holding you back won’t happen overnight. Low-self esteem and social anxiety must be nurtured. As the team lead, you should reframe the risk of rejection as an opportunity to improve not only sales skills, but overall well-being.
Once salespeople learn to handle rejection and realize it’s a common part of the sales process, they’ll find their footing and assertiveness. They’ll look back and think, “I can’t believe I struggled with how to overcome the fear of rejection.”