Salespeople know rejection. It’s practically written into the job description.
No matter how great your pitch or enticing your offer, rejection is unavoidable when you work in sales. It’s how you deal with it that counts.
According to Psychology Today, fear of rejection comes down to how our brains are wired. Over time, we learn to avoid pain, be it physical or emotional, and when confronted with the possibility of repeating painful experiences, the brain sounds an alarm that says “we need to go.”
In sales, we don’t get to run away from the pain of rejection, but we can control how we respond to the “nos.” Below, we’ve outlined six coping strategies to help you move on from losses and learn from your mistakes.
1. Don’t take things personally.
Okay, okay. We know that this is a cliché (much like when your mom told you those bullies were “just jealous"). Hear us out though.
While it’s disappointing to lose a deal, it’s important to acknowledge that it doesn’t have any bearing on your worth as a person—or as a rep. Still, our emotions cause us to take things personally, even when we know, logically, that many factors add up to a "no."
There’s a cognitive therapy concept called “cognitive distortions.” What this means: sometimes we alter incoming information, making our beliefs less accurate.
In this context, a rejected rep might start to adopt some unhealthy thought processes or cognitive distortions. A few examples of how this might play out:
- Black-and-white thinking—The idea that something “always” or “never” works out. Think “I never close a deal,” after a few rejections in a row.
- Personalization—Blaming yourself for something outside of your control. For example, a prospect says no because they don’t have the budget right now or they just signed a contract with a competitor earlier this week. It's not always about you.
- Labeling—Assigning yourself a label such as “I’m stupid” or “I’m terrible on the phone” based on a negative interaction.
Often, our thoughts get out of hand when we get rejected, and this can turn into a negative downward spiral if we're not careful.
If your thoughts begin veering into a dark place, think back to your “wins.” Maybe revisit old emails from happy clients or a glowing review from your manager. Reading old compliments puts things in perspective by proving to you that you’ve closed before—and you’ll do it again.
Another way you can shift into a more productive mindset is to look toward the parts of the sales process you can control. Did you make a mistake or talk to the wrong person? Make a note of it and adjust your strategy.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that many of the “nos” you receive aren’t personal at all. If you called someone at the wrong time, that doesn’t say anything about your skills or your personality, it’s a reminder that sales is often a numbers game.
Seal the deal.
Learn how to close sales efficiently, from overcoming objections to persuading prospects to take action, with this free handbook.
2. Change your thinking.
The real problem with fear of rejection is when it turns into its nastier cousin: self-sabotage. To prevent negative thoughts from taking on a life of their own, give mindfulness a shot.
If you haven't tried it before, mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of where you’re at, in the moment, without becoming reactive to what’s going on around you. Here's a graphic that distills the concept of mindfulness down to six easy steps:
In sales, a lot of dealing with rejection comes down to your ability to manage stress. Mindfulness exercises are easy to do in the office and allow you to take a moment to redirect any negative emotions coming to the surface following a bad call.
Here are a few potential roadblocks you’ll find with salespeople who have a fear of rejection, and how you can shift these thoughts to something more constructive.
If rejection feels inevitable
Statistically, most people will turn you down. You probably already know this if you’re a sales rep. Look at each interaction as a way to get to know someone and identify whether this prospect is the best fit for your solution.
If you find yourself dwelling too much on the possibility of a "no," center your thoughts on the relationship-building aspect of sales and where you add value. This means presenting helpful content at the right time and asking questions that reveal prospect challenges.
If every rejection feels like a bad omen
As sales rejections pile up, you begin to wonder if you should take it as a sign that you’re getting worse or there’s something inherently wrong with your personality. If this is happening, think back to moments where your knowledge served a prospect well. How have you helped people find the perfect solution in the past?
When one rejection keeps you down for days
Someone says no, it’s on to the next one. But, that’s often much easier said than done. If you find yourself ruminating, try to figure out what it is that makes the rejection sting so much.
Whatever it is, take a breather, and remind yourself that these thoughts aren’t grounded in reality. Mindfulness takes some practice, but over time, you’ll start to notice thoughts as they pop into your head and learn not to judge them—or yourself—so harshly.
3. Adopt a growth mindset.
How do you deal with rejection? With shame? Sadness? Or, do you consider each “no” a learning experience?
"Growth mindset" is a term coined by Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, that refers to the idea of approaching challenges as learning opportunities as opposed to obstacles.
Individuals who believe they can improve through feedback, hard work, and new approaches tend to reach more goals than their fixed-mindset counterparts.
While the idea of a growth mindset has become something of a buzzword, it’s worth developing, especially if you’re in sales, where the difference between a close and rejection comes down to a handful of small mistakes like not following up or failing to ask the right follow-up questions.
Adopting a growth mindset is useful for facing your fear of rejection, as it allows you to look at your performance objectively and talk about challenges productively with colleagues.
Your CRM can also help you to focus on details and use them to improve. For example, in Copper, there’s a report called Sales by Loss Reasons. It’s a good place to start diving into the “why” behind your losses. Ask yourself the following questions as you comb through the data:
- Did you talk to the right person?
- Were you able to understand the prospect’s challenges and business goals?
- Did you provide the prospect with a proposal that spoke to their needs?
- What other resources did you send?
- Was the prospect evaluating other competitors?
- Were you able to identify why the prospect rejected the proposal?
In this example, the rep’s main loss reason is that the prospect went with a competitor. But is the rep losing to the competition because they followed up too late? Are they cold-calling people who already have a solution in place? Or, did the prospect mention that the competitor offered something better?
4. Approach sales as a relationship, not a number.
Your job is to learn more about your prospect. It’s not about working super hard to convince someone to like you (hey, not everyone will). Instead, try to uncover the prospect’s wants, needs, and challenges.
Today’s customers are self-sufficient. They do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to researching a product and determining if it's a fit. Meaning, if a rep reaches out, they better bring more value to the table than a few Google searches can provide. That’s where the idea of relationship selling comes in—focus more on asking thoughtful questions and offering helpful solutions than pricing and pitches.
Just because someone “rejects” your offer today doesn’t mean they’ll never work with you in the future. Reps should consider every call a way to demonstrate your value and expertise. Prospects that don’t sign a contract might still recommend your services to a colleague or share your content with their network.
Learn more about the art (and science) of relationship selling in this chat with G2's SVP of Sales:
5. Read the room.
Salespeople have to be persistent but also realize when the prospect isn’t interested and move on. Top performers have a response ready for every objection, but there’s a certain point when you know that this call is going nowhere.
A few signs that it’s time to move on:
- The prospect can’t define a need
- They’ve ghosted you in the past
- They won’t connect you with other stakeholders in the company
- They won’t give you a budget
- They’re not a decision-maker
In the early stages, not every lead is going to be well-qualified. If you find that a lot of poor-fit leads are slipping through the cracks, there may be a mismatch with your messaging or your pipeline needs a bit of an adjustment.
6. Use technology to make better use of your time.
Data plus some strategic planning can help you create better sales outcomes. For example, you might be reaching out to prospects at the wrong time. We touched on using CRM to refer to loss reasons earlier, but you can also use your CRM data in other ways. For example, it can show you if you experience more rejections during a certain day of the week or time of day.
What about first response time? Are you reaching out right after a prospect makes contact? Are you missing follow-ups?
Set alerts in your CRM to ensure you don’t forget to follow up with prospects after meetings or calls. Is your pipeline organized? There are a ton of small details that add up to a closed deal—or one that slipped away. (Was there a mismatch in the qualifying stage? Did you misunderstand the prospect’s pain points?)
In Copper, you can review emails and notes from sales calls and meetings to pinpoint specific moments where you steered the conversation in a positive direction. You can also use the Sales by Source report to see your top performing lead generation sources and inform your strategy.
More on CRM 👇
What else can a CRM do? Lots. From sales reporting to automatic note logging, learn about everything a CRM can do for you.
While getting your systems in order won’t make up for a lack of sales skills, it will help you manage your time better, stay on top of to-dos, and notice useful details in your calls. For example, you might find that you’ve been nervously talking more than the prospect, giving them the sense that you’re not really listening. Or, maybe the problem is an overuse of “sales-killing words” like “implementation” or “roadmap.”
Or, you can look at your Pipeline Total by Owner Report to review your performance by each pipeline stage. This report shows you how you compare to the rest of the team, which admittedly sounds a bit intimidating. But, there are some useful lessons in there.
For example, if you see that it takes you longer to move prospects to a specific stage than a colleague, you can review your past interactions against theirs and use those insights to inform your strategy.
Pro-tip: Learn more about pipeline management and reporting features to look for in a CRM.
The point is, this comparative report presents teams with an opportunity to learn from one another and shift strategies based on wins and losses.
Remember, rejection is just part of the process.
Sales rejection is inevitable and let’s face it, often unpleasant. But, it’s also nothing to freak out about: rejection is the byproduct of our ability to learn, adapt, and grow. And the thing with growth is that it doesn’t just go up and up without leveling off sometimes.
Acknowledge the feelings, take a deep breath, and use data to hone in on problem areas. When you’re in the midst of a plateau, it pays to approach your frustrations through a logical lens and change up your approach, including how you handle objections. Check out these tips for overcoming any sales objection, from pricing to poor timing, and perhaps you’ll deal with fewer rejections overall.