How to handle sales rejection

How to handle sales rejection

Pay-off: how to handle sales rejection AND increase your chances of making the sale

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So, you want to know how to handle sales rejection…

It’s probably useful then to get a handle on the two main things at play here:

1. fear of sales rejection

2. the actual risks of sales rejection


Sales fear vs sales risk

When selling, both fear and risk are fully at play. You dance with them both. And so does your buyer. But they’re different. And you’ll be much more successful if you only dance with one.

To do that, it pays to understand and manage both. And, by the end of this article you’ll be able to, and you can try it out on your next sale.


Sellers ignore risk and stare fear in the face

Consider this:

When you last didn’t make the sale, when you failed to convince, got rejected, or worse didn’t even try (that’s got to be the lamest and fastest-working form of sales rejection hasn’t it?) – when you got beaten, was it fear that beat you, or was it the unbearable risk you faced?

For most people, it’s fear or discomfort that decreases their chances of performing effectively and handling any risk in the sale.

In fact, if you’re prepared and know how to sell, risk to you is relatively low. (There are risks, like not qualifying well, not being thorough enough, wasting your time or being taken for a ride by a buyer which I’ll cover in a future post). But, rather oddly, sales people don’t tend to fear these actual risks. Instead they fear rejection, being dis-liked, or looking stupid. Which unfortunately increases the chances of them being rejected, being disliked, or looking stupid.

The bottom line here is that fear of sales rejection or discomfort when selling is often high, when risk is relatively low.

This mis-alignment of fear with actual risk is similar for those with a fear of flying. Fear is high even though risks of crashing are low.

Fear of shark attacks can be high even though the risk of being attacked is low (especially to those out of the water discussing their fear of sharks…I mean these fearful people may need reminding that the risks increase when they’re 1) wet 2) next to a hungry shark. Then, fear is quite reasonable.)

Hopefully you’re getting my point here. Misplaced fear is kind of ridiculous. There’s little point dancing with fear.


But fear comes first

It’s unfortunate that our minds work against us in a clumsy attempt at survival. Fear comes first. The most primitive part of our brains – our reptilian brains, designed to protect us with fight or flight have first say. Then emotions kick in. Often in a public display of colourful swearing. But rarely by this stage do people manage an intelligent and realistic risk assessment!

But on the flip side, having no fear is risky. Whilst it’s not useful to fear the dark, it is useful to consider the risks of walking down a dark alley with your face glued to your iPhone.

In sales, having no fear of rejection would help you engage just about anyone. But some of those people probably shouldn’t be engaged. Doing so may be risky.

Having no fear can blind us to real dangers and risks. And they can blind us to learning or thinking through a much smarter tactical approach.

I’ve hinted already that we should ‘fear’ (or, reframing that ‘plan for and prevent’) being taken for a ride by buyers. That’s useful.

(Want my 1:1 help to help you improve sales? Click here.)


Reducing fear of sales rejection

It’s also worth considering that jumping from a plane with no parachute is risky and something worth fearing. But with a parachute on it’s less risky. And following 6 months sky-diving training, it’s less risky still and fear transforms into a thrill, and into a win. Consistent learning and practice reduces fear and risk whilst also improving performance.

But what about buyers?

Where does their fear vs risk tend to sit?


Buyers ignore fear and stare risk in the face

Whilst sellers dance with fear rather than risk, buyers tend to dance with risk rather than fear.

Buyers who are ready to buy constantly scan their options for risks.

They are less fearful. Their reptilian brain may be ready to kick in, but mostly their higher-level rational thinking and emotional drivers are at play. Or, more simply put, they buy with their head, heart, and gut (gut feel). And their heart usually leads the charge here.

Why? Well, they have less to actually fear, as they rarely need to buy from you. They have options. And at the very least they have the ability to easily say ‘no’. What they don’t want to do is risk putting their neck, budget, or reputation on the line. Or look bad in front of the person they have to answer to!

Make no mistake, their risk detectors are on high, hoping that they’ll be able to say ‘yes’ whilst looking hard for a reason to say ‘no’.


The key to handling sales rejection

Buyers dance with risk.

They want to dance with risk until they’re happy. And it’s understanding this, as a seller, that holds the key to reducing fear of sales rejection.

Sellers must stop dancing with fear and join their buyers in the dance with risk.


Well, whilst you can’t just drop your fear, (you can’t not think of a pink elephant when I ask you not to) you can choose to put your attention on something else. By focusing fully on helping the buyer to eliminate or minimise risk as they see it, you turn your back on fear. Fear dissipates.

And you do that by getting interested and caring about the buyers perspective of this deal or decision. You get in their shoes. You ask them as many questions as you need to in order to understand how they see the situation, what it means to them, where they see the risk, and you share ideas to help them minimise that risk.

Be ready with some ideas to minimise their barrier to entry. Selling in a low-risk phase 1 which includes a follow up debrief/conversation as part of the deal is useful. (This conversation is your bridge to the next commitment.) Have relevant guarantees ready or evidence for any claims to give them confidence. And most of all, stay on target. Remain fixated on their assessment of risk and what it would take for them to see a win:win deal being made and a potentially ongoing trusted relationship.

If you do this, not only will your fears dissipate, but your buyer will enjoy the dance with risk (and with you) more. Their trust and engagement will go up. And they’ll want to dance with you for longer, rather than with your competitor who’s still dancing with fear in the corner.

So long as you plan to do this, and work hard to understand your buyer and lead them to the better place they want to get to, the risk of being rejected diminishes, together with your fear of it.

And if your solution is rejected, perhaps you’ll understand that even though you approached it well, the fit or circumstances weren’t right. And perhaps you can learn from this and qualify fit even better for next time?

Either way, you win.


Want help improving sales?

If you or your team want to learn to improve how you sell, I may be able to help. Click here if you’re a business, and click here if you’re an individual looking for help. I’m UK based, but work globally.

You may also find more of my posts useful which you can navigate via the tags or search box on the right. Or you can contact me with any questions.

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More of my articles on handling sales rejection here. 

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