Rejection is everywhere in sales. Cold calling. Email prospecting. Proposal presentations. Closing. Follow up. It’s so common that it’s become part of the job description for a salesperson: “able to deal with rejection with confidence.”
In selling, it’s not if rejection will happen, it’s when rejection will happen and how you deal with it that makes the difference in your personal success and company results.
The problem is that many sales people look at rejection as final. Once a prospect says no, they think it means “no, not ever.” But that isn’t what prospects intend. What a prospect is really saying is, “no, not now.”
Think of your prospects like a giant field of strawberries. Each is unique, with its own needs and timeline. Your field of prospects won’t all ripen at the same time. Unfortunately, your prospects don’t lay around in the sun waiting for you to see when they’re ready. Instead, they use rejection to get you to go away – for now.
How you deal with their rejection determines if the door is open for you to come back when they are ready to engage. Use these six techniques to positively and professionally deal with sales rejection.
- Say thank you. First, recognize that this is not Early in the sales process gather the information you need, the situation and timeline and promise to check back closer to when the time is right. If the prospect is rejecting your proposal later in the sales process, thank them for their consideration and still promise to check back. Who knows how things will work out with the person who won this time?
- Offer to stay in touch. You’re a knowledgeable, networked person who understands businesses like your prospect’s business. And, depending how far you’ve gotten in the sales process, you even understand their business. Say thank you, then offer to stay in touch, periodically check in to share what you’re seeing in the market and hear about their progress.
- Befriend the gatekeeper. In prospecting, rejection often comes from the gatekeeper. It may take 6 calls to the gatekeeper, but strike up a conversation and start understanding the issues from her or his perspective. Then ask for a referral to your contact again. They’ll be much more amenable to helping you once they know you.
- Use multiple approaches. Calls and voicemails aren’t working. Your LinkedIn invitation wasn’t accepted. When your prospecting is greeted with silence, get creative and try some old-school strategies. Drop in, send a handwritten note, send something lumpy, or look for a referral. It takes 9+ attempts to gain access so don’t accept silence as rejection.
- Look for a different opportunity. Maybe they aren’t ready for your managed services today, but they are considering a more robust communications system or a development project. Step back and look at what other needs your prospect may have that you can assist with today.
- Look for another entry point. If your prospects are larger companies, there are often other contacts you could work with in different departments or locations. In smaller companies, be sure you’re calling at the top. Business owners frequently have a different viewpoint than their staff.
- Gently nurture. When there isn’t an immediate opportunity but you’ve connected with a prospect, don’t drop them. Nurture them. Create a strategy that resonates with prospects so they notice you’re doing it, but isn’t aggressive. Include consistent follow up, check in and one-on-one relationship building. Lead generation campaigns combined with prospecting are very effective for this.
The bottom line is that when you hear rejection and you don’t see another immediate opportunity, leave the door open for a future opportunity. As hard as it is not to take it personally, rejection isn’t about you. If you cultivate your prospects, educating and guiding them, the right time will come. And when it does, they’ll want to be your client.