Sales roles today face rejection more frequently than ever. In an increasingly competitive business landscape, even the most effective sales professionals hear “no” on a daily basis.
92% of salespeople quit after the fifth follow-up, which is an alarming fact. 8% of the sales reps that continue get 80 percent of the sales – which brings a light of encouragement for sales.
Constructive resilience in the face of constant rejection is essential for sales success. Let’s look further at the psychology behind the stigma of rejection, strategies for developing resilience, and real-world examples of turning rejection into growth.
- Understanding Sales Rejection
- Resilience in Sales
- The Science of Sales Rejection
- Strategies and Techniques to Build Resilience in Sales
- Adopting a Growth Mindset
- Practical Tips for Dealing with Rejection
- Success Stories: Real-Life Examples
- Overcoming Sales Rejection in a Competitive Landscape
Understanding Sales Rejection
Sales rejection refers to any instance of a prospect saying no to an offer. This could range from explicit rejections like being hung up on, to more subtle dismissals such as a lack of outreach response.
For sales professionals who do not accept rejection as a regular part of their jobs, the negative impacts can compound quickly. The innate pain from rejection diminishes motivation, fuels hesitancy, and damages self-confidence over time. This creates a vicious cycle where fear of rejection leads to less outreach, which leads to subpar performance.
Resilience in Sales
Resilience refers to the ability to positively adapt when faced with a problem, and continue progressing.
In the sales context, resilience comprises the mindsets and constructive coping techniques required to process rejection in a healthy way.
The capacity to resiliently overcome rejection is key for sales excellence because it empowers professionals to:
- Preserve self-confidence through repeated rejections from cold outreach
- Reframe “no” as a learning opportunity to improve rather than a personal failure
- Derive strategic insights from lost deals to refine future pitches
- Sustain motivation despite inevitable rejections on the path to success
With resilience, salespeople can thrive with the long-term in mind, backed by the psychological strength to power through daily rejections.
The Science of Sales Rejection
Examining the neural basis of rejection sensitivity, the brain’s response to “no”, and subsequent impacts on sales performance provides valuable actionable context.
The Psychology Behind Rejection
Studies into the science of rejection have found that social rejection lights up the same areas of the brain that process physical pain. The anterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulate are linked to distress and sadness. These regions activate when we face rejection, explaining the inherent discomfort people feel.
In sales roles, this translates into hesitancy in making cold calls or engaging new prospects where the likelihood of rejection is high. Often, salespeople with ingrained rejection sensitivity end up leaving opportunities on the table by not taking enough interpersonal risks.
This self-sabotaging cycle intensifies over time. As salespeople face more rejections, their aversion to rejection increases. They end up shying away from making a high volume of outbound pitches required to hit goals.
Recovery from the neurological “pain” caused by rejection also takes time, causing distress to linger. When sales professionals face high volumes of rejection daily, it can overwhelm their natural cognitive coping capacity.
How Rejection Affects Sales Performance
Rejection can decrease internal motivation and effort. After facing rejection, lots of sales professionals make fewer calls, have shorter conversations, and experience more discouragement.
Rejection also reduces the ability to handle interpersonal risks. Salespeople become averse to initiating new relationships after rejection. This causes outreach strategies to suffer.
The negative effects result in lower:
- Outreach volume: Rejection sensitivity causes hesitation in engaging new prospects. Each subsequent “no” makes outreach more daunting.
- Persistence: The motivation required to power through early-stage rejections is diminished.
- Relationship building: Salespeople become increasingly risk-averse and lean on existing relationships rather than forging new ones.
- Morale: The cumulative impact of rejection damages self-confidence, leading to a pessimistic outlook that perpetuates failure.
Common Reasons for Rejection in Sales
While it can feel very personal, rejection in sales is typically situational rather than a comment on the salespeople themselves. Common sales-specific reasons for prospect rejections include:
- Irrelevant Offering: Product or service genuinely does not apply to the prospect’s needs or industry.
- Incorrect Timing: Prospect is not ready to purchase or implement a solution currently.
- Budget Limitations: Prospect cannot afford the offering or currently lacks sufficient budget.
- Existing Relationships: Prospect already has a solution or an established supplier.
- Weak Value Proposition: Offering is not adequately differentiated or compelling enough to justify a change.
- Wrong Contact: The pitch is directed at a prospect who is not the decision-maker or a buyer.
- Insufficient Research: The salesperson lacks context into the prospect’s specific pain points or industry needs.
Keeping these factors in perspective prevents salespeople from taking rejection as a personal attack on their sales skills. It also helps accurately pinpoint areas for improvement after sales losses.
Strategies and Techniques to Build Resilience in Sales
Constructively coping with rejection relies on reframing how sales professionals process and respond to hearing “no”. Let’s learn more about the techniques that build resilience to sales rejections.
Recognizing and accepting rejection
The first step is acknowledging prospecting inherently contains rejection. Studies show that 60% of customers say “no” four times before saying “yes”. Refusing to completely internalize rejection as a normal part of the sales process is pivotal.
With the expectation of rejection built into the sales processes, sales professionals can avoid exaggerated discouragement when it happens. Rejections can become data points rather than personal reflections.
Reframing Rejection as Learning
Reframing involves assessing negative experiences through a lens of growth. Salespeople can purposely reframe rejection as accelerating improvement rather than inhibiting success.
This empowers analyzing each rejection objectively to extract learnings. Some constructive questions for improvement include:
- Was the offer misaligned to the prospect’s current needs?
- Did the outreach lack adequate research into pain points?
- Are positioning and messaging optimized based on past rejections?
- What skills can be developed to improve conversations with clients?
With consistent reframing, sales professionals can expect rejection – but rationalize it as fuel for rapid development rather than failure.
Because our brains are wired to take rejection personally, it is easy for salespeople to feel personally attacked when prospects decline your offer. However, separating oneself from the feelings that rejected offers create – prevents emotional spiraling.
It is crucial to reinforce that B2B prospects reject offers, not salespeople themselves, in most cases. When detachment becomes an instinct, sales professionals can avoid feeling less confident after rejection.
Adopting a Growth Mindset
Cultivating a growth mindset helps sales professionals gain positive lessons from every rejection. This facilitates constantly sharpening pitches through iterative improvement.
The best sales professionals fail substantially more than average – which indicates they are pushing limits. Facing rejection head-on despite short-term discouragement drives personal and professional growth.
Embracing failure as a learning opportunity
Rather than getting discouraged, the most successful salespeople analyze losses for insights.
Functional analyses include identifying customer archetypes that rejected offers and reverse-engineering rejections to improve sales messaging.
Even though it is risky, pursuing challenges leads to rejection but accelerates long-term growth. Leaning into discomfort can be transformational for sales success.
Setting realistic expectations
Sales quotas should factor in rejection rates for one’s industry and role. Setting incremental objectives keeps motivation high through inevitable setbacks.
After rejection, sales professionals should reflect and then quickly re-engage with small wins to regain momentum. Instead of overhauling everything, aim for minor measured progress.
With realistic milestones set, salespeople can objectively reassess and adapt approaches without self-doubt. The focus stays on incremental progress rather than letdowns. Rejection becomes tactical rather than personal.
Building emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence enables processing feelings skillfully. This helps sales professionals acknowledge reactions to rejection objectively without being controlled by them.
As 90% of top performers at work have high emotional intelligence, it is highly worth it to improve it.
Understanding and managing emotions
Developing EQ allows sales professionals to be aware of emotional responses to rejection without being controlled by them. Techniques like meditation, journaling, and tactical breathing can help process emotions.
This prevents rejection from draining motivation that hurts sales performance. Salespeople can acknowledge the emotion, yet strategically channel it into determination.
Empathy in sales
Perspective-taking exercises boost empathy. Salespeople can reflect on prospects’ realities - busy schedules, competing priorities and similar to get into the right perspective.
Remembering that rejection is rarely personal prevents frustration. Instead, sales professionals can re-approach prospects by solving newly discovered needs.
With self-awareness and empathy, salespeople can strategically navigate rejection with emotional maturity. This can help create new relationships and sustain them, which is a win-win.
Build a support network
Seeking guidance from others who have been through similar rejections provides perspective and new lessons.
Nearly 70% of salespeople haven’t received any formal education in sales – they’ve been learning from their own experience and the experiences of others.
Mentorship and peer support
Around 88% of business owners argue that having a mentor is invaluable. Identifying mentors who faced substantial rejection early in their sales careers and overcame it provides wisdom and prevents making the same hard mistakes.
Asking targeted questions around their mindsets, constructive coping strategies, and bounce-back techniques provides actionable advice.
Scheduling regular check-ins ensures continual guidance on developing resilience to rejection – which drives long-term growth of sales skills.
Resources for personal development
Sales leaders can provide training resources, tools, and coaching specifically around constructive resilience to rejection.
Enterprise learning platforms like Gong enable bite-sized rejection therapy lessons accessible on-demand.
Sales psychology content around healthy mental frameworks and emotional coping helps sales teams continually build resilience-oriented skills.
Practical Tips for Dealing with Rejection
While long-term resilience requires changing mental frameworks, sales professionals can leverage the following tactical tips to address rejection constructively:
Handling objections effectively
When faced with prospect objections, maintaining a positive, curious, and solution-focused mindset is key. Treating objections as constructive discussion points prevents quick dismissals.
Some ways to navigate objections constructively include:
- Actively listening to understand the root of concerns
- Responding with collaborative language such as: “I can understand why you’d be concerned about…”
- Presenting tailored solutions rather than excuses such as: “I recognize how our typical plan may exceed your budget. Let me share a more cost-effective option I can customize based on your needs.”
- Summarizing mutual takeaways from the conversation such as: “Do let me know if I’ve addressed your concerns. I appreciate you sharing them so openly with me - it will really help me refine our value proposition.”
The above strategies steer objections into meaningful dialogues. Prospects feel heard, preventing quick “no’s” due to misalignment.
Leveraging rejection for improvement
While rejection stings, working through the details of the loss is instrumental. Sales professionals can utilize this rejection analysis framework:
- Customer Profile: Were they in the ideal target segment? Does the segment need revisiting?
- Competition: Was a particular competitor the key blocker? How can messaging be refined?
- Pricing: Did the deal value align with the customer segment or seem off base?
- Buying Stage: Should outreach have waited for a defined buyer need?
- Collateral: Did content align with pain points? Does new collateral need to be created?
Analyzing these dimensions provides actionable insights to optimize what matters most.
In-depth rejection analysis provides sales professionals clarity into skill gaps that require coaching. These could span consultative questioning, competitive positioning, objection handling, negotiation tactics, and more.
Ongoing training to build these skills can make customer conversations more compelling even amidst difficulties.
Success Stories: Real-Life Examples
The most resilient and successful businesses treat rejection as fuel for rapid upward growth. Their journeys reveal how constructive responses to “no” compound over time. Here are two examples of businesses overcoming rejection and building multi-million dollar empires.
Salesforce – From Skepticism to Mass Adoption
Back in 1999, on-premise CRM software was the real deal. Salesforce set out to challenge that by offering a complete cloud-based CRM solution.
The primary problem? The main players in the CRM business back then met their ideas with skepticism and a lot of resistance. With the customers – the main challenge was convincing them to trust their data to the cloud.
How did Salesforce overcome the skepticism and rejection of its cloud solution? By guerilla marketing. They staged protests at conferences and events of their main competitor – Siebel Systems. The “protesters” would wave signs with “The Internet is really neat … Software is obsolete!” to induce interest in their product.
This worked extremely well – as more people flocked to their cloud-based platform – with $31,35 billion in revenue last year, making them leaders in the CRM market.
Airbnb – From Selling Cereal Boxes to Hospitality Niche Leader
Airbnb was much different back in 2007 – when it started as an idea as renting out rooms to strangers. The initial reception was very rejective – investors and customers labeled the project as too risky, too niche, and too weird. After all, their main competitors were hotels – which were always a fierce competition.
How did they convince investors? By selling cereal boxes for $40 as breakfast options in Airbnbs. That proved to be very successful – as this endeavor netted them $30,000 and the respect of one Y Combinator investor – who famously said:
“If you can convince people to pay $40 for $4 boxes of cereal, maybe, just maybe, you can convince strangers to live with each other”.
Fast-forward to 2023 – Airbnb is much different than before – but holds a $80.21 billion market cap – making it the 169th most valuable company in the world.
Overcoming Sales Rejection in a Competitive Landscape
Modern sales are more saturated than ever before. There are over 2.5 million sales representatives in the US alone. As competition increases, rejection frequency can be intimidating.
Resilience is thus essential for sustaining morale and motivation. Sales professionals must leverage resilience-building frameworks to stay ahead. Rejections must be processed as opportunities to improve ─ not to deteriorate.
The most effective sales professionals also customize messaging and solutions for each prospect, for example out of office message. Personalized positioning demonstrates a nuanced understanding of specific needs. This further minimizes rejection rates and accelerates growth.
Implementing strategic resilience takes consistent practice but enables sustained motivation despite rejection.
Reflecting on losses level-headedly, setting incremental goals post-rejection, and celebrating small wins prevents discouragement from spreading. Seeking mentorship and community support normalizes adversity as well.
Imagine consistently hitting your numbers month after month, year after year, empowered by the mindset to process rejection as data to sharpen your craft. The most successful sales professionals get there through resilience.
Now go and make it part of your competitive advantage.
About the Author
Antonio is an outreach manager at Hunter. He is passionate about testing different outreach tactics and sharing results with the community. When he is not connecting with industry leaders you can find him on his motorbike exploring off-the-beaten paths around the world.