Embrace being #2: Six ways to handle rejection

In the 2008 Olympics, Michael Phelps won the gold medal in the Men’s 100M Butterfly, beating out Milorad Cavic by a mere .01 second. Literally, in 1/30th of the time it takes to blink, Phelps’s dreams were realized and Cavic’s dreams were dashed.

Over the course of a salesperson’s lifetime, it’s inevitable that you will face this same struggle. You will be told no, be rebuffed, and even be harshly rejected due to the difference between you and your competitor over what may seem to be a minor or even trivial difference.

The difference is that Cavic at least won the silver medal and has something to place on his mantle for future generations of Cavic family members to view with awe and admiration. In your struggle to win sales, when you earn second place, you get nothing, nada, the big goose egg, and it’s possible that once that client is locked up with your competing vendor, they may never relinquish that relationship and it may never come up for bid again.

So, how do you avoid this harsh reality and always finish first? The truth is, you can’t.

It’s time to build what our colleague, Kendall Colman, calls your “rejection muscle,” because it’s going to happen. In fact, in the sales world you will likely find that you will be told “no” way more often than not. Even if you have a relatively high closing ratio of 20%–30%, this means that you are being told “NO” 70%–80% of the time.

Now that you are comfortable with the fact that you are going to be told “no,” it’s time to consider some ways to handle this rejection:

  • Understand that “NO” is not negative, its only feedback: Life is neutral. The only one who is placing a label on this event is you.
  • Labels are sticky: Once a rejection occurs, it’s easy to move the label from the event to then labeling ourselves by saying: “I suck. I am a terrible sales person. I am such a loser. Why would anyone buy from me?” Breathe, and stop with the labels. Instead interrupt that thinking with, “It’s just experience.”
  • Reflection is not just a three-syllable word: Most sales people make the same mistakes over and over again because they never ask themselves or their customers what they could have done differently. When asked, prospects will often be incredibly open with you about the reasons why they chose a competitor.
  • Embrace being #2: We once visited a coffee roaster who said, “Our company likes being #2. We know that our competitor’s best clients are just one mistake away from calling us.” Never burn a bridge — keep in contact with them (but avoid the “just checking-in” call), keep visiting with them at networking events, and act as their resource broker (see below).
  • Be a resource broker: Want the fastest way to become #1? Send your prospect a “trickle” of contacts whom they need to know either personally or professionally. We can almost guarantee no one else is doing this!
  • Realize you are not the Godfather: In the movie, The Godfather Part II, Michael Corleone famously mumbles, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Remember, the workplace is not the mafia. Make friends with your competitors. This may go against every dog-eat-dog, business world, spidey sense you have, but remember, your competitors are just like you. At times, they are overwhelmed, not every customer fits their business model, they need the help of outside expertise, and who knows, they may even be in need of a sub-contractor from time to time. And if they don’t know, like, and trust you, they won’t call you.

So here’s the point — remember that when you say “YES” to one customer, you are saying “no” to 10 other possible customers. Yes, there are customers you consider whales or elephants, but ultimately our global economy is built with literally more possibilities than you could pursue in 100 lifetimes. According to a Dun & Bradstreet article from 2013, there were 235 million companies across 200 countries of the world. Based on the five rejections you received today, you only have 234,999,995 more companies to go. The possibilities are limitless.

Tim Brown and Dan Streeter are the co-authors of Old School with New Tools: The Extra 5% That Takes You to the Top of Your Sales Game and Keeps You There. After carrying a sales bag throughout the world, Tim has grown to become one of the most sought after business leaders in the country. Dan is an award-winning educator and workshop designer with a pretty strong sales lineage of his own. To learn more, visit www.oldschoolwithnewtools.com. You can listen to Tim and Dan’s Old School with New Tools Podcast located on iTunes and Stitcher.

Click here to sign up for the free IB Ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.