Handle Your Rejections in 5 Simple Steps

I was with my family at a kids birthday party this past weekend and since we’re relatively new to Texas, the party was populated with quite a few people we didn’t know.

I ended up small talking with one of the other dads there and the conversation inevitably got around to careers.  I told the guy I was the sales manager of a company here in town and he gave me the universal response I seem to get from non selling types.

“Oh man…I could never be in sales.  I couldn’t deal with all the rejection.”

If you’ve been selling for long, you’ve surely had countless people tell you this by now as well.

First off, lets all take a moment and be grateful that most people feel this way…otherwise sales wouldn’t pay as well as it does.

But what if you’re already in sales?  You may have had a run of bad luck…or you’re new in your sales career and you’d like to make a run of it but you’re feeling disheartened.

Well then the day is won.  We’re going to fix that in the next 5 minutes.

Here are the 5 simple steps to handling your rejections.


1. Realize Rejection’s Initial Pain is Normal and Healthy

Unless you have a heart of stone, rejection can start out a bummer.

Human beings are social creatures and we generally desire to be accepted and liked by our peers.

To have someone rebuff our advances feels bad.   Its a good thing it bothers you a little….it means you aren’t a sociopath.    So start out with the mindset that experiencing some not-so-great feelings is a completely normal thing, and yet its also not a signal that you’re failing on a larger scale.

However, if you want to keep your sanity until you gain traction you MUST work to intellectually separate the emotional impact of the rejection from your personal well being.

To accomplish that, really work to absorb step 2.

2. Understand That It Is Not Personal

People hear the phrase “It’s not personal” and they gloss over it without truly taking it to heart.   They let the sentence stay meaningless and they do proceed to take it personally.

Listen to me.  If you get rejected, it would have happened to just about anyone.  I’ve spent 16 years trying to figure out the best way to craft a pitch and I’ve gotten to the point that I think I’m pretty good.  Despite all that work, I STILL deal with rejection a good amount of the time.  Some of the highest paid salespeople on earth are still getting rejected MOST of the time.  It never goes away.

So since it’s never leaving, its far more productive to focus on understanding why the rejection comes than slipping into a “woe is me” coma over it.

They are rejecting what (they perceive) you represent: a sleazy, slimy, waste-of-time salesperson.    They’re looking at you through a tainted filter comprised of EVERY OTHER TERRIBLE SALES EXPERIENCE THEY’VE EVER HAD.

Its not you.  Its EVERYONE.

You need to look at their initial revulsion and APPRECIATE it.  Feel for them.  They’ve been through a lot and they simply aren’t interested in putting themselves through it again.

Several years ago, I made a cold call with another salesperson and we walked into the building owner’s office.  When we entered the doorway she looked up at us…and immediately put her head down into hands with a huge sigh.

Terrible Salespeople Head in Hands

She moved to this exact hand position when she saw us enter the room.

You know what I did?

I said, “Thank you!”

“Thank you so much for that reaction right there.  I cannot tell you how rare it is to see someone express pure honesty…their true feelings.”  I even chuckled a little.  Her honesty was refreshing.

I got on her side IMMEDIATELY.  It wasn’t a tactic…it was just my heartfelt reaction in that moment.  I wasn’t emotionally attached to the outcome and I genuinely appreciated her.

I offered that we could come back at a better time.  She apologized for her reaction and said “Oh no that’s fine…I’m sorry.  I’m just trying to book a flight to a funeral right now.”  Dayum.

I said I was so sorry to hear and I again offered to reschedule, but she insisted we were ok and asked that we sit down.”

A terrible salesperson would have seen her put her head in her hands and still plowed right ahead:

He would have told her, “Listen we know you’re busy, so we’ll be real quick.”

Zero acknowledgement of and respect for her 100% visually apparent state.

She would have hated them.

…and that bad experience would have been added to the dozens of others that make up her filter and the next salesperson that walked in would get automatically lumped in with the “we’ll be real quick” guys before he could open his mouth.

So by acknowledging her where she was, we built some kind of rapport in a matter of a few seconds.

By being normal human beings, we were different.

We ended up sitting down and having a conversation with her and her husband the co owner.  We uncovered a need and sold them a $9,000 pallet wrapping machine about a month later.   Funny how being real works.

They don’t hate you.  They hate what they perceive you to be.

Don’t confirm their fears.

3. Assess Your Reality Both Before and After a Rejection

This single step has been the biggest game changer in my career.

I first read this principle in “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield and it heavily mitigated the sting of rejection for me.

One day you decide to make a call on a new prospect in your area.

Let’s call it ABC Aerospace.

You start out NOT having ABC Aerospace as an account.

You make a sales approach or even multiple approaches toward ABC Aerospace and get rejected.

You stop calling on them and you don’t have the account.

So what changed?  Your reality is not different now.   The only thing that happened is you invested some your resources (time) and got no perceived return.

Despite this, if you know your numbers, and you can intellectually accept that if you put yourself through 100 potential rejection opportunities…maybe 5, 10, 20, or 30 will result in a sale (every industry is different of course)…then you should be happily rushing headlong into the next 100 opportunities.

Rejection is a term salespeople have made up to make ourselves justified about feeling bad after someone says no.

What if you simply decided it wasn’t valuable for you to feel bad about it at all?

4. Embrace the Discomfort

Take a step back and self assess when you get rejected and appreciate your sales and skills journey for what it is.

Refining experiences can be painful…but worth it.

Gold is refined to 100% purity by heating it until its molten and the impurities can be skimmed off.

Diamonds are created by the application of immense amounts of pressure and time to a lump of coal.

A healthy tolerance for rejection is built the same way.

Here’s a great story about a man who did just this.

He submitted himself to a treatment called “exposure therapy” where he forced himself to do exactly the thing he feared, and he did it often enough that he became desensitized…and in fact, he began to look forward to it as if it was a game.

If you embrace the discomfort, you’ll notice your ability to take the hits increase…and if you’re taking time to reflect, you can look back and remember when it was harder to deal.  That observed progression leads to the development of better self confidence.

5. Hone Your Skills

One of the single best ways to reduce the mental drag of rejection is to reduce the frequency of the rejection itself.  You need to work toward a better success ratio.  When you have a healthy number of wins balancing out the losses, they become much easier to bear.

Do you make a positive first impression?

Do you dress the best in your industry?

Is your hygiene on point?

How good are you at putting people at ease?

How quickly can you build rapport and influence before you make a request?

How many books have you read on this topic?  (This is the question I love to ask salespeople that struggle in any given area.  I’ll give you one guess how many they’ve read…)

Do you know what to say in every one of your selling situations?  (Most sales jobs don’t have more than 30-40 total scenarios.  They just repeat over and over and over.)

Are you mentally focused on the customer’s best outcome or your own?  They can feel it.

Is your sales process the best it could be?    You…do….have a sales process?

I’d like to tell you that you can power through any lack of skills by crushing the numbers, but the truth is, if your approach or demeanor is terrible, you’re in for a long haul of being on the bad side of the success ratio.

To put yourself on the positive side of the equation you need to follow Jim Rohn’s advice:

“You need to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.”

You work on yourself for long enough and just about any job becomes easy.

Go to work on improving your skills and caring less about rejection.

5 years from now you’ll be rich and this won’t be a thing.

Good selling my friends.


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