How to Deal With Rejection as a Salesperson


No matter how good your sales skills or how warm your leads might be, not every sales call you make (or every cold email you send) is going to be a success.

In fact, for even the most successful sales campaigns, the vast majority of interactions with your prospects will end with “no.” Some will be polite, and others less polite — the reality is that you’ll encounter rejection far more often than you’ll encounter approval in sales.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, it only takes a few deals to make a cold email or cold calling campaign a success. In a campaign with 999 rejections, one “yes” from a motivated and enthusiastic lead can produce a massive return on your sales investment.

Despite this, being rejected again and again — whether politely or less politely — is tough. Here are six simple, effective ways to condition yourself to deal with and understand rejection as an email, phone or in-person sales professional.

Don’t take every rejection personally

Rejection rarely means that your product is bad, nor does it mean that you’re not a competent salesperson. Far more often, it just means that your product was a bad fit for the prospect, or that the prospect was a bad fit for your business.

It’s easy to let rejection after rejection get to you and adopt the idea that you, or your product, are the problem. In reality, being rejected is often a good thing, since it helps you learn which prospects are worth investing time in and which simply aren’t qualified for your business.

Your offer might have been rejected because it’s too expensive, saving you from trying to collect from a client that can’t afford to pay. It might have been rejected because it doesn’t fit the needs of a very particular manager, saving you from challenging and demanding support calls.

There’s an upside to rejection — it ends your opportunities with a prospect, but it also frees you to spend more time selling to others that might be more receptive.

Try to turn a soft “no” into a “yes”

In sales, “no” doesn’t always really mean “no.” Often, it means “not right now, but try again in a month or two,” or “not at that price.” Learning to identify the difference between a soft “no” and a hard “no” will help you save warm leads that you’d otherwise let go.

In an Inc. article, Geoffrey James explains that there are three generic types of “no” that sales prospects tend to use:

  • A “wrong information” no. This happens when you didn’t explain your offer well enough for the prospect to say “yes.” Your job, as a salesperson, is to explain it in a way that’s more likely to capture the attention and interest of the prospect.
  • A “wrong timing” no. This happens when you email or call a business at the wrong time to sell your product or service. In this case, the best course of action is to wait for a more opportune time to reconnect.
  • A “wrong circumstance” no. This happens when you contact someone that doesn’t have control over purchasing decisions. The solution is to connect with a decision-maker — a person authorized to give you a hard “yes” or “no.”

You’ll encounter plenty of rejection as a salesperson. Being able to tell which is final and which isn’t will help you close more deals and let fewer opportunities go to waste.

Understand your conversion rate

Just like every form of marketing, cold email sales is all about conversions. Not every email will result in a deal, but the percentage of emails that convert prospects into customers make all of the rejected pitches and ignored emails worth it.

This percentage — the emails that end up converting into sales — is your conversion rate. Just like no pay-per-click advertising campaign achieves a 100% conversion rate, no cold email is going to convert every prospect into a customer.

Whenever you’re rejected by a prospect, understand that there are hundreds of other prospects out there, any one of which could bring your conversion rate back up to baseline. The more you market your product or service, the more reliable your conversion rate assumptions will become.

Set a long-term goal and aim for it

Staying motivated in the face of “no” after “no” is extremely difficult, especially when results and conversions are rare. One of the most effective ways to remain motivated as a salesperson is to set yourself both short and long-term goals to work towards.

Set a monthly sales goal — for example, 500 emails sent and meetings with at least 20 people — and you’ll feel motivation in the face of rejection. Set long-term goals and you’ll notice a gradual but significant improvement in your results at the end of every month.

Effective sales is all about momentum. When you set clear goals, both short and long term, you give yourself a reason to keep the momentum up. When you make call after call and send email after email without a clear objective, it’s easy to lose focus and watch your motivation level stall.

When prospects say no, ask why

Rejection can be a powerful learning tool, especially if you’re new to outbound sales. That’s why when one of your prospects rejects your offer, you should reach out and ask them to expand on why they aren’t interested.

Sales expert Grant Cardone recommends asking specifically: “What is it about my proposal you are saying no to?”

This question is great, because it reframes the nature of the rejection and does two things:

  • Creates the possibility for the sale to continue, since the prospect might only want to reject part of the offer
  • Lets you learn from the rejection by asking for direct feedback on what it was about the proposal the prospect didn’t like

Every sale is an opportunity for you to learn, even if it isn’t successful. By asking the question above, you’ll convert some “uninterested” prospects into customers, even if partially. The ones you can’t convert could provide valuable feedback that helps you strengthen your offer.

Review your accomplishments often

When you focus entirely on the rejection aspect of sales, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that despite “no” after “no,” you’re still making progress.

It takes lots of rejections to make a sale, but in the end you still made the sale. Every sale is a step forward, even if it meant dealing with rejection from hundreds of people in the process. In the end, you still produced results.

If you’ve encountered a wave of rejection after a long day of cold emails or sales calls, take a moment to review your accomplishments. Seeing how far you’ve come is a great way to gain the motivation and positive attitude you need to keep pushing forward.

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