Getting told “no” and having a door slammed on your face is more difficult to handle than being told “no” over the phone.
And hearing a “no” over the phone and being hung up on stings a little more than an email rejection.
You’re going to get rejected. That’s just a fact in Sales. And human beings, by our nature, really don’t like being rejected.
Funnily enough, 99% of the time, rejection in business isn’t personal. However, many tend to feel like it is.
The good news is that there are ways to cushion the blow.
I’ve run thousands of outbound sales activities throughout my career, and through that, I’ve learned a few strategies for cultivating a winning sales mindset.
1. Build Talk Tracks
Rejection will hurt unless you condition yourself not to take that rejection personally. And one good way to do that is to develop your talk tracks.
This helps create distance between you and the outcome. If the prospect rejects your proposal, they’re rejecting the talk-track, not you.
This strategy has worked wonders for me in jobs asking for donation money, complex enterprise sales, and transactional selling.
On top of this, planning out what you want to say throughout the entire call (including objection responses, messages with a gatekeeper, etc.) will increase your chances of winning the deal in the first place.
Creating your script
The average person’s attention span is only about 8 seconds, according to a study by Microsoft. So, even if your product has multiple levels of complexity, you should be able to highlight the biggest problem your product solves within the second or third sentence.
Also, make sure there’s a place in your script for at least one specific detail about your prospect or their company.
This is very important to show that you did some homework on their business.
I won’t go too much into this because there are plenty of awesome articles and guides on this already.
Repetition is key
Once a short and direct script is prepared, do your best to start memorizing it.
The fastest way to cement it into your head is to pick up the phone and actually run through it with a few people (or a lot, depending on your market size).
After talking to several people, you should notice that being rejected starts to feel routine, and you almost become numb to it.
This has happened in every sales job I’ve ever been in, but I wasn’t sure why it happened. So, I did a little digging.
My research found that the secret to getting over rejection may be a form of repetition called spaced repetition.
Most solid SDRs, BDRs, and Inside Sales reps probably already do this or have done it in a past sales gig without realizing it.
In a nutshell, spaced repetition is a memorization technique that centers around doing something repeatedly, but with scheduled gaps in between each iteration.
There are extremely complex formulas involved in coming up with the perfect amount of time for this gap, but I won’t bore you with that. For someone who stays on task, the admin work in between activities seems enough for this to take effect.
This is a personal theory, but I think once a salesperson pushes through the first round of “no’s” and gets to their first “yes,” the brain remembers the pattern subconsciously. Then, after repeating that pattern a few more times and understanding the ratio of yes’s and no’s for a market they sell in, rejection becomes a very routine thing.
As long as you have your script down pat and understand the product/market you’re selling in, being rejected shouldn’t seem like such a big deal.
2. Train for It
Like I mentioned above, the more you’re exposed to reflection, the more you become numb to it. If you want to make yourself numb to rejection quickly, but you sell a product with a small market, there are still plenty of ways to get this repetition and condition yourself.
When I was a freshman, my school’s development office employed students in a work-study program doing it for something like $10 an hour back then.
Even though the first call I made was to a guy screaming at me as soon as I said who I was, that shift ended on a positive note with a $5 pledge.
After doing it for a year (and having a blast), I was able to leverage that experience to get a sales and marketing internship with a startup, which lead to my SDR job right out of college and then my current account executive position.
I cannot stress enough how valuable this was for me, even if I didn’t recognize it back then. It taught me a ton about how to handle rejection, build rapport, and move at a quick pace.
Take advantage of any opportunities you get to experience rejection. Wherever you went to college probably has a development office where volunteers call alumni and others asking for money.
If you’re more politically minded, you can volunteer to make calls for your favorite candidate. Or for your favorite charity.
Not everyone will want to volunteer at a call center, and that’s ok, but if you really want to develop some thick skin, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better and faster way.
3. Move Fast and Keep Moving
Moving quickly onto your next activity will guarantee that you won’t sit around brooding about a rough rejection.
On the other hand, moving too fast can result in things falling through the cracks — like scheduling a follow-up, remembering to log a note or some other admin work.
The key is finding a good balance.
A good lesson from a rough rejection
Early on in my SDR career I had an experience that taught me why it’s so important to move on quickly from a harsh rejection.
There was a prospect headquartered near my house. So, I decided to try doing a walk-in cold call. When I got there, the front door was locked, but it was still during business hours so, I called their main phone number.
After talking to whoever answered for a few minutes and explaining that I was on our marketing team and wanted to set up an intro between our two companies, he almost came to let me in… But then his tone changed a bit.
He asked if it was a sales call, and I said yes. My company genuinely wasn’t planning to sell so much as check for a compelling event first, but technically it was a sales call.
At least in that market, there always had to be a compelling event. Purely pitching our product to someone who already had a system rarely went anywhere.
The next thing I heard was, “Not interested,” which he kind of snapped at me.
After I asked who he was (politely), I heard the phone hang up.
I was a little frustrated, so I got back in the car and finished my evening commute. When I got home, I opened up Salesforce to log the notes and review their account again to see if there was anyone specific that I could contact.
Our process was to get at least some explanation with a rejection.
It turned out that we had some info for the president of their company. Normally, it never made sense for us to contact a person in the President/CEO role with our product. However, this company was around 50 employees, and that rule more applied to places with 300+ workers.
I sent a polite email explaining what we wanted to do and that I had spoken with someone briefly who wasn’t interested in talking.
The next morning, I saw a reply in my inbox.
He was really professional and completely open to a meeting. My account executive and I were both invited to meet with him via phone or at their office later.
In that meeting, he was really transparent about growth goals and how he could see them potentially benefiting from a new partnership with our company.
The Big Takeaway
You will undoubtedly run into a grumpy gatekeeper once in a while. In my case above, I like to think it wasn’t a gatekeeper I was talking to at all. Small companies could have anyone answering the phone.
The important thing is to shake it off fast and jump to the next activity because that one might be where it all comes together.
On a side note, I wouldn’t recommend going to a prospect in-person unless that’s a common practice within your industry.
The first time I tried, it worked, but my manager and AE were both supportive of it. Most of the attempts were just awkward, though.
4. Lean on Your Teammates
Before the pandemic, my teammates and I usually got coffee and talked it out if things went extra sideways with a prospect or if we experienced a particularly rough rejection.
That or we leaned over our cubes to talk with each other quickly.
This is a little bit harder currently, but luckily, chat software does a good enough job to bridge the work-from-home gap now.
Reach out to your teammates and talk it out if you have a call or email that’s too jarring to quickly shake off. There’s a good chance they’ve had a similar experience and that they can relate!
You can blow off some steam together before getting back to it.
Once you can go to a normal happy hour again, organize a get together once-a-week or so to blow off some steam and laugh about each other’s rejection horror stories.
5. Watch Motivational Videos and Listen to Recordings
This tip will depend a lot on your personality. I know that some people turn their noses up at motivational speeches and personal development content. But I’ve also met plenty of successful sales reps who recommend it — at least one of them is a 14-time+ presidents club winner, too.
I actually got into these to push myself through my major in college, and I started listening to some again in the car going back and forth from my SDR job.
Even if you don’t want to listen to a recording or watch a video, just skim some motivational sales quotes to dip your toe in the water.
Thanks to the many YouTube channels out there with motivational videos, you don’t need to pay anything to get a quick, 5-minute boost or listen to a 45-minute seminar from some of the greats like Jim Rohn or Les Brown.
Both of them have a ton of old-school experience with how to handle rejection, especially from their door-to-door sales days.
Tying It All Together
Understanding how to get over rejection takes time. There’s no doubt about that.
And even when you’re pretty numb to it, There still might be rough ones, awkward ones, and the occasional scary ones.
But if you know your talk track well, keep moving fast, and lean on your team for support, even the worst rejection will roll off fast.
So, get out there, and get some reps in. You’ll be an expert at handling rejection in no time.