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Get rejected as often as you can

03 Jul 2012

I have run countless sales training courses over the years and I never tire of them. The very early stage 101 courses are my favourite. Sitting in front of me are eager young men and women, staring nervously up at me wondering at what stage they will received the ‘anointed oils’ and be able to hit the phones and pound the streets with confidence.

There is always the same mix. A percentage who have tried every other job and have found selling their last stop in a desperate search for a career, those who are naturally ‘people people’ having been inspired and motivated by a friend, colleague or family member who has ‘made it’ in the world of selling, and of course, the last group, the young management types who have decided to take a quick sales course to receive ‘the certificate’ that will advance their corporate careers.

How many of you grew up dreaming of becoming a sales person? It’s a strange question and one I love asking at the start of all my training programs. I get the same answer almost 100% of the time from everyone:“You’ve got to be kidding.”

As youngsters, we were conditioned to think of the ‘professions’ when considering our career paths right? A doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, architect, marketing, but a sales person?

The truth is nobody dreams or even plans of becoming a sales person. Heck, for most, it’s the last thing in the world worthy of consideration. So why is that? In a word, rejection. As human beings, we love being loved, liked and admired, but one thing consistent above all else, regardless of race, creed or religion, is we all hate rejection.

So why then jump into a boat you know is heading for ‘the storm of rejection’? Why indeed? For some like me, it comes down to chance and circumstance, for others, it’s a mixture of having to, being told to, a last chance, a fleeting interest, but hardly ever a plan.

We even take the fear of rejection one step further when it comes to the title we print on our business cards or place on our email signatures. Business executive, account director, solutions development, but NEVER, sales person….Why? Because for the greatest profession in the world (I believe), we have been conditioned to loathe the ‘pavement pounding’ salesperson, ready to pounce, ask us for the order and make us buy something we don’t need. Heck, I even met a sales person once who called himself a ‘Strategic Solutions Specialist’. When I first met him I guessed he was working on some special IT project, but no, he was a salesman. I remember the day I rummaged through his desk and threw out all his business cards with this illustrious title. He promptly jumped into the dirty outside ‘skip bin’ that evening when we had all gone home to recover his prized possessions.

Rejection is to be celebrated. Now before you laugh, hear me out. Having spent all my working life in sales I have probably been rejected more times than I care to think about. You would think by now I would have a major complex, but no. Early on in my sales career, before I took the unholy jump into management, I was taught the most important value tip that has stuck with me all these years and enabled me to push through the dark wet cloudy days you sometimes get when selling.

My first selling job was in the UK whilst I was on something us Kiwi’s call our ‘overseas experience’ or O.E. I was down to my last English pound, with a week left at my youth hostel bed when I saw an advert on the job board at New Zealand House in London.

Instant cash from commission sales (I didn’t know what that meant!), flexible hours, work outside, vehicle provided, full training, great friends…..

Sounded perfect and I was off. It turned out to be a job selling carpet cleaning door to door. The ‘vehicle’ was a van that dropped the newly trained Kiwi’s and Aussie’s ( because the locals were smart enough not to take the job) onto the suburban streets in the morning and picked us up again at night. Clip boards and measuring tapes in hand, we pounded the streets in the cold and rain that was England during the summer.

I loved it. I was outside, meeting new people, taking orders, counting the commission I was earning and having a great pub lunch every day, paid for by my previous day’s commission. Pretty soon I was the top sales person at the branch.

Nine out of every ten people will say NO.I was often asked by my fellow sales team and manager how I did it. Even today, people ask me how I was so successful at selling. The answer is simple and one that I learnt from the old chap who trained me on the first day of that carpet cleaning sales job.

“Sean,” he said, “you will probably get one order from every ten calls you make. You can expect to be yelled at, abused, have doors slammed in your face, your foot crunched whilst you have it in the door that is being closed on you and a whole host of other things, but, you will make sales. To make money, you only have to remember two things.

1. Be nice to people and enjoy the experience2. Play the numbers (one in ten)”

Don’t take it personally

Over the years since that first sales job I have learned to close my numbers gap. The one in ten ratio become closer as my skills improved but the gap still remains as it always will. Even with the fantastic training I received when I joined Xerox in the 90s, the gap still remained.

The fact is not everyone you talk to or sell to will buy from you. Those who don’t buy from you essentially reject your proposition. The trick then is not to take it personally. Sometimes it’s about you but mainly it’s either your product, service, price, proposition or all of the above.

Find your ratioRejection is something then to be expected and celebrated. Every ‘no’ gets you closer to the ‘yes’.If you are not being rejected often then you are not making enough calls and not selling.

In the end, you will find your closing ratio, and regardless of what you do, this will not change. Whether this is one in three or one in five, make sure you know what it is. To sell more and earn more then, you need to be rejected more. So, harden up and don’t take it personally, your next order is just around the corner.