Turn rejection into success

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(MoneyWatch) The fear of rejection is the bane of success. If rejections scare you, you'll avoid making the difficult calls and taking the right risks to advance your career. And once the fear of rejection gets its insidious claws into you, it gets worse, creating more failure.

To be really successful (at sales or any other career), you must not just learn to cope with occasional (and even frequent) rejections. You must also learn to turn rejection into a goad that drives you towards ultimate success. This post provides five simple steps to accomplish this.

Differentiate between invalid and valid rejection

There are two types of rejections. Valid rejections are when a person doesn't do what you want because of something that you can change. Invalid rejections are when that "failure" took place because of something completely arbitrary that's outside of your control.

Here's an example of an invalid rejection.

Suppose you make a cold call and a prospect hangs up on you. While that's a textbook definition of "rejection", the truth is that the prospect's reaction has nothing to do with you.

What's actually happened is that you accidentally broke the prospect's rules. You had no way of knowing that the prospect was busy and that the prospect thinks it's OK to hang up on unfamiliar callers.

Now, perhaps if you said something different or called at a different time, you might have gotten a different reaction, but that's just a fiction that you're making up in your mind. However, if you had called at a different time, the prospect might just as easily have added a expletive before hanging up and then sent a memo directing the company to never buy from you ever again.

There's no way of knowing. It's not a valid rejection. It's just luck.

What's important here is that the prospect's reaction really didn't have anything to do you with personally, because anybody else taking the same action at the same time would have gotten the exact same result. You simply you took an action that didn't work.

Here's another example. Suppose a guy is "selling" a woman on the idea that she should go out on a date with him. Talk about the potential for "rejection"!!! Millions of guys live in terror of this situation. Even so, much of the time the anticipated "rejection" is just an illusion.

I was once rather "smitten with" an attractive woman in my martial arts class. However, despite several attempts on my part, she simply would not go out with me. In fact, she seemed offended I had even asked. A classic case of "rejection," right? I should have been crushed, right?

Not so fast! Since we hung with the same crowd, I began noticing the kind of guys she dated. They were all about 56, dark-eyed, with long dark hair, and played in rock bands. I'm 61, blue-eyed, with short blond hair, and write about business. Under her "rules" for what she found attractive in a potential mate, I wasn't even in the ballpark.

So where's the rejection? She had her rules; I didn't fit those rules. That's an invalid rejection because there's nothing I can do to change who I am.

Now, suppose she actually had been the type who wanted to date guys similar to me. And suppose I had asked her out, but due to my awkward approach, she decided to "reject" the idea. That would mean is that my sales approach didn't match her rules, even though the product met her needs. That's a valid rejection, because my approach is something that's within my control.

As soon as you realize that invalid rejections are just luck, most of so-called rejections simply become neutral events and the entire concept starts to lose its sting. With that in mind, here's the next step...

Understand why you feel rejected.

Why do you work? Money? Recognition? Achievement? Wrong, wrong, and wrong. All of those reasons are just outward manifestations of your real goal: you want to feel good about yourself.

For example, you think that you work because you want money? Wrong. What you really want is what the money can buy, and I'm not talking about that new Ferrari. I'm talking about the feeling that owning a Ferrari would give you.

No matter what reason you give for being in sales, trace it back, and you'll eventually get to "it makes me feel good about myself."

Therefore, rejection "hurts" because there's something about the situation that makes you feel bad about yourself. To test this theory, imagine the biggest idiot you've ever known telling you that you're stupid. Do you care? No. The "rejection" fails to sting because it doesn't assault your sense of self. Who cares what that oaf thinks?

Rejection starts to sting as the result of three qualitative and highly subjective factors:

Frequency. Everyone can deal with some rejection, but how much rejection can you experience before you start taking the negative feedback to heart? How many times can you contact a qualified prospect and get a negative response before you begin to take it personally? In other words, getting told a million times that you're stupid might make you question your intelligence, even if you didn't particularly respect the people saying it.

Emotional Involvement. How emotionally involved can you become with somebody before you feel that the other person might know you so well that criticism hurts? For example, you might be reluctant to close because you're afraid that your customer might feel "buyer's remorse" and stop liking you -- a form of rejection. In other words, if you like somebody, you'll tend to feel pretty bad if that person tells you to go take a hike.

Perceived Importance. As a sales rep, you're likely to feel most comfortable contacting people who are of a similar (or lower) social class or educational background. However, you might find yourself avoiding people whom you feel are more important than yourself, because their rejection of you might seem to carry more weight or authority.

Understanding why you feel rejected is the first step to removing the "sting." To do this, you take a different approach, depending on subjective reason that's behind your feeling of being rejected.

Remove the Sting of Rejection

Now that you know why you feel rejected, your job is to weaken the ability of the "rejection" situation to make you feel bad about it.

  • Geoffrey James

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