Raise Your Rejection Threshold.

Last Updated Jun 18, 2007 12:19 PM EDT

Hallucinations or not, rejections can still sting. And that's a good thing, because that pain represents a fabulous opportunity to improve your sales skills. Your challenge is to discover your personal threshold of pain and then take action to remove the sting. Here's how. According to Art Mortell, author of the The Courage to Fail, there are three reasons that rejection stings:
  1. When it happens too frequently. Most sales reps, for example, can shrug off a bad cold call because, after all, that's only one person's opinion. But after twenty, thirty, forty calls, each failure starts feeling like a weight on your shoulders.
  2. When you care about the rejecter. If you've got a relationship with somebody, it hurts more if they reject you than if a stranger does the same. As your level of emotional involvement increases, the pain of being rejected increases.
  3. When you consider the rejecter to be important. If you feel that somebody is "better" than you or of superior intelligence, talent, etc., you value his or her opinion. So if that person rejects you, you'll take it more to heart than if somebody you don't respect does the same.
Each of these reasons corresponds exactly to a specific stage in the development of a long-term customer relationship:
  1. Building the account base. This is when you're cold calling and prospecting. This is when you're mostly likely to run into a series of depressing rejections.
  2. Developing the account. This is when you're nurturing a beginning relationship to developing ongoing business and additional opportunities. Because you've invested emotional energy, this when you're most likely to personally care about the rejecter.
  3. Securing the account. This is when you're working with top decision makers on mutual strategy. Because you're now in the executive suite, you're most likely to feel that the rejecter is important.
With this in mind, you can now build a specific "road-map" of your threshold of pain when it comes to rejection.

STEP ONE: MAP YOUR THRESHOLD Write down the answer the following three questions:

  1. How many times can I contact a qualified prospect and get a negative response before I begin to take it personally?
  2. How emotionally involved can I become with somebody before I feel that the other person knows me so well that criticism hurts?
  3. How famous or "important" must a person be before I begin to feel that a rejection from that person would be impossible to shrug off?
Take the time to honestly write down your answers to these questions. This is important, because those answers identify the specific limitations that are keeping you from being more successful in sales.

Do it now.

STEP TWO: CREATE NEW THRESHOLD BELIEFS Now that you're aware of your thresholds, create a new set of "theoretical" beliefs that, if you truly believed them, would create a much higher threshold. For example, suppose your original threshold beliefs were:

  1. "After about the fifth bad cold call, I'm ready to call it a day."
  2. "If I'm close enough to ask a customer for a favor, rejection would hurt."
  3. "C-level job holders are important, so their opinion of me matters."
As you can imagine, any sales pro with these thresholds will have big problems. Unless he's extraordinarily lucky or marketing has handed him incredibly well-qualified leads (ha!), he's going to hate cold calling. When he's fortunate enough to get into a customer account, he'll be reluctant to close, because he won't want to put the relationship at risk. And if by some fantastic chance he gets access to the CEO (unlikely given the prior two thresholds), he'll be timid and tongue-tied.

By contrast, imagine a sales pro who really believes:

  1. "Every cold call is a new opportunity; the past is the past."
  2. "A relationship that's not worth risking isn't worth having."
  3. "Coping with cranky executives means I'm playing in the big leagues."
It's pretty obvious that a sales rep who truly believed those three things wouldn't hate cold-calling as much, would be more likely to close and be able to laugh off criticism from the occasional big wig. However, I just made those samples out of my own head. If you're going to change your threshold beliefs, you'll need to write them using words that make sense to you.

NEXT STEPS When you're done, you'll have two sets of threshold beliefs: old and new. The old beliefs limit you; the new beliefs will make you more effective in every stage of the sales cycle. All you need do now is to eradicate the old beliefs from your emotional mind and install the new beliefs.
I'll explain how to do that in my next post.