Rejection Proof – The Science Behind Success in Sales


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Everyone knows that selling has a side to it that includes getting rejected so why do:

  • salespeople who are afraid of rejection enter sales in the first place?
  • salespeople who can’t recover quickly from rejection remain in sales?
  • sales managers fail to recognize rejection issues when they interview sales candidates?
  • sales managers fail to recognize rejection as the source of so many calls gone bad?
  • sales managers fail to help salespeople over the rejection problem?
  • salespeople fail to ask for help with the rejection problem?
  • salespeople fail to acknowledge that they have a rejection problem?
  • executives wonder why sales training doesn’t increase sales?

Last week I wrote about how sales Commitment has become even more important than ever before.

The growing amount of resistance to everything being marketed and sold, which doesn’t have the brand name Apple, makes being Rejection Proof nearly as important to sales success as strong Commitment to Sales success.

Here are some statistics:

Nearly 100% of the Salespeople who are in the elite top 5% do not have issues with Rejection.

Nearly 100% of the Salespeople who are in the bottom 74% do have issues with Rejection.

Enough said?

The stronger a salesperson is, the less likely rejection is to have a major effect.  That said, there are effective salespeople who have a rejection problem but they manage it better than their less effective colleagues.  There are also some very ineffective salespeople who don’t care about being rejected.  In fact, their lack of caring about it may even lead to their ineffectivenss since their strategy rarely includes consideration of how to avoid resistance!

Here is one real-life example of how Difficulty Recovering from Rejection causes a chain-reaction of events.

A salesperson proposed to his own company that in order to close a large opportunity this month a significant monetary incentive should be offered…not because the prospect asked for it…

Then Why?

This salesperson has so much difficulty recovering from rejection (it takes days and sometimes weeks) that he will do anything to make sure he doesn’t put himself in a position where a prospect could say no.  It’s too painful. It’s bad selling. It should be cause for having his license to sell revoked.  What’s that?  Salespeople aren’t licensed?  Well they freakin’ should be!  But that’s another article.

Of course, that isn’t a typical example.  More typical examples take place around Prospecting where salespeople are most often rejected – when making calls by phone.  The salesperson in the example above? Doesn’t make the calls – care to guess why?

There is a distinction between Fear of Rejection and Difficulty Recovering from Rejection.  Objective Management Group measures the latter because that is a more significant indicator of performance.  The first is “What if they say ‘no’ to me?”  Oooh.  The second is, “Crap – they said no!! – now what?” When the “now what?” part is strong (think disbelief, anger, and despair) , it indicates that it might just take some time before this saleperson is back to being effective.

So what can you do to help your salespeople  be more effective dealing with their rejection issues?

For one, don’t be codependent.  Give them permission to get some no’s.  Most opportunities don’t become sales until someone has overcome a no or two.

Two, help them understand the tactical advantage of getting – even encouraging – a no.  Resistance is lowered!

Three, make sure they experience some no’s and be there to congratulate them, support them and help them see that their world didn’t end and they became stronger and better at the same time.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Dave: great topic, and one that is not covered enough in sales. Your post generated some questions:

    1) What, exactly, is rejection? –a no answer from a prospect when the salesperson wanted a yes? An vigorous objection to a key feature, point, capability, or proposal? A lost sales opportunity that was much wanted or needed? A spurned request for a face-to-face meeting or conversation? For salespeople–or anyone in business–it seems rejection takes many forms. Similarly, when you mention issues what are they? It seems nearly impossible to zealously pursue an opportunity, lose it, and not experience disappointment that doesn’t percolate beyond the purchase decision. I think it’s the dysfunctional behaviors or issues that need to be addressed.

    2) Could it be that the goal isn’t to become “rejection proof,” but to effectively manage rejection, as you point out? That’s an emotional competency that’s not unique to salespeople.

    The success/rejection tug of war presents an especially difficult challenge for salespeople. Successful salespeople put their heart into what they are doing–unsuccessful ones, commonly, do not. So grappling with disappointment isn’t the mark of weakness, it’s a real byproduct of the job. Unfortunately, salespeople who need nurturing and support to cope with disappointment aren’t likely to find too many warm fuzzy anythings in their own sales organizations. Many sales organizations proudly retain a macho culture.

    It’s great that you discussed some techniques for managers to help salespeople. Acceptance of the sales fact-of-life that failures happen will enable managers to develop better coaching advice than “just move on.” I hope more can be written about this.

  2. Thanks Andy – great questions and great points.

    I’ll write more about the issue of rejection in future posts.

    While there are many forms, for salespeople, it is all about how quickly they can recover.

  3. Rejectionproof(R) is a registered trademark of Stanton Royce, has been for about ten (10 ) years and any use of Rejectionproof(R) should be referenced as such.


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