Why Sales Rejection Hurts So Much And How To Overcome It

If you’ve failed in a sales role in the past or if you feel like you’re currently failing then this should be really important for you to take note.


Did you know that:


  • The average tenure of a sales representative is 2.6 years


But why is that? Why do so many people fail to be successful in sales and either change role or change career path?


An overriding factor as to why people fail in sales is rejection, and anyone with some experience in sales knows there’s a lot of it. Rejection hurts and that’s a fact!


I read a great article by a psychologist named Guy Winch whom talks deeply about rejection. In his piece he talks of the experiments carried out by the psychology department of the University of Michigan. They found something astounding. In the experiments they placed candidates on functional MRI machines and simply asked them to recall a recent circumstance of rejection. They found that the same areas of the brain became activated as when we experience physical pain.


This study is powerful. If rejection creates the same stimulation in our brain as physical pain then there’s no wonder why we’re all trying to avoid rejection so much. Just think about human anatomy, we are genetically programmed to try to avoid pain. Think of our primal instincts of fight or flight, we will as human beings try to avoid pain at every chance such as from evading predators in the wild or dangerous situations. Or think of our reflexes. When we touch something hot like a fire or hot stove our reflexes instantly pull us away from that pain.



We’re genetically programmed to avoid pain, so it’s no wonder why we will do our upmost to avoid rejection.



Now it makes sense why the average tenure of a sales person is 2.6 years. Rejection isn’t the only cause for this but it is one of the common factors.



So how can we overcome this, how can we fight back against rejection? Well this can all be counteracted by recording our wins.



During pleasurable situations a neurotransmitter called dopamine is released in the brain. Dopamine is often dubbed as the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter because it does exactly that, it makes us feel good. There has also been studies that show releases of dopamine helps in improved working memory.



So how is this scientific stuff helpful? Well we know that dopamine makes us feel good when it’s released, now we need to use this fact in our sales role. We each have the ability to personally manipulate our own dopamine levels through accomplishments. Think about when you’re at home and you say to yourself that I’ll empty the dishwasher or vacuum the bedroom, the accomplishment of doing so releases dopamine.



So now we need to use this information to our advantage. It is here that I want to link back to our first point about rejection, how painful it can be and also how many sales people fail in their role. They fear rejection, and when they get rejected (which as you know is common) they have self-doubts, it effects their output, they’re fearful of making calls or meeting people. The pattern, if uninterrupted leads to a sales person whom doesn’t prospect, and will either be an average or mediocre sales person, or leave or lose their job.



We need to counteract this. We need to find a technique to neutralise or counterbalance the effects of rejection. I use these words intentionally as we can’t prevent or even reduce the level of rejection you will have, but we can neutralise the effect, and that’s through using dopamine.



One of the key reasons sales people fail with rejection in sales is that they don’t record and review their wins. They either focus on that rejection they just had, or a rejection scar from the past. Otherwise they focus on where they’re failing, things like how much they are off target or how few meetings they have booked. We need to start by recording and reviewing our wins and then celebrating them.



This is where you’re thinking “what?! I know all about the opportunities I win!” Well of course you do, that’s not what I mean by a win. In order to become a sales icon you need to adopt the mantra


I reap what I sew


In other words whatever I put in I will get out in results. There lies the key…activity. If you have the right activity then the results will follow. It may not be straight away, but in the long term activity does pay off.


Be mindful of what a win is. I can remember recently I was consulting a telemarketing team. They were disgruntled, finding it really tough. They told me of their difficulty in the market, how competitive it is, how much rejection they get every day and how rude people can be. They also told me about all the pressure, in that they were targeted for how many meetings they booked each week and this would be published to all the team to see the subsequent week.


I listened to all of their woes and then gave the same advice which I will give to all of you reading. Forget about the Macro and focus on the Micro and your wins. So for this telemarketing team their macro was booking a meeting. I told them to forget about this as their sole goal, yes aim for it, yes record it and celebrate it when you achieve it but first things first focus on the micro and your wins. If you can celebrate every little win then guess what, you accomplish something. Then your brain releases dopamine, you feel happy and fulfilled and you push some more. When this is happening you counter balance all that rejection. So the key is to focus on the micro and record and review your wins. 


So when I say record and review wins I mean the following

  • No. Calls
  • No. Emails
  • No. Right people
  • No. Meetings
  • No. SQLs
  • No. Quotes or proposals
  • No. Orders
  • No. Drop in calls
  • No.  forward appointments

By recording all of this information you’ll be able to look back at each hour, each day, each week and notice your progress and your wins. It’s a slippery slope when you become disillusioned and demotivated. It’s often difficult to get back on track and often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s why it’s so important to highlight and acknowledge your wins to motivate you further.



So next time you make twenty calls in a hour reflect on it, or when you get through to that decision maker, or when you get a lead or book a meeting. Every one of these wins releases more and more dopamine and that’s everything that you need to counteract a million and one rejections no matter how harsh the rejection may be.



So to reiterate, focus on the micro and your wins, not simply the macro. Celebrate what you accomplish and let that dopamine flow!


    • Thanks Amanda, I appreciate insight from someone of your experience!

      Rejection never gets any easier, it’s our coping mechanisms of positivity, experience and sales acumen which help to dissipate it’s negative effects, easier said than done of course.

      I’m glad the article was of value to you and I hope that future articles are too!

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