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Encouragement for Getting Past Rejection and Maximizing Your Sales Success

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In Michael Lewis’ book, Moneyball, which analyzes the impact of sabermetrics on the Oakland Athletics baseball team and details the career of general manager Billy Beane, there is a moment where Billy Beane realizes that his performance as a baseball player is significantly adversely impacted by his inability to shake off failure. He contrasts himself to his roommate at the time, Lenny Dykstra, who goes on to become a three-time all star.

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in the movie Moneyball


Lenny was so perfectly designed, emotionally, to play the game of baseball,” said Billy. “He was able to instantly forget any failure and draw strength from every success. He had no concept of failure. And he had no idea where he was. And I was the opposite.

We all know Meryl Streep is one of the greatest actresses of our time. However, at the beginning of her career, she met one of the producers of the film, King Kong, who said to his son in Italian, “Why did you bring this terrible woman?” to which Streep famously shot back in Italian, “Sorry I’m not pretty enough to star in King Kong.”

Meryl Streep in the movie The Devil Wears Prada

Being mentally resilient in the face of failure and rejection, and maintaining a growth mindset is key to being successful — in baseball, in acting, and in sales! So, how do we learn from rejection and turn it into a positive experience?

Learning From Rejection

1. Always do a retro

After each call - whether it’s a success or failure - jot down a summary of how it went. Who was the customer? What resonated with them? What got them excited and why? If they gave you a “no” what was the reason? How could the call have gone better?

You can also do monthly retros with other sales reps to share what’s working and what’s not working. One financial firm that I worked with sometimes had sales reps sit in on each other’s calls once a quarter so that they could provide feedback to each other.

2. Create an affinity map

When you start keeping track of your thoughts after each call, you will begin to notice patterns. Product and UX designers often use a tool called affinity maps to keep track of these patterns. We love using the free tool, Trello, to create affinity maps. Here is an example.

screenshot of a salesperson's call notes


3. Forgive yourself for having off-days

Be like Lenny Dykstra and draw strength from success. Stay focused on the wins and don’t beat yourself up if you’re having an off-day. If you’re having an off-day, take a break to ask yourself why you’re having an off-day. Is it because you didn’t get enough sleep the night before? Is it because you’re worried about your elderly parents lately? 

Remember that everyone has off-days. Your potential client may have been unreceptive because she herself is having an off-day! Forgive yourself, forgive others, and focus on moving forward. Focus on showing up as your best self for your next call.

Just because we are equipped to handle rejection doesn’t mean we want to be nonchalant about letting it happen. So, here are some tips on minimizing the chances of rejection.

Minimizing Rejection

1. Map out various scripts

You wouldn’t try to sell shoes the same way to a young teenage girl as you would to an octogenarian, right? Create a spreadsheet where you have one column dedicated to the client type, and one column dedicated to your pre-drafted script for that type of client.

Having a strong understanding of your client types, the challenges they are likely to face, and how your product can help you draft compelling scripts. In each script, be sure to throw in a detail about the company or the person you are reaching out to so that it feels personal.

2. Tap into social media networks

If you have a prospective company on your list, do a quick check on LinkedIn to see if you have a personal connection to that company. Does your college roommate work on the accounting team but could potentially introduce you to someone on the marketing team (i.e. your target client)? 

Also check to see whether a prospective client has recently been promoted or has made any announcements on LinkedIn recently. You can leverage that information in your intro email and increase your chances of being noticed by them.

3. Leverage your marketing team

Too many companies treat sales and marketing as disparate functions. However, these two functions need to be working hand in hand. When the sales team shares rich information with the marketing team, the marketing team has the ability to create more compelling assets. When the marketing team creates compelling assets, the sales team receives more and better leads. Be sure to check in with your marketing team regularly for insights and support.

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