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5 Soothing Tips for That Burning Rejection

Awkward Networker Guest Post with Dennis Sheahan

Have you heard any variation of the word “no” recently?  Possibly a euphemistic alternative to protect your feelings, such as “love the presentation, but unfortunately…” or “if it were up to me, I’d say yes… but…”?  Rejection is like a curse word in 2018 – a feeling we mutter to ourselves behind close doors, but seldom acknowledge openly in our lives and careers.

This week, I asked sales expert and friend of Awkward Networker, Dennis Sheahan, to explain how he overcomes the natural sales rejections he experiences in his career and how all of us can use these techniques as we sell our ideas, products, and selves throughout the day.


“We do not want to switch to your product at this time.”

“We are happy with our current service right now.”

“We do not have the budget for this project.”

Do any of these sound familiar?  If you have any sales or business development responsibility in your company, then they should.  These are all rejections that I have heard first hand in one form or another.  Dealing with rejection is a part of life and an especially important part of life in sales.

I am a strong believer that how you respond to rejection will ultimately determine your success. As Jason Kelce quoted from Rocky, in his now famous 2018 Super Bowl parade speech:

“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

As an expert in dealing with excruciating rejection, here are my five tips to help you take those hits and keep moving forward.

State of Mind

How I dealt with rejection before developing my sales state of mind:

Sales is a mental game.  You must remind yourself that any one sale is not a life or death situation.  Do everything you can to get the sale, but know that it is not the most important event in your life.  This may seem like a strange mentality to some people and definitely does not support the stereotypical “in your face” sales rep.  But this state of mind helps in several ways:

First, it takes the pressure off and allows you to remain calm and relaxed in your discussions.

Second, when you are calm and relaxed, it makes your prospect calm and relaxed.  Nobody wants to buy from a sales rep that is desperate.  Prospects’ pick-up on desperation, and it is a sales repellent.

Lastly, if you are rejected and do not get the sale/deal/contract, it will not crush your will to continue because your mind didn’t determine it was a must-have.

“No” Now ≠ “No” Forever

Whatever your industry, there are a million reasons why your prospect may not want to buy today.  Failing to sell them the first time does not mean they are lost forever.

There have been plenty of situations where I did not make a sale until the fourth or fifth time calling on a prospect.

Persistence is the key to sales and overcoming any rejection.  By being pleasantly persistent, checking in occasionally and “staying on the radar” of the prospect, you can eventually win any business.  That one out of a million reason that the prospect didn’t buy the first time will eventually dissipate, and when it does… there you are!

Keep a Full Pipeline

A sales pipeline is a list of prospects you have met in the past that did not buy.  The keys to an optimal sales pipeline are:

1.) Keep the sales pipeline full

Sales adheres to a simple law of averages.  The more people you meet, the more people you can close for business, which is why Awkward Networker is such an important resource for sales people. [Hand made me put that plug in there – the guy is relentless with his branding.]

It really is that simple.  Half the battle in sales is finding people to meet or people interested in talking about your product or service.  Your ability to prospect (i.e. the act of finding interested buyers to meet) will ultimately reflect positively or negatively on your sales pipeline.

Your goal is to have such a full pipeline that the two or three “yes’s” will outweigh the ten or fifteen “no’s”.

2.) Categorize each opportunity with the likelihood of closed business.

Once your pipeline has been established, you next want to categorize your opportunities. The point of categorizing your opportunities is to focus on the five or six best opportunities at closing business.

This focus will ultimately stack the odds in your favor, earning you not just one, but several, wins.  When categorizing my sales pipeline, I take into account the prospects whom I think I can close relatively fast, as well as my large prospects (aka “high revenue targets”).  As you gain experience in sales, hopefully these two categories will merge and your high revenue prospects become the fastest to close.

Look on the bright side

Another key for a sales rep is optimism; it is essential to stay upbeat after a setback.  In baseball, even the best hitters only succeed three or four times out of every ten.

Sales has the same concept; you are going to be rejected and fail a lot more times than you are going to succeed.  You can let rejection derail you or you can view rejection as a positive.  It allows you to refine your approach.  In my career, I believe each rejection gets me closer to success if I learn from my mistakes and keep pushing forward.

Develop a mindset that no matter what happens, you will stay optimistic, and eventually things will go your way.

“You must learn how to handle rejection. To succeed, you must learn how to cope with a little word ‘no’, learn how to strip that rejection of all its power. The best salesmen are those who are rejected most. They are the ones who can take any ‘no’ and use it as a prod to go onto the next ‘yes’.” -Tony Robbins

Keep Your Sense of Humor

Remember, sales is a fun profession and activity; it offers creativity and the ability to use your social skills and sense of humor to win people over to your way of thinking.  At the very least, sales rejections make entertaining stories to tell your friends over drinks.

Never get too high on your sales wins or too low on your sales losses.  Try to maintain an even head and keep your sense of humor.  Learning to laugh at yourself and your sales rejections will enable you to continuously move on to the next opportunity.

My experience in sales has taught me one important lesson:

The only way to fail is to give up.

So the next time you face a rejection of any kind, just remember, everyone has been there.  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try to embrace the awkward moments.  These moments will ultimately make you stronger and eventually transform you into a top talent.

Dennis Sheahan is a Medical Device Sales professional, with 10+ years experience in sales and business development. He grows revenue in his territory by cultivating relationships with surgeons, operating room/hospital staff, hospital administrators, materials managers, supply chain administrators, and other key hospital stakeholders. Dennis has been a consistent top sales performer throughout his career and also has a passion for training and developing new sales representatives. Dennis lives with his wife Colleen and 1-year-old daughter Audrey in Havertown, PA, and is currently pursuing an MBA with a focus in Marketing.

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