Picture yourself in a large city like New York on a Saturday morning. The sun is shining and it is a perfect 72 degrees. Life is grand, you are feeling good, and you have a full day to just “enjoy” before meeting a friend for a mid-afternoon cocktail at the Plaza Hotel.
You decide to take a stroll down one of New York’s famous avenues when you spot a woman on the corner with four suitcases and three small children tugging at her skirt. She’s trying to get her entourage into position to cross the street. Parcels are balanced and kids are in tow, just waiting for the signal to turn green. Being of sound mind and strong bone, and in no particular hurry, you approach the woman and politely ask if you can be of assistance.
What is her reaction? Despite the fact that this is New York (where a multitude of reactions are possible) the alternatives really only boil down to two.
- Reaction #1: You appear to be a godsend. “What a gentleman!” she thinks. She appreciates this unsolicited sign of kindness and doesn’t know what to say. Everything she ever thought about New York City must have been wrong. You feel good about yourself having helped this family safely across the street. You bid them all a sincere good-bye and continue down the avenue whistling a happy tune en route to your appointment with Mr. Chivas in the Plaza’s Oak Room.
Now let’s rewind the tape and look at the exact same situation with a different outcome. Woman and children are at the light, in position and ready to make their move. You ask if you can help. Same woman… same predicament… same street… same city. You use the same words with the same sincere tone.
- Reaction #2: She gives you a questioning look, pulls her children close, and fires back a terse and unappreciative refusal. In so many words, she says: “Buzz off, creep, or I’ll call the cops.”
How would you feel and react to this kiss-off? I’ll tell you what you would do if you were a confident professional with the appropriate dosage of self-esteem flowing through your veins: You would start whistling a happy tune and head out in search for that bracer with your name on it down at the Plaza’s Oak Room. After all, it’s no skin off your nose if this woman doesn’t allow you to make her life easier. That’s her problem, not yours. You offered relief. She had the opportunity to accept it or reject it. Your response in both situations should be the same: Ease on down the road with a bounce in your step.
But that is not how most people respond. You might:
(1) try to convince the woman that you are a nice person and that she has nothing to fear;
(2) take the rejection personally and get somewhat miffed, thereby making your afternoon less enjoyable; or
(3) shrug it off, but not before uttering a few expletives to yourself. All these responses betray your emotional interpretation of events; you think you have been rejected. Wrong!
Many sales courses will tell you to keep a stiff upper lip when you are rejected and don’t let it get you down. But once you accept the proposition that you have been rejected, you have given up the psychological high ground and put your self-esteem into retreat. Simply put, you need to reject the notion of rejection. (Got that?)
Once you understand that all you are trying to do as a salesperson is help people, every outcome should be the same. If prospects don’t want your help or choose not to deal with you for whatever reason they conjure up in their minds, it is not your problem. You simply have to locate another package-burdened, kid-toting mother of five.
Whether prospects accept your services or not should be no more important to your self-esteem than whether a lady lets you escort her across the street. The average salesperson can’t seem to come to terms with this. They let prospects alter their emotions, personality, and feelings towards life. This makes no sense.
- Can I help you cross the street? Yes or no?
- Can I hold the door for you? Yes or no?
- Can I help you with your next buying decision? Yes or no?
- Would you like me to get you a warm cup of coffee? Yes or no?
- Can I help you decide on which computer system is best for your growing business? Yes or no?
Regardless of the response, you are the same person, with the same amount of product knowledge, experience, and competence, and with the same objective, i.e. to feed your family on a regular basis by finding people you can help. Don’t tell me it is more complicated than this, because I am not buying it. After thirty years of flailing away at this business, it finally dawned on me that the people who decided to do business with me simply said “Yes,” while the others simply said “No,” (or in many cases, “Not yet”).
If you stop linking, no matter how subtly, your sense of self-worth and accomplishment to a prospect’s response, then selling ceases to be hard work and instead becomes a game. (Digging holes on a Scottsdale, Arizona highway in the mid-afternoon sun with a pick axe on a 105-degree day — that’s hard work.)
If the lady crossing the street refused your help, would you feel it necessary to dig for an explanation? Of course not. So why do so many sales managers demand that their sales people dig out the answer to “why not” whenever a sales opportunity goes south? Chasing for an explanation to “no” usually focuses the salesperson on rejection. (It also often drives a wedge between the manager and salesperson.)
In general, the most healthy mindset for you to have is:
“You, Mr. Prospect, have made a decision to attempt to move forward without my services. I’ll be here when you come to your senses and change your mind. It’s not my responsibility to straighten you or your company out.”
Think of how you would look to the prospect. He has just rejected your proposal, but you don’t seem to be overly bothered by the “rejection.” The prospect thinks: “Why isn’t he upset about not winning my business?” The implication: You are too much in demand by other clients to be overly concerned. The prospect may very well wonder if he just made a mistake.
If the prospect is willing to share the reason with you, I say go for it. You may learn something useful, but be careful. Even if a prospect tells you why he selected a competitor, chances are the reason given is not the real reason. It is often a polite reply designed to accelerate your immediate departure.
If you still insist on finding out “why” a prospect has rejected your service (not you), try this approach. “Mr. Smith, may I ask you two questions regarding our recent proposal?” This small courtesy can pave the way for some meaningful dialogue by accomplishing two things. First, it eliminates your concern that you might be treading on thin ice or unfriendly territory. Second, it clearly indicates to your prospect that “the interrogation” will be brief.
Question #1:“Is there a specific reason why we failed to earn your business?”
Question #2: “In addition to that, is there another reason?”
The second answer will usually be the real reason.
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