Customer Experience News & Trends

The key to a successful selling career

Rare indeed is the salesperson who can close a sale in one or two contacts.

And any person who is attempting to persuade another individual is more likely to be rejected than accepted.

Selling is an exercise of trying to beat the odds of rejection.

Handling adversity

Succeeding in sales has a lot to do with how you handle adversity. Do you shut down or open up? Do you put your head down and just keep doing what you were doing that led to the rejection? Do you work a little faster? A little harder. Or do you look around and discover a new path?


Ego strength is your ability to feel good enough about yourself to accept rejection not as a personal affront but as part of being a salesperson. Salespeople with ego-strength have the ability to leave the rejection behind and go on. Those who possess ego-strength, operate freely and fully, functioning at or near the top of their capacity.

The essential question

The essential question is this: Do you have the resiliency or ego-strength to bounce back from rejection?

Successful salespeople view rejection as something to get over, to get through, to get on the other side of. They learn from negative experiences and turn them into defining moments. They recognize that rejection is part of the job of being a salesperson. Nothing personal.

Encountering rejection

Salespeople with ego-strength feel as bad as anyone else would when they encounter failure, but they react to it as much as the hungry person does to missing a meal. They’re much hungrier for the next opportunity. The rejection doesn’t destroy their positive view of themselves.

Taking it personally

Salespeople who don’t have sufficient ego-strength to react with resiliency may take the rejection personally. They feel the no is a no to them personally, so it stays in their mind. They’re hesitant to seek another situation that could produce yet another rejection. The pain of the potential rejection is too great to run the risk.

Resiliency isn’t toughness

Some salespeople confuse resiliency with toughness. Being tough can be an advantage in certain circumstances, but only to a certain point, because toughness can create an armor that deflects emotion. It can cut us off from many of the resources we need to bounce back. Most important, toughness may lead to arrogance that turns off prospects.

Deflecting challenges

Resilience is not about deflecting challenges. It’s about absorbing challenges and rebounding stronger than before. Salespeople who have it are driven to win. But they know how to take defeat. So the setbacks don’t define them. They’re just something to get over. They bring their sense of self-worth and drive to every new sales situation, regardless of what may have happened during their last sales call.

Tough economic times

Resilient salespeople thrive particularly in tough economic times, viewing them as an opportunity to win new business from their competitors, who may not be as strong as they are. They go to the customers of competitors and make sure they feel they’re being treated fairly, that they’re getting the best product and service.

When they’re turned down or lose a sale, they walk out saying, “I know what just happened. I didn’t know enough about my prospect, my competition or the marketplace.”

They replay the situation and get another appointment hoping to achieve a different ending this time. It’s like their mind is a tape recorder, and, if they could, they’d like to tape over the experience of being rejected with a new experience of being accepted.

Assertiveness and aggressiveness

Resilience can only go so far. A time comes in every sales situation when the prospect has to be told, “Please sign here.” It’s at this moment of truth that the prospect gives the final “yes” or “no,” when the salesperson’s assertiveness makes the difference between success and failure. Assertiveness and aggressiveness are distinctly different.

An assertive salesperson asks for the order in an effective way to ensure that the prospect will willingly give that order. Meanwhile, assertiveness involves getting prospects to do what you want them to do without pushing, aggressiveness adds the pushing.

Aggressiveness is the willingness to actively oppose someone else’s position, interests or point of view, even if it adversely affects the other person. While it’s usually not a good idea to be too aggressive, a certain amount of it is necessary in certain sales situations.

Adapted from: “How to Hire & Develop Your Next Top Performer,” by Herb Greenberg and Patrick Sweeney. Greenberg is the founder and CEO and Patrick Sweeney is the president of Caliper, an international management consulting firm.

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