Reject Me, Please

By: Alan Weiss

Look, no one likes rejection. We're all human with varying degrees of epidermal thickness, but it's easier to be liked and to like others in return. (There are those who rejoice in the victimhood of not being liked or the bullying of not liking, but those are pathologies and I'm not wearing my therapeutic hat today.)

So why do some of us tolerate and overcome rejection while others are devastated and develop the vapors, especially when so many of us reading this are salespeople, whose very milieu is rejection?

I'm Resilient. Don't Tell me I'm not. I Am!

Forget the first defense of the skin, rejection can cut to the bone if we allow it to drill away. Why do so many of us allow it? If you'll agree for a nanosecond that every salesperson dislikes rejection, why do some shrug it off so well?

The answers I've found in hiring, managing, developing, firing, and consulting about salespeople are:

  • Excellent sales people realize it's about the products and service, and not them. They may have represented the product poorly and answered questions about the services ineptly, but nonetheless, the opposition is about what's being sold, not the seller. This ability to distinguish between the purveyor and the purveyed I call Separation Clarity.
  • Resilient people have bigger fish to fry. That is, they live in a holistic universe where the next sale is not the end of the world. They incorporate their entire lives into their happiness and perspective. Being rejected by a buyer is small potatoes so long as the preponderance of one's life is positive and fulfilling. I call this comprehensive view of one's life Big Picture Perspective.
  • Successful salespeople have support networks. They do not rely on random others' feedback, or approval, or validation, or even communication. They know who they are and are bolstered by their loved ones, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances.

    Personally, I've seen very few top salespeople who don't have great loves in their life, or close friends, or family of some kind. Thus, this is the Appropriate Love Factor. You don't need your prospect, client, or buyer to love you.
  • Finally, the best people I've seen learn continually from victories and defeats, but they build on strengths. They find out what they are really good at (e.g., finding others' self-interest, or using referrals, or selling repeat business) and they exploit it. They don't go home and listen to motivational tapes ever time they hit an obstacle, and bemoan their lack of talent. Learning and growing strength I call Mental Fitness.

Ignoring Rejection

Using Separation Clarity, Big Picture Perspective, Appropriate Love, and Mental Fitness can help you to mitigate and ignore rejection. And the way you deal with rejection is key to your success. (Don't forget that throughout the eons, predators are successful only 10 percent of the time, so ten hunts are required to feed the Raptor or Hyena family.)

You can't avoid rejection, if you could, every marriage proposal would be accepted and, apparently, too many are being accepted as it is.

When I was a kid playing in the schoolyard, I was furious and dejected if I was rejected when the captains chose their teams for the games that day. I didn't even like being chosen near the end.

But in college, when strangers who didn't know me chose not to choose me during gym class (an artifact of a bygone era when America weighed about a trillion tons less because it wasn't considered discriminatory to force people to exercise), I could have cared less. It was their loss, which I ultimately proved when the captain who chose us dregs found out I was a "star."

Buyers are supposed to buy. When they don't, even though I offer such incredible value, it's their loss, just like those ignorant team captains. You can make a case that I should have showcased my talents more or argued for a better selection, but rejection happens.

There's no sense letting rejection become uber-rejection.

Uh, Oh, I'm Crushed

Being rejected by an uninformed or foolish buyer is one thing, but allowing that to create a doom's loop cycle where you expect to be constantly rejected is something else again. That is rejection on steroids, and you ought to be investigated by Congress.

Generalizing rejection is anathema to the sales profession. You have to compartmentalize rejection, box it up, and throw it off the train. (The coyotes will eventually devour it since I've never met a coyote who fears rejection.)

The buyer isn't always right. The circumstances are sometimes against you. Occasionally, you'll have a bad day. Sometimes, the competition will get there first. Infrequently, the stars are in the wrong position.

Accept that, and get on with your life. You can't control those variables, you can only do your best with what you have. We grow by building on strength, not by correcting weaknesses.

You are only rejected if you think you are. What do you think?

Alan Weiss, Ph.D., is a Contributing Editor for and has been cited by the New York Post as "one of the most highly respected independent consultants in the country." His clients include The Federal Reserve Bank, Hewlett-Packard, Mercedes, JP Morgan Chase and over 200 similar world-class organizations. He has written 25 books which appear in 7 languages and conducts a global mentoring program. You can reach him via his web site:

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