Rejection starts – and ends – with you!

There were lots of great comments on Lindsay’s entry last week including this one, which has inspired this week’s blog:

Great Blog Lindsay! I have a question for The Phone Lady. Mary Jane how do you suggest people deal with “call reluctance”. The phone is required for their business and the outcome has to be appointments set with a face to face meeting. How do you continue to pick up the phone when you get “no s”?

In my workshops I share the story of starting my first business, being on the phone for hours each day and getting no results. It was stressful, debilitating, horrible really. Why did I keep going? Money and responsibility motivate me. I was 28 years old, had put a second mortgage on our family home to start the business and I had a small staff to support. There weren’t enough “no’s” in any day to distract me from my goals, but I certainly became discouraged and scared. And I know the sound of that discouragement and the stress in my voice lost me many a sale along the way.

So my first important lesson on rejection was in 1989 when I had the good fortune to work with a consultant from what was then call the Federal Business Development Bank. He looked at all the work I was doing and explained to me that since I was selling 1 out of every 10 people I spoke with, I was successful.

A tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders. Even as I write this, I remember that sensation, the “aha” of that moment. For the previous two years I had been judging myself based on a belief that everyone I spoke to should become a customer. To suddenly be free to sell only 1 out of 10 … absolutely liberating! It allowed me to be happy, even exuberant, and graceful through every no I received because I knew that for every 9 no’s a “yes” would follow.

This led me to the clarity that part of why people struggle on the phone – and in sales in general – is their expectations of themselves. These are often set way too high so feeling defeated happens early and often. Once I embraced the fact that I would hear “no” more often than “yes”, I started to make more money. When I began to talk to prospects without any expectations, my phone conversations became informative and fun, and the sales happened on their own accord.

And I made a game out of it, for myself and later for my sales teams. I began to keep track of my own activity on the phone, to create and learn from my own statistics. There are probably dozens of different ways to do this but I chose to use a “tick sheet” – a simple chart format that allowed me to easily keep track of calls, conversations, messages and sales. This bit of work eventually taught me that my personal success of the phone was 1 in 6 – for every six people I spoke to, one became my client. Now that is motivating!

I used this method everyday for about 20 years. It allowed me to compete with myself, to always push a bit more to improve my ratio, become more successful in my work and, based on my numbers, easily increase my revenue. When I had sales teams it helped them track their own performance, improve and compete with each other not in terms of money earned but in terms of their ability to communicate effectively with their prospects.

(If this “tick sheet” is of interest, let me know and I’ll email you a copy.)

Earlier I mentioned that I would often lose out on opportunities because of the discouragement or stress that could be heard in my voice. It is vital for those of us on the phone to know how we sound to others.

If you are experiencing a high rate of “no’s” on the phone, do a detailed self-assessment, starting with the sound of your voice. There are all kinds of ways you can record yourself while on the phone (including working with The Phone Lady for some one-on-one coaching!). Listen to the recording carefully in terms of your tone. Does your voice convey your desire to be of service? Do you sound passionate about your product or service? Or are you doing something that is leading your prospects to say “no”?

Ask for help from someone who is successful on the phone. This can be a professional telephone coach like myself, or a colleague, or your sales manager. Let them work with you to improve your telephone skills. I am a firm believer that all of us can be effective telephone communicators and grow our businesses this way, but we all need help from time to time to improve and excel.

I should also share that my biggest lesson as a sales manager was one that came as a complete surprise to me – not all salespeople are motivated by money! This is true even of those who’s income is commission based. If you are working with a salesperson who is suffering from phone reluctance, find out what motivates them and use that to create a reward or goal system. Perhaps results need to be linked to time off, or paid vacations, or restaurant meals, or gym memberships. A goal other than money is often the springboard for successful sales career.

Some people are able to put reluctance aside in favour of competition. I’m not talking about anything aggressive or messy, but setting up a friendly competition in an office based on number of calls made, or messages left rather than on sales completed can inspire people to keep picking up the phone.

Oh my, I could talk about this subject forever but this is a blog not a manual so I’ll end with the fact that we create our own sense of rejection. I have been using the telephone as my primary sales tool for almost 25 years and I can honestly say that I haven’t been “rejected” for the last 23 years. Why? Because I don’t think “no” is a rejection. In fact, I want to get to “no” if my product or service is not a fit for a prospect. I want to get to “no” if my timing isn’t right for a prospect. I want to get to “no” because I need 5 of them to get to my “yes”.

Receiving a “no” from someone isn’t about you, the salesperson. It is about the prospect and their needs. They aren’t rejecting you, they are speaking up for themselves and their situation.

And about 89% of the time, a “no” simply means “not now”. When you accept the “no” and continue the conversation you will likely find out that a callback at a future date is what’s needed. In other words, a “no” often means “later”.

So if you or someone on your sales team is experiencing call reluctance, they need support in the form of coaching or other sales tools, but they also need help in understanding that in sales it is rarely, if ever, personal. Rejection is only part of the sales process because you create it, not because your prospects reject you.


Happy dialing everyone!

0 thoughts on “Rejection starts – and ends – with you!”

  1. Mary Jane, In relation to your research, what characteristics define the 20% who do it well? I’ve long argued that many sales people – those who fall into the account manager or farmer group are just not mentally capable of doing the hard prospecting and when companies try and force them to do it, it drives them away from the organization. One trend I’ve seen emerging in the US is the transformation of telemarketers from call volume based phone jockeys to highly skilled inside sales experts who are capable of nurturing leads up to a point where the lead is (almost) begging to see a sales person so as to buy something. What this is showing me is that the inside sales team has become the conduit between marketing and sales – using a variety of tools (including social media) to identify and connect with leads. The goal is to nurture a lead so that they are effectively qualified, and delivered to a sales person at a point that best fits the needs of the buyer (and not the sales person’s need for more leads). The benefits for the company are extensive – marketing can learn from inside sales as to what effort is required to nurture certain segments, whilst the sales group benefit through a continuous supply of properly qualified and educated prospects – thus reducing prospecting reluctance. So is inside sales the panacea? No. The organization still needs to ensure they have enterprise wide alignment to the sales strategy. Marketing still has to listen to sales and Sales still has to do their own prospecting. And most importantly, the whole business needs to trust the inside sales team and not pressure them or incentivise them to churn through the numbers.


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