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Top Strategies for Dealing with Rejection in the Sales Process

For Hubspot’s 2016 Inbound Sales Day, Hubspot’s Head of Inbound Sales, Michael Pici, interviewed bestselling author Daniel Pink to help viewers maintain a healthy mindset when dealing with rejection in business.

Daniel Pink—Author of ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,' ‘A Whole New Mind,' ‘To Sell is Human’, and more— joined Pici to explain why resilience is the key to coping with and overcoming rejection.

An ‘Ocean of Rejection’

First and foremost, it is important for sales professionals to understand the reality of their professions. “Most other kinds of jobs don’t deal with a pond of rejection, let alone an ocean of rejection... They might have an occasional puddle of rejection, but it’s not a day-to-day ocean of rejection,” says Pink.

Pink’s metaphor helps paint a realistic picture for listeners of the steep challenges salespeople face. Pink leads his session by asking listeners: “How do you deal with rejection when it’s an ever-present feature?”

What Your Explanatory Style Predicts

A study conducted by psychologist Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania studied a couple of hundred life insurance sales professionals to determine who succeeds in sales and who does not.

Pink explains the best predictor of a salesman’s success is the way they explain their rejection; “The single best predictor of sales success was not any kind of personality trait, not any particular kind of background, and it was not even any kind of training they received. The single biggest predictor of success was people’s explanatory style.”

How a person explains their rejection determines the mentality and attitude they adapt and move forward with.

The Three P’s

Even when faced with all favorable odds, rejection is possible and can happen at any point in a sales process. Pink notes “Rejection feels so bad that we often turn it into a catastrophe.”

Does this sound familiar to you? Envision the last time you faced rejection. Was it something you easily bounced back from or did its effects damper your spirits for the remainder of the day?

Seligman notes sales professionals who thrive in sales —even when faced with rejection—follow a particular explanatory style when coping with rejection. This process referred to as The Three P’s by Seligman, includes:

  • Personal
  • Pervasive
  • Permanent

The First P — Personal

When facing rejection, it is a natural reaction to blame yourself for the rejection. Thoughts like ‘This is all my fault,’ ‘I screwed this up,’ and ‘They will never work with me again,’ are common knee-jerk reactions when dealing with rejection.

Pink implores you to consider other options instead of receiving the rejection as a personal setback. “Is it all personal? Many times people will reject your offering because they’re not ready now,” says Pink. Perhaps they are not able to invest capital yet, do not have buying authority, or need further time to consider your proposition.

Assuming the rejection is personal does not give the salesperson the opportunity to research where the problem is.  As Pink puts it: “Every rejection is not entirely your fault. There are other kinds of reasons, and you have to figure out how much of this is personal. In general, less of it is personal than we think.”


The Second P — Pervasive

Another knee-jerk reaction? ‘This always happens to me!’ If you are honest with yourself, does it always really happen? Perhaps rejection is something you have often faced this week. Was there something different in your technique last week that you can incorporate into this week’s sales pitch?

Pervasive thinking will negatively affect the way you approach prospects. Instead, analyze previous successes, or as Pink calls them “bright spots,” to determine how those were different from your approach today and to recalibrate your sales process.


The Final P — Permanent

While setbacks are never fun, dwelling on them for excessive amounts of time will only do more harm than good.  “There are very few things that actually ruin everything,” Pink plainly states, “Just get real.” Use your rejection as a predictor for future pitches and allow it to guide you. Where can you improve? Would using a different technique help?


To learn more about sales strategies or how to optimize your sales team using sales enablement,  enroll now in our free 7-day eCourse: Go-to-Market Strategy 101 for B2B SaaS Startups and Scaleups.

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