Managing Sales Rejection Anxiety
It is a rare person involved in selling a product or service that doesn’t at some stage feel nervous or worried about the outcome of a pitch or presentation, client meeting, explanation of what we can do for you, or effective delivery of a product to a customer. A certain level of anxiety is normal and desirable, because it is essential for both learning and performance. Too much and we cannot function, but too little and we do not care if we function well or not. With the former we focus on what can go wrong, whereas with the latter we simply assume it will go right and are not engaged in the outcome. Every now and then I deal with - as a coach and trainer - people in sales and business who exhibit an uncomfortable level of anxiety that negatively impacts their confidence and ability to perform and get results. This often has a corresponding impact on the satisfaction they have in their role, their career choice, and can tend to spiral a bit as they remember what they did wrong (or maybe could have done better) rather than what they did well. After all if we only focus on building our weaknesses we’ll only ever have strong (or improving) weaknesses and weak strengths. This is one of the keys to being successful in sales - find out what you are good at and master it. Are you great on the telephone? Then work on your telephone contact plan and cold call routines. Are you a relationship-builder? Then work in an area that rewards getting to know and genuinely build a relationship with key individuals. Are you great with systems and a linear thinker? Then work in an area that has clear systems and a defined step by step sales process. Sales anxiety manifests itself in two broad clusters of experience – emotional and behavioural. Emotional reactions to sales rejection are typified by anxiety when the phones goes, often worrying that a client (not a specific client but clients in general) is calling to complain, taking the loss of a client or failure to close a deal as a personal comment on ones self-worth, or a heightened level of self-consciousness about what clients and colleagues think of you professionally. Behavioural reactions to sales rejection are typified by avoidance, procrastination, and relief that common experiences anticipated as being problematic are over. What are some of the ways we can manage and/or minimise these challenges which are very normal for many people? Well, in addition to the items mentioned above - finding out what type of sales you are good at and do that – here are 10 useful tips. 1) Remind yourself that every point of contact, whether it results in a sale or not, is an opportunity to make a positive impression and an opportunity to build your company’s and your individual brand. Maybe it was a professional service, a pleasant smile, the way you engaged, or being willing to reschedule. Maybe it was knowing your limits or why you could not help someone. It all adds up to a positive impression and a greater likelihood of passing that impression on to other potential customers, or coming back to you if things with an existing supplier go wrong.2) Prepare. Know the company - be they an existing client or a prospect - the market and, if possible, the individual customer (as best you can). Research web sites and make sure you’re abreast of the business section in the newspaper for a start. Find out what’s going on in that company or for that company in the market. What are the challenges they face and why are they challenges? Ask questions relevant to needs and how the product is intending to be used so you can provide advice and information. This all helps build a conversation, inquire, and identify what is important.3) Sell a solution, not a product. Products are a dime a dozen, solutions are not. Identify the way in which working with you can be easy, understands identified needs, is consistent with the values the client holds dear, recognises the current problem in the eyes of the customer alongside their desired alternative, and is responsive to situations as they arise. Remember, convenience and emotion sells more product than anything else.4) Develop a means of building personal armour and the principle of depersonalisation. It can be very easy to take things personally (I know I do but that’s one of the reasons why I work hard for my clients – their challenges matter to me) but at the end of the day we need to find a balance between caring and caring too much. Remember, a decision to reject a pitch can mean a number of things, not all of whom are bad or a negative reflection on yourself. Perhaps the timing is wrong, perhaps the pitch was not quite as good as the best one (but also much better than the worst one), perhaps those you’re talking with are not the decision-makers, or perhaps they’re just exploring the market. Whatever the reason there are plenty of reasons why rejection is not about you and about other things. If in doubt about all of this - see point Number 1 above.5) Focus on what you can control. Preparation, research, product knowledge, and follow up. Remember, selling is like holding out your hand for someone to shake it. Whether they take it is up to them but whether they do or not you’ve done what you can do.6) Work hard to never be late. Why add stress trying to find a park or get through traffic unnecessarily. Others may keep you waiting, and this can happen for various reasons but show you respect their time by how you manage yours.7) Schedule your week. When’s the best time to meet with clients, make phone calls, design presentations, create material? Schedule them when they suit you and when you’re at your best. And when you need to do things not at your best how can you best schedule preparation, self-talk, and logistics? That way you’re showing your client your best when you’re in contact with them whether it be by email, telephone or face to face.8) Follow up, always. Even if it’s simply a thank you. People remember that, and that you valued their time. Time is the one thing we cannot replace in our day and we should respect it.9) Test and measure processes and be clear on what adds value. What works and what doesn’t work in terms of getting a sale? Do we really understand our market and what they need or want? If we don’t test and measure then how do we know where to spend our time, energy and resources? If we only measure sales completed then in what way do we understand conversion, enhance relationship building, and retain repeat customers?10) After a tough day or challenging process, debrief. Catch up with a mentor, colleagues, your line manager and debrief. What worked? What didn’t go according to plan? What did you come across that was new? What did you have a chance to practice? What was one way you came away with a positive? And so on. Reflect, don’t ruminate. Put the lessons into the next day, and celebrate the wins along the way.