When Milton Hershey first opened his candy store in Philadelphia, he had to shut down after six years because he never made enough sales to get the business off the ground. After closing in Philadelphia, he moved to Chicago, then to New Orleans, then to New York, each time failing and starting over again. In fact, it took ten years of rejection and failure before Hershey’s business succeeded. You already know how the story ended for Hershey (now a $5 billion company), but now you also know that the Hershey Chocolate Company wasn’t an overnight success; the business only took off thanks to one salesman’s persistence in the face of failure.Evan Carmichael, “His Secret Recipe: How Hershey Achieved Success,” video, EvanCarmichael.com, http://www.evancarmichael.com/Famous-Entrepreneurs/603/His-Secret-Recipe-How-Hershey-Achieved-Success.html (accessed August 1, 2009).
Rejection is a reality that all sales professionals have to deal with occasionally, no matter how experienced or skilled they are; it comes with the territory. Prospects will sometimes hang up on you or refuse to see you, and others will listen to your sales approach and then tell you that they aren’t interested in what you have to offer. However, if you approach your sales call with confidence and refuse to take rejection personally, then the possibility of rejection doesn’t have to be a barrier to your success. Do you believe in the value of the solution you are selling? Are you doing your best to ensure that your customer gets what he needs and wants? Then you have every reason to be confident.Wendy Weiss, “Why Are We All so Afraid?” Sales Information, 2004, http://www.sales.net63.net/1138.php (accessed August 1, 2009). Recognize that it is the fear of failure, more than anything else, that creates a barrier between a salesperson and a successful sale.
Successful selling is all about mastering your attitude, and this is especially true when it comes to facing rejection. Sales coach and author Phil Glosserman puts it this way: “The only person who can reject you as a salesperson is yourself.”Phil Glosserman, “The Fear of Rejection,” video, Selling Power, http://www.sellingpower.com/content/video/?date=7/9/2009 (accessed March 16, 2010). There are all kinds of reasons why a prospect might give you a “no thanks” response, very few of which have to do with you personally. Your prospect might simply be unwilling or unable to make a purchase at the moment, he might be facing pressures at work that prevent him from giving you his full attention, or he might just be having a bad day. Instead of focusing on the way you feel (“What if he turns me down?”), Glosserman suggests focusing on the way your prospect feels (“How can I help him get what he wants out of this interaction?”). If you imagine how your customer feels before and during your interaction, you will often find that you forget to feel anxious.Phil Glosserman, “The Fear of Rejection,” video, Selling Power, http://www.sellingpower.com/content/video/?date=7/9/2009 (accessed March 16, 2010).
In addition to mastering your attitude, here are a few empowering and practical things you can do to help build confidence (and get a higher rate of yes responses) going into a sales approach:
So what do you do if you’ve prepared your opening statement and done your research, but when you make your phone call, it isn’t your prospect who picks up the phone; instead, it’s her assistant, who wants to know who you are, why you are calling, and why you think your prospect should want to talk to you anyway? This is a likely scenario in B2B sales when your prospects are busy executives who don’t have the time to handle every call that comes through their office. If you want to see your prospect, you may have to go through the gatekeeperThe secretary or assistant whose job it is to screen calls or “guard” the entrance to an executive’s office. In B2B sales this is someone you often have to go through first before seeing your prospect. first. His title might be secretary, assistant, administrative assistant, or executive assistant,Lori Richardson, “Dealing with Gatekeepers,” Sales Coach Blog, AllBusiness, April 19, 2005, http://www.AllBusiness.com/sales/selling-techniques/3873127-1.html (accessed August 3, 2009). but his role will be the same: keeping unwanted distractions from interrupting his boss’s busy schedule. Salespeople often think of gatekeepers as road blocks—something standing in the way of getting to see the prospect—but if a salesperson treats gatekeepers as obstacles to be overcome, not only is he unlikely to get past them, but he is also missing out on the opportunity to collaborate with people who can be valuable assets to his sale.Michael A. Boylan, The Power to Get In (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998), 125. Gatekeepers are human beings (not obstacles) whose jobs are important to the successful running of their organizations. Think of them as part of the selling relationship and treat them with the courtesy and respect with which you would treat your prospect. Lori Richardson, an experienced salesperson and sales trainer, says, “I like to think of a gatekeeper as someone to get to know—a potential new coach into connecting me with my ultimate contact beyond the virtual gate.”Lori Richardson, “Dealing with Gatekeepers,” Sales Coach Blog, AllBusiness, April 19, 2005, http://www.AllBusiness.com/sales/selling-techniques/3873127-1.html (accessed August 3, 2009). Gatekeepers are an integral part of the selling relationship for a number of reasons:
Put yourself in the gatekeeper’s shoes for a minute. You have been answering the phone all day, responding to people who don’t often treat you with much respect, and you get another call:
|Salesperson:||Hello, this is Camille Martin. Is Maria Gonzalez in her office right now?|
|Assistant:||Yes, she’s here, but she’s busy at the moment. Can I ask what you’re calling about?|
|Salesperson:||I’d like to schedule a meeting to see her. When would be a good time to call back?|
|Assistant:||I’m sorry, but Ms. Gonzalez doesn’t take unsolicited calls.|
Notice that the caller didn’t give the name of her organization or the purpose of her call, even when the gatekeeper asked for more information. She was abrupt with the gatekeeper, so the gatekeeper was abrupt in return. When talking to gatekeepers, give them the information they ask for when they want it.Michael A. Boylan, The Power to Get In (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998), 126. Remember that it’s the gatekeeper’s job to find out whether your call is worth his boss’s time, so if you tell him the purpose of your call, you are helping him to see that your call may be valuable.
Learn the gatekeeper’s name and be friendly. Business writer Susan Ward suggests starting off the conversation by asking “I wonder if you could help me?” as a way to show respect and demonstrate that you see the gatekeeper as part of your selling relationship.Susan Ward, “Cold Calling Tips,” About.com, http://sbinfocanada.about.com/cs/marketing/a/coldcall.htm (accessed May 16, 2010). If you do this, you won’t need to get past the gatekeeper; he can often tell you everything you need to know—the name of the right person to talk to or the best time to contact your prospect—or even schedule a meeting for you before you ever interact with your prospect. Finally, when the gatekeeper does give you helpful information, remember to thank her. For extra helpful gatekeepers, you might even consider sending a note or small thank-you gift.
Now review the approach shown above using a referral as a way to work with the gatekeeper as an ally, rather than view her as a barrier:
|You:||Good morning. My name is Camille Martin and I’m calling from Preston and Preston; we’re a full-service digital photography studio here in Cleveland. I’m following up on a conversation that Jason Kendrick, our company’s CEO had with Maria Gonzalez. I understand she is looking for a partner in the digital photography area. May I speak with her?|
|Assistant:||Let me check and see if she is available. Can you give me your name and company again?|
|You:||Thank you. I appreciate your help. I’m Camille Martin from Preston and Preston What’s your name?|