Personal Finance

How to overcome rejection in selling

Rejection hurts
Rejection hurts. And yet it comes with territory. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Sales is filled with rejection, so it is critical to develop a healthy attitude to it. Easier said than done, you say? I agree. Rejection stings; rejection is painful. That is why it is feared.

“I did not think much of our sales team,” a friend recently confided in me. “Until, one day, we went for a market storm.” (This happens when all hands —finance, human resource, administration, supply chain, among others, are put on the sales deck).

The purpose is to understand the market and as one CEO put it, “for the staff to know how and where the money comes from.’)

My friend continued: “I was out to prove my dim view of our salespeople’s inability to sell Sim cards by selling all of mine. At the close of day I had sold none. And they were going for only Sh20! Most people just ignored me, others looked pitifully at me, others still said hurtful things like, ‘I don’t want’, ‘I have one’, ‘Arrgh!’. The sting of the repeated rejections I’d received all day hurt. Today, I give an ear to every seller who approaches me for a sale, even if I’m not buying.”

Rejection hurts. And yet it comes with territory.


The anecdote shared is not intended to be used as a crutch by sellers to justify lacklustre performance. Or, to hope that everyone would “market storm” and this way rejection would disappear because everyone would respond as my friend did. That is wishful thinking and not productive.

Rejection is part of human interaction; even you do it. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes inadvertently. It happens within selling and even outside. Rejection is here to stay.

A more productive approach is to understand rejection, not fear it. Fear paralyses, understanding empowers. Understand that even that salesperson you admire the most is not immune to rejection; he has his fair share of them—you just don’t see him in that light.

Understand that he did not get there by magic; he went through the furnace of rejections and was forged into the seemingly indomitable lion he is. And the forging is where the magic of overcoming rejection lays.

Feel the sting. Don’t ignore it. Just as with grief, to be overcome, it needs to be processed. With time, your immunity grows and with it clarity; the clarity of the hawker, who simply moves on to the next car when you roll up your window. He knows it is the lamp you did not want and tomorrow you will happily roll down your window because you are starving for the banana he is selling. It is not me he has learnt, and you will too. It’s the product, or the timing.

Understand that if all sales interactions converted to closes then you would be out of a job because selling would be automated. And to get to that level of understanding, expose yourself more and more to sales interactions and watch as rejections reduce and sales increase. Much like the stellar seller you admire.