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One of the most common questions I get asked when speaking at sales kickoffs or conferences is about helping sales professionals deal with rejection. If you have the perspective that your job is to sell to everyone you encounter, then hearing “no” might make you slip into that cycle of self-doubt and rejection. If you change your view slightly, then you’ll understand why you should not be afraid of hearing “no” in business.

Starting With The Wrong Premise

In many businesses, those responsible for generating revenue often feel like they have to close each and every opportunity or lead. This means that they enter the conversation with a potential client trying to figure out how to convince the other person to become a customer.

At each step in the conversation, the seller struggles to discover the magic bullet that will earn the sale. Should she reduce price? Should he provide references? What about a guarantee? What you first need to appreciate is that effective sales is not about persuasion or coercion – it’s about getting to the truth as quickly as possible.

If you think your job is to convince every lead to do business with you, then you will have to deal with plenty of rejection.

Work The Numbers

I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Waltz, co-author of Go For No!, on the Grow My Revenue Business Cast.  “Some professionals fear being seen as pesky, so they’ll avoid follow-up entirely,” Waltz explains.

This way, they don’t get a “no” – and they also don’t get any closure at all.

This means that the opportunity is forever in the excruciating “maybe” category. What may not be obvious is that companies waste a great deal of money pursuing these “maybe” pursuits because the seller is afraid to hear a concrete “no.”

The best performers are not afraid to rule out an opportunity if it’s not an ideal fit.

Here’s another way to think: if you know that your business succeeds in one out of five opportunities, then in order to win five opportunities, you need to hear “no” 20 times. Andrea suggests that companies should actually track how many times they hear “no.”

A Better Starting Point: Find The Fit

Another way to think of selling is reflected in how you approach the first meeting. Instead of thinking about how you can convince the other party, take a step back. Build a list of the characteristics of clients for whom you can have the greatest impact.  Then build a list of the conditions that would indicate they could benefit from (and be receptive to) your help. With those lists, you will be armed for productive meetings.

During your meetings with potential clients, you can share the problems you solve for your clients and the conditions that would be present to determine if the timing is right. We often refer to this as the Same Side Pitch. The stated purpose of your meeting now leaves the realm of desperate and overly-eager pitching, and becomes a mutual determination about whether your potential client has both a need, and the associated conditions, that fit your business.

If not, then nobody failed. You’ve simply discovered that the present conditions don’t make it valuable for either of you to proceed – and you’ve saved precious time doing so.

Consider this example: You are a world-class carpal tunnel surgeon. You have a 100 percent success rate with patients who definitely suffer from carpal tunnel. Patients will travel all around the world just to get your treatment. However, you are not going to successfully “sell” your treatment to someone without carpal tunnel syndrome. You are also not going to sell your treatment to someone who does not come to your place of business. Patients who don’t meet those criteria are not a fit.  Nobody failed; some people just don’t need what you do – at least, not right now.

If, six months or a year from now, they are diagnosed with carpal tunnel, then you might be able to help.

Apply the same thought process to what you sell. What conditions do you treat? Furthermore, what symptoms might indicate those conditions? Seek those elements in meetings, and you’ll never feel a sense of rejection when you uncover that your potential client is not a fit for your treatment.

It’s Your Turn

What symptoms are you great at treating? Describe the problems you solve in the comments, or via Twitter or LinkedIn, and I’ll give you honest feedback.

Go For No

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