LisBiz Strategies: Using rejection therapy to battle sales fears

June 03, 2016

May 23/30, 2016; Volume 30, Number 24

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.14.17 AMRejection therapy is a game designed to overcome one’s fear of rejection and to build confidence. Think about yourself as a salesperson; how many situations have you avoided because you’re afraid of being rejected? As humans, one of our deepest fears is being rejected by people who are important to us. For many, it brings up our feelings of not being good enough. As salespeople, our aversion to what we perceive as an unpleasant situation keeps us out of scenarios that would actually benefit us.

It’s amazing how many salespeople make decisions about whether the customer will buy before even having a conversation. In fact, the longer someone has been selling the more likely he is to believe he’s a mind reader.

When deciding who is a buyer and who isn’t, experience can really get in the way of closing the sale. Even a customer who emphatically says “no” doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t a buyer; it simply means she is not a buyer at this point. How many salespeople have the guts to ask, “Do you mean you don’t want to buy today or do you mean you don’t want to buy ever?” This isn’t a smart remark; it’s a legitimate question. The problem is many salespeople will tell you they already know the answer to that question.

Here is where rejection therapy comes in. The idea of rejection therapy started one sad night a number of years ago with the evolution of Jason Comely, a freelance IT tech from Cambridge, Ontario. His wife had left him several months before and he was sitting home depressed.

“That Friday evening I was in my one-bedroom apartment trying to be busy,” Comely recalled. “But really, I knew that I was avoiding things.” It was at that point he realized he was fearful of rejection. His goal was to get over it. To do this, he would seek out as many situations as he could to get rejected. He would ask people for a piece of gum, to give him a ride, to talk with him. Eventually, the rejection therapy game became a kind of small cult phenomenon with people playing all over the world.

To get over the fear, Comely suggests people “just get out there and get rejected. Sometimes it’s going to get dirty but that’s OK because you’re going to feel great after. You’re going to say, ‘Wow, I disobeyed fear.’”

The key is to begin to understand that although rejection feels personal, it really isn’t. It also isn’t real. It comes from a fear of not convincing someone to give you what you want. Where did we ever learn just because we want something we should get it? The longer you put yourself in places to get rejected, the more strength and self-respect you will build. When we personalize rejection it destroys our self-esteem.

How can this work in retail? Try having your salespeople make a list of all the places they think they would get rejected. This could be talking with a stranger, asking for a discount when purchasing something or asking someone out on a date. The idea is to get rejected somewhere other than the sales floor. The way to get over this fear is to do it—get rejected and feel the pain.

How about making it a game? Suggest a 30-day rejection game and have your salespeople come back and talk about their experiences. Give a prize to the person rejected most. This should lead to fun conversation and the creation of self-confidence.

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