Both aspiring and experienced salespeople often research and read a lot of materials on sales. Thankfully there are lots of insightful articles/blogs covering aspects including, “what makes one a great salesperson, how to handle objections, prospecting, cold calling, email tips, follow-ups, negotiations, selling value over features, etc”. I come across many posts on sales in LinkedIn feeds and read them enthusiastically to see if I can correct my mistakes and get better. I also happened to speak with a few friends of mine, some MBA grads who said,” No MBA course teaches sales”. Did I wonder why? I also came across this nice post in LinkedIn to know more.
Last week, I decided to pen down my personal experiences, by choosing one or two specific aspects in each post. Just wasn’t sure what to start with, so I did a lot more reading on the internet, quickly went over one of my favourite books on psychology by Robert Cialdini, got thinking for a few more days and narrowed down on a couple of vital characteristics.
There is a very important mantra a salesperson should learn and practice — REJECTION. It may sound paradoxical and bitter, but I have personally found this to be a great indicator of one’s success. Let us look at a bit of psychology and move into rejection. A lot of people may not agree, but research and studies have shown that 95% of purchase decisions are ‘emotional’. I have long argued on this with many people including fellow entrepreneurs, partners, family members and most won’t agree. Simply because we don’t want to accept that it is our subconscious mind that’s in-charge than the logical part of the brain. We simply convince ourselves after the decision is taken with analytical and logical reasoning to make ourselves feel good, rather not feel stupid. Humans are very complex beings, our wiring and decision making isn’t straightforward. For e.g. it was proven in poker that the same player in the same position, same cards with same opponents behaves very differently or say inconsistently from his previous actions.
How does it affect you?
What does rejection do and how does it help? Rejection in any form literally hurts, and who would like to get rejected? Basically, the same areas of our brain become activated when we experience rejection, as when we experience physical pain. A broken heart is no different from a broken arm! In sales, one is already under severe pressure to close and he/she knows there are too many factors at play than just you or the product. Naturally, many go through gut-wrenching moments, when that prospect who looked very promising doesn’t return your calls or emails or has chosen some other product over yours. It can be devastating, humiliating and destroys your self-esteem. But then, why is it useful?
Though different individuals handle this differently, the thing that worked for me is that you simply learn to cope with it by getting rejected more, over time you will become numb and get used to it. Other ways are to work harder to create some positive outcomes to balance out the negative, reach out to more prospects, dust your pipeline and follow up, or take comfort from close friends and family, who can lend a great pair of ears to hear out your misery. In these situations, you have nothing to lose. A good friend of mine once told me there’s no worse feeling than being rejected by a woman. Somehow that appealed to me. He proceeded to narrate his criteria for recruiting salespersons in his company. They should have got rejected, had boyfriends or girlfriends, been a part of sports teams, etc. The maverick that I am, I decided to practice rejection even further. I was with 2 good friends at a well-known pub in Bangalore and in the next table there were 3 people, one was a good looking girl. I went over to their table and asked if that girl was interested in joining us. She pointed to the man next to her and said, “He’s my fiancé”. I said, “Well, congratulations, but if you do change your mind, let me know”. When I went back to my table, I told my friends who were scared to death that this was part of my ’sales’ learning.
The big break:
Getting that first break can be very hard. I can recall how we won the first customer, it literally took 4–5 months of follow-ups and numerous ups and downs. I met Ajay Nagarajan and his team in Aug 2017, when we had a barebones buggy beta version with a few pages that were functional. In most demos, I would also get the dreaded 500 server error. After our first meeting, I followed up over email a few times (about 4) at regular intervals. There were some travels, internal meetings, etc but every time I emailed he responded. On Sep 5th he responded that he had engaged our competitor and that he will talk to us later. There was this big lump in my throat, my heart skipped a few beats and all my hopes crashed. You had built that castle in your mind, told stories to your colleagues and employees, and suddenly it was all plans that came to nought. I was left wondering that everything had gone well so far and why this all of a sudden. But that’s how it is, in reality. Just that I didn’t stop there and kept in touch with him. On Sep 24th, after about 3 weeks I reached out asking how his transition to the new product is coming along. He responded that things were on track and it will be another 4 weeks to transition completely. If I was 5 feet under the ground earlier, I just buried myself further. But we didn’t stop there. On Nov, 16th after about 6 weeks gap, I enquired about the transition. He said it didn’t work out as they had expected and that he had thought of us. Subsequently, we met a few more times, interacted with Chef Mandaar, Neil, finance, Chef Manjeet, etc and the deal was finalised in January 2018. I won’t ever forget that moment, it was just surreal and tears of joy were flowing down. As you can see, it was very long, arduous and painful, but it was worth it. As of today, they are our most valuable customer, Ajay and I have become great friends, in fact, most in Windmills are. On top of inventory, they use our CRM and table reservation modules too.
There were multiple rejection points here that one would be inclined to move on and look for something else. That’s what the sales manual will tell you, but then nothing is written in stone. At times, you have to go with your gut and be at it. I was extremely keen to work with them and didn’t want to take no for an answer, not until the door was shut on my face. Our goal and strategy were that we will target and work with premium brands, and with forward-looking owners who are pro-tech. The fact that they were closer to my home was an added incentive. If you are thinking that I may have espoused the power of follow-ups, though the topic was on rejection, that’s a reasonable assumption too. But the intent is to highlight how you can cope up with rejection, motivate yourself and move ahead. If in spite of your best efforts, a sale doesn’t close, don’t take it personally or blame yourself, you will be glad that you tried your best.
In my next post, I will walk you through our experience with Toit and Chianti, both are run by very well respected individuals in the industry. Those were accounts that took longer to close!
Let me know what you think or how you handled rejection in your sales journey?