Rejection in sales comes with the territory. When you’re trying to sell something, people will often say no. They’ll tell you they don’t need it, don’t want it, can’t use it. And by the way, “why are you bothering me about this?” While rejection in sales is a given, we don’t have to take it personally.

Hi, and welcome to the podcast today, cohost Chris Templeton and I will be talking about rejection — why it’s inevitable in sales, but why we also don’t need to take it personally. Welcome Chris.

Chris: Hi David. You know, in sales we’ve all been rejected at some point. Unless we’re brand new, then rejection just hasn’t happened yet. But rejection hurts, you know, it feels so personal.

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So how do you recommend that we don't take it personally?

David: It can be hard because very often we do. And you'd mentioned new sales people, those who haven't been rejected yet. The first time it happens, it's like what? What do you mean? No? It's hard to understand. And it is easy to take personally.

But if the prospect really doesn't need what it is that we have to offer, then there's nothing personal about that. It's simply a matter of we're saying, Hey, we have this thing. I have this thing. I think this could really help you. They look at it, they say, no, I don't think it can help me. There's nothing personal in that. It's essentially at that point, transactional. You're looking at something that you think has tremendous value. They're looking at it. They don't see the value yet.

Now, in a sales conversation, sometimes you can flip that around and they'll begin to see the value and they may end up thinking, "okay, yeah, I do want to do this," and that's really where a lot of sales comes in. Sales, in quotes, the thing that we define as sales, which is helping people to see the advantages and see the benefits and want to take action on it.

But ultimately, whether they decide to do it or whether they decide not to do it, it's not personal. It's not about you're a bad person because they didn't want to buy it or they didn't see the value. It's merely a matter of not having a great fit.

Some prospects make it personal

Chris: But David, some prospects make it personal. They can be rude. They can be apathetic, obnoxious, insulting. How is that... I mean, I'm getting a little bummed out just thinking about it. How is that not personal?

David: Yeah, you can really get worked up with this stuff. Well, it's true and there are people who are like that. If somebody is rude or what'd you say? Obnoxious? Apathetic? If they're insulting you, yeah, that's a totally different thing. But really that's about them, right? If they're coming to you with an attitude like that or if you're going to them, and this has happened so many times, throughout my sales career, where you meet somebody, you think there should be a good fit, you start talking to them and then they just come back at you with this horrible personality or this horrible set of character traits and in the beginning you're like, "Oh my gosh, it's just something I did wrong. Did I say something incorrectly? Am I messing this up?" And ultimately after you've been doing this for a while, you realize that no, it's really about them.

Rude, obnoxious and insulting should be instant disqualifiers

David: People who are that obnoxious and so rude, belligerent and all that sort of thing. That is a personality trait in them. That's something that is endemic to them. It doesn't reflect on you at all. And the way that they feel about us, their approach, if they can't stand me or whatever, that's their issue. That's not my issue. And I think we want to sort of resist the urge to try to change our personality to suit the moods of poor quality prospects. We definitely don't want to do that. If somebody is a poor quality prospect, they're going to react negatively. They're going to have that sort of approach. And I would say that when somebody comes back at you like that, they're really just disqualifying themselves. Because if somebody is rude and obnoxious when you're just trying to qualify them to see if they're a good fit, imagine how awful they'll be if they actually had an order in with you and they're waiting for it to arrive or whatever. Or imagine even worse what it's like to try to get paid from somebody like that after they've already gotten the goods.

Being Defensive vs. Being Obnoxious

Chris: Absolutely. And from my perspective, assuming that I didn't misbehave as the salesperson, you hit it right on the head. This person is not a prospect for me. If they're behaving that way, why in the world would I want to have a client that was that unpleasant? There are a lot of people who, when they feel they're in a sales situation, are automatically defensive. And I think it was a salesperson. You've gotta be sensitive to that and hopefully be able to diffuse that. But if that's not the case and they are just that nasty... man, oh man, it is time to move on, isn't it?

David: Yeah. And you drew a good distinction there. There's a big difference between being defensive and being obnoxious. If you're defensive because you're not sure, or if you're uncertain about something that's very different than being openly rude or obnoxious. And so, as salespeople, we have to be able to listen for the difference.

Is the question they're asking, is the thing that they're saying, designed to gather more information or is it designed to end the conversation because they just want no part of it, right? Cause if they don't want any part of it, then yeah, they've disqualified themselves.

Chris: Absolutely. You know, a lot of sales training is about overcoming objections and is that also supposed to help overcoming rejection?

Overcoming Objections is Overrated

David: That's a good question. I think in some cases overcoming objections is really overrated. When we're in a position where we have to overcome a lot of objections, it's because we didn't properly lay the groundwork. But when I think about objections in sales, when we have to overcome them, it's normally about overcoming objections that are related to product features or benefits or applicability. Am I going to be able to use this product? It's not about overcoming insults. It's not about trying to overcome attacks to your personality, attacks to your character. So I think that's where we also have to draw the line is to recognize that when somebody is objecting potentially about a product and they're essentially asking for more information, "well how's this going to work if I have this situation or that situation?" That's really a request for more information. That's "tell me how I'm wrong here. Tell me what I'm missing." So that's a request for information, which is very different from "your product stinks, you stink, why are you in my office?" That type of thing.

Chris: "Get out, quick!"

Don't Let Their Self-Esteem Issues Become Yours

David: Exactly. I don't want to get too deep into the psychology of this because I am not at all qualified to do this, but I think it really boils down to self esteem issues. You could be talking to somebody who just has really bad self esteem and the only element of control they're going to have in their day is to shut you down and get you out of their office. And the trouble is that if we don't recognize that, then it can impact OUR self esteem. We can think, "Oh, maybe I'm not good enough." You also touched on something important earlier that I sort of took for granted and I shouldn't, which is that we as salespeople are doing a good job now if we're not, if we're doing a terrible job and if we're not representing our product well and if we're not speaking intelligently to our prospects, if we're not qualifying them correctly, we need to get all that stuff in place first. Because it's entirely possible that the success or the failure of the sales call could very well be on us. Maybe they could have been interested, maybe they would have been interested if we had taken the right approach. What I'm saying though is if, assuming we're taking the right approach with all this stuff, if somebody does get obnoxious or if they are getting beyond just questions about how it might apply to them, that sort of thing, that's when we have to look at drawing a line and saying, "okay, I'm happy to work with you if it makes sense, but if it doesn't, let's figure that out sooner rather than later."

Chris: And really, if I've got somebody who is that testy and I say, "you know what? This just doesn't seem like it's a good fit for you and I don't want to create a situation that you're uncomfortable with." A lot of times just saying that if they're kind of being defensive because they think they're in a sales situation, that, a lot of times we'll diffuse it and if it doesn't, then you know that it's time to move on. Acknowledging that you understand that the person's in a place that doesn't serve anybody can go a really long way. Can't it?

Not Every Prospect Deserves an Appointment

David: Yeah, it really can. I was having a conversation earlier today with one of our clients, who was talking about this idea of setting appointments versus qualification. In other words, they were talking about how part of their training was all about getting appointments. And my view is that not everybody deserves an appointment. Not everyone is entitled to an appointment.

We don't always want to go for the appointment, until we've actually qualified someone. Because if we don't take the time to qualify them and we go for the appointment, you're visiting with them, you're having an appointment and there's no way they're going to be able to buy anything. So you're far better off doing your qualifying up front. Deciding, do they have the need, the desire, the money, the budget, the willingness to spend? Are they pleasant to deal with? Are they not rude, obnoxious, belligerent? And if they meet those criteria, then sure, set an appointment if it's necessary.

David: But also, I mean, I had a lot of clients over the years, and I have a lot of clients today that I've never actually met face to face. So it doesn't necessarily require an appointment in some situations. In my promotional products business, when I had that years ago, most of my clients were in other states and I had never actually met them. So the closest thing we get to an appointment would be, "Hey, how about if I give you a call on Monday at one o'clock and we'll get everything figured out?" They'll say yes, and essentially that's the appointment, but it's really critical, I think, for salespeople and business owners to recognize that it's not always about the appointment. It's about figuring out "do we have a good fit?" And if we do, then it becomes a hundred times easier to schedule the appointment because both people want it.

Always Qualify First

David: When you try to schedule an appointment with somebody who's not even qualified, you don't know if they're qualified, they don't know if they're qualified. That just sounds to me like the biggest waste of time ever, and why would you do that?

Chris: And asking qualifying questions in a way that makes sense and framing it up and you know, "I don't want to waste your time" can go so far in setting the stage for a solid appointment, when it does actually come to fruition.

David: Yeah. One of the things that I got in the habit of saying to people is, "listen, I value your time as I value my own, which is to say a lot. I don't want to waste a second of your time or mine. If we have a good fit here. If I can help you with what you're looking to do, I would love to do it. If not, tell me 'No,' and I'll go away."

Chris: Absolutely. And boy, oh boy, does that leave the door open, should things change down the road for the prospect. I just think it's so important that we recognize not only that it's great to have an appointment now, but I also want that door wide open. "Oh man. I was talking to this guy, David Blaise, and he mentioned something and it wasn't a good fit for me, but you might want to call him." You just never know where that's gonna go. So regardless of how personal it feels, help the prospect if they're going to go a different way, to not feel it's personal at all.

David: Exactly.

Is Disinterest a Buying Signal?

Chris: So let's talk about how you draw the line between disinterest, disagreement, and things that feel like personal attacks.

David: Okay. Well I think it starts with listening carefully. Disinterest? "I'm not quite interested?" Well, maybe they're not interested because they don't know enough. And if they are open to hearing more then you can sometimes turn a disinterested person into an interested person. But there are some disinterested people who just don't want to hear what you have to say. And at that point it's about reading the prospect, paying attention to the vibe you're getting. So if you're trying to explain something, if you're trying to engage them and they don't want to be engaged, then ask yourself, "is this prospect worth it? Is this the type of person who, if I sold them, I'd be happy to have as a client?" And nine times out of ten the answer is going to be no.

So why pursue prospects that you're not going to stand being able to work with? Disagreements can also be overcome, especially if the disagreement comes about as a result of trying to gather information, when they're trying to get information, they don't understand something. They're asking questions. We're disagreeing on the usefulness of something. Those can also be overcome, if and when both parties want to put something together.

It Takes Two

Something I've maintained for a long time is that when two parties to an agreement want to work together, they'll figure out a way to do it. If one of them does not, they will not figure out a way to do it. That is sort of a universal law that I've adopted over the course of my career. Recognizing that if both people want to do it, they will. If one of them doesn't, they won't. And being able to identify that fairly early on, so you can overcome this interest, you can potentially overcome disagreements.

Personal attacks? No. I think that should just never be tolerated. If you find yourself in a situation, we are dealing with somebody who just has those character traits that you say, "you know what? This person is really obnoxious," then get out of there as quickly as you can.

Chris: There's so much you can do to create an environment for your prospects that's going to keep them from feeling like they need to go that way. And so, I encourage people to really think about what they do as part of their sales practice, to get people comfortable so that it doesn't have to be a personal thing. Let's talk about action steps and what our listeners can do to avoid taking sales, or more specifically rejection, personally.

Action Steps to Avoid Taking Rejection Personally

  1. Recognize that It's Never (or at Least Rarely) About You. It's about them, or their inability to understand the solution you provide.
  2. Even if They Make it About You, Remember Rule #1: It's not about you. Business is about trying to match people with solutions. Your solution either makes sense for them or it doesn't. Nothing personal.
  3. Distance Yourself Mentally. Recognize the difference between yourself and your role in the transaction.
  4. Don't Respond with Personal Attacks. When you are verbally attacked, just say, "we don't have a fit" and remove yourself from the situation. When you do that, you're essentially rejecting them.

It's Not About You

David: Okay, well, I'd start out by recognizing that it's never about you. It's about the solution. Never is a big word. We should probably never say never, right? It's rarely about you, but I think if you adopt the mindset that it's never about you, that's going to be a little more helpful to you. It's going to be a little safer. Now, again, if you're not doing things right, learn how to do things right first, (because maybe it is about you!) But assuming you're going in there with good intentions and you know what you're doing and you know what you're talking about. If somebody's obnoxious or they're really treating you badly, just recognize that is simply not about you. It's about them, or it's about their inability to understand the solution you provide. Second, even if they make it about you, remember rule number one, it's not about you, okay?

Some people are going to be determined to try to make you feel bad.

I don't know why. There are just some people that do that. Don't let it happen. It's not about you. When you're in business, it's about trying to match people with solutions. You have a solution. It either makes sense for them or it doesn't. They either realize it makes sense for them or they don't. It doesn't matter. If you can come to an agreement, you do business. If you can't, you don't do business and you move on to the next one. It's not an excuse to be poor or what you do, but remember that it's not about you. Third, distance yourself mentally. Recognize the difference between yourself and your role in the transaction. Maybe they don't need the product or service or even a sales person at this particular point in time. That has nothing to do with you as a person.

Responding to Personal Attacks

So if you're able to differentiate those things and recognize it's not about you, it's about your role as a salesperson or about their lack of need for the product or service you're selling, then at that point, it doesn't have to become personal to you. And finally, when you are attacked personally, don't respond with personal attacks. Tempted as you will be to do so and attempted as I have been to do so in the past, simply say, "yeah, we don't have a fit" and remove yourself from the situation. Because when you do that, when you're able to say, "you know what, it really sounds like we don't have a fit. Thanks a lot for your time." You're essentially rejecting them, but you're doing it in a nice way and you're getting yourself out of there, and you are shielding yourself from rejection by doing it preemptively.

Chris: And you're feeling better about yourself because you've taken control of that and said, "this is not appropriate for me" Boy, that is huge and moving to the next appointment isn't it?

David: I think so.

Chris: David. Blaise, -- if you, as the audience, want to find out how to create top of mind awareness and dominate your market, go to and you'll be able to set up a strategy session to find out how you can be better in your sales process. David Blaise,, thank you so much!

David: Thank you Chris.

The Next 90 Days

These are very strange times and it's likely the next 90 days in business is going to be critical for you. So if I offered to work with you, virtually, over the next 90 days to help you to minimize the short term damage to your business and position yourself perfectly for the long term as the go-to person in your market, while everyone else is too afraid to move, would you take me up on that offer?

It's important to understand that this is not for everyone. Specifically, you must be serious about doing what's necessary to grow and scale your business right now. This is what's going to help you to minimize short term damage and position yourself as the leader in your market during the recovery. You must be ready, willing, and able to invest in yourself, your business, and getting new clients. You must be willing to follow very specific instructions. You must be friendly and coachable. And, you must be ready to start now. This is not for those who want to "wait it out." If you meet all five of those criteria, schedule a one-on-one strategy session with us to determine if we're a good fit to work together. Please only schedule a time when you know you'll actually show up. Just go to that's

Whenever you’re ready… here are the five primary ways we help promotional product distributors:

  1. Just Getting Started? If you (or someone on your team) is just getting started in promotional products sales, learn how we can help.
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  3. Want EQP/Preferential Pricing? Are you an established industry veteran doing a significant volume of sales? If so, click here to get End Quantity Pricing from many of the top supplier lines in the promo industry.
  4. Time to Hire Salespeople? If you want to grow your promo sales by hiring others, click here.
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