6 Strategies to Immunize Yourself from the Sales “Rejection-Flu”



As the weather gets colder, the days get shorter—one other sure sign of the changing season is the flu. Offices are awash with red noses and kleenex tissues, and sales teams are catching the “rejection-flu” as they wrap up the sales year. If you’re a salesperson, this is the time for you to brush up on your preventative measures and keep your immune system happy, healthy, and fighting back.

What is the rejection-flu? It’s when you start feeling down from too much rejection—day in and day out. And for those who aren’t familiar, sales can be like asking someone on a date and being turned down over and over again. Imagine that as your job.

While you never fully escape the sting of hearing “no,” “no thanks,” or “I chose your competitor,” you do get used to it and you start to build up an immunity. But, like all immunities, it goes away over time if you don’t maintain it. If you go for a few weeks without hearing “no” or engaging in tough conversations, you’ll start to get soft and susceptible. Your immunity will drop and you run the risk of getting yourself and coworkers sick.

What are the symptoms of the rejection-flu?

A salesperson suffering from rejection-flu has unusually low confidence. You can hear the shakiness in their voice and see the defensiveness of their body posture. They’re engaged in negative self-talk like “no one would want to buy from me,” and they’re locked into this unrealistic belief that they or their product isn’t good enough. Here are some specific symptoms:

  • Feverish chills about getting on the phone
  • Negative coughs about their abilities
  • Rejection fatigue or taking the first “no” for an answer
  • Sore throat or a knot in their stomach
  • Runny questions or adding “tails” to their questions like “Do you see value? It’s totally fine if you don’t, but if you do, let me know…”
  • “Mind-reading headaches” from trying to assume they know everything

What can immunization do for me?

It pays to be immunized against rejection because it’s the only way to get to a “yes” and close deals. Rejection is merely a phase in the prospect’s journey and it takes, on average, 5 “no’s” to get to a “yes.” There are a myriad of possibilities for why someone would reject you and most of them have nothing to do with you, although you may feel like it at the time. They could be having a bad day, fighting with a significant other, stressed from obligations, or just plain old hungry.

A demoralized salesperson will think it’s their fault and won’t take “no” well. But once you’re immunized against taking rejection personally, rather than reacting defensively, you’ll become curious and start digging in to find out “why?” It may take encountering a few more rejections before you get to the bottom of things, but this process is absolutely the only way that you can do your job well. They say that the true selling doesn’t really begin until you hear your first “no.”

Want to close deals and get paid? Of course you do, so let’s start by getting you immunized. Here are six ways to build up your immunity to rejection:

1. Don’t procrastinate. If there’s a conversation that you’re dreading having because the client might say no, just get it over with. There’s a reason that this one comes first. Exposure to getting rejected is like diving off of a diving board—the longer you think about it, the more likely you are not going to do it. So get the bad stuff over with and you’ll soon realize that it wasn’t so bad after all. Don’t accept excuses from yourself, like “I’ll wait until the timing is right,” just get to it!

Create a routine to tackle those rejection-flu symptoms before they even begin. Make a few cold calls first thing in the morning. My routine is always the same: I get in early, read a chapter of Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman, write down a list of goals I want to accomplish that day, and then make a few cold calls until I connect with someone. I call people on my list, and it’s like ripping the band-aid off before thinking about it. Once I’ve connected and get a response, either positive or negative, I can breathe a sigh of relief and move on with my day free of the fear of people telling me no.

2. Be open with your team. If you think you’re getting sick of rejection, come right out and say it. Share your worries with the team instead of sharing your sickness with them. The flu is contagious and once a few salespeople in the office start feeling the symptoms, others will start to catch it. But you can nip it in the bud by telling your coworkers that you’re having a bit of a tough time and getting their thoughts and feedback. Sometimes talking through it is all you need to put you back on the right track. Give your team permission to stay on top of you to remind you what you’re fighting for if they hear you being negative or making excuses for not having tough conversations. A good team is a network that’s always picking each other back up. With a little support, you can skate right through the early symptoms without really getting sick.

3. Be prepared. A lot of times rejection protection comes down to simple preparation. If you dive blindly into a situation where you’re not sure if you’re right, but you need to convince someone else that you are, it won’t end well. Write out your argument ahead of time. Why should they buy? Why should they commit to a timeline? Practice it aloud, and then try to anticipate their responses or objections and write those down too. It’s a bad idea to script it out word for word; just have the key bullet points in front of you for the call. If you get lost, reference them. By having your rationale in stone, you’ll find yourself feeling much better to be able to carry the conversation in the direction it needs to go

4. Get curious. Get into the habit of answering questions with questions. This keeps you safe from responding flatly with “OK” to a rejection. Instead of accepting someone’s first answer, get used to digging deeper. Play the question game with teammates and get more comfortable coming back from questions or negative responses. You’ll find that if you can shift your mindset away from being offended at “no” to being curious, you’ll start uncovering the real reason the response was a “no.” Do this consistently and you’ll develop a toolkit of default responses to hearing “no” that become second-nature. Your anxiety will subside when you know that you’re better at dealing with these situations.

5. Avoid negative self-talk. If you’re already sick, this is the key step to recovery. Health and immunity are all based on your mental state and a negative narration going on in your head can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve heard plenty of salespeople say, “I’m about to call this vice president and she’s going to tell me no, I just know it.” Lo and behold, that’s what happens. Their negative self-talk set them up for failure. On that call they probably answered their own questions, like “You don’t need my service, right?”, rather than just, “Do you need our service?” Instead, guide them down the right path and give them a fair chance to tell you “Yes!” To get out of the negative mindset, simply step away from your work and take a break and do something that you love and are good at, and rediscover your self-worth. Savor it, then channel that in the office.

6. Find your totem. Find the thing that gives you confidence and keep it nearby. Maybe it’s having your significant other’s picture on your desk. Maybe it’s reading Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman. Maybe it’s Tony Robbins-style positive affirmations and beating your chest while whooping war cries. Or maybe, it’s this video by Nike. Come to think of it, there is probably a lot that salespeople can learn from professional athletes who, while often appearing wacky and superstitious in their pre-game rituals, know a great deal about preparing themselves before stepping into a high-pressure situation where potential defeat looms around the corner. They use totems or rituals to keep their spirits up and avoid getting sick with fear. Michael Jordan wore his lucky shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls uniform. See what thing on your desk can do that for you.

Beat the rejection-flu

While nobody likes rejection, it’s baked into your job and others have suffered it before you. Remind yourself that, ultimately, it’s building you up for much better things. Salespeople who go on to other roles have a massive advantage over coworkers without this experience. It makes you better prepared to ask for raises, and better at being yourself and putting your ideas out there. If you can make it through this rejection-flu season with these six simple steps, you’ll set yourself up for a great end of year, a happy holiday season, and a future that’s full of success.

I’d love to hear how you immunize yourself against the rejection flu in the comments below!