Question: Here’s an issue that I confront with my salespeople all the time: They are afraid to press for the next step, because they don’t want to experience the rejection of hearing a “no.” So, they try to keep the sale alive by not asking for resolution. This keeps them involved with customers who aren’t interested and prevents them from moving on. Any thoughts?

Answer: Great question. There are two issues here. First, dealing with the sense of rejection that very often comes with hearing a “no,” and, second, pushing for a resolution so that you don’t waste time with people who aren’t going to say “yes.”

Very few salespeople have such thick skin that hearing a “no” doesn’t bother them at all. On the other hand, having people say “no” to you is a regular part of the job. Given these two realities, that means that every professional salesperson, if they are committed to a career in sales, has to develop a strategy for dealing with the continuous stream of “noes” that comes with the job.

I’m not sure this is a training issue. I think it is a self-management challenge, in that, regardless of how sensitive and affected a salesperson is by hearing “no,” he/she still must develop his own means of handling it. Each salesperson can have a different strategy, but it is important that they do have a strategy.

It sounds like your people haven’t developed their strategies. It may be that they have never really thought about it. If that’s the case, then you have a role to play in helping them identify the issue and develop self-management strategies to cope with it.

It may also be that they are not really committed to a career in sales, and therefore see no reason to invest the time and energy in something so intimately connected with the job. You may want to bring these issues up with your sales force in a frank discussion at a sales meeting. It should go like this:

• Hearing "no” is a regular part of the job of the salesperson
• If you expect to be a salesperson, you will hear a lot of “noes”
• Therefore, you need to develop a self-management method of dealing with your response to “no.”
• Let’s brainstorm some ways we can do this.

Having given everyone the benefit of the doubt, you may still have some people who are petrified of hearing “no.” If someone consistently avoids hearing a “no” because they can’t deal with it personally, it may be time for that person to look for another line of work. You can help this person to recognize that via a one-on-one meeting.

In regards to the second issue, I’m of the school of professional salespeople who believe that it is better to hear a “no” early on in the sales process than it is to linger for months with uninterested prospects.

This is a training issue. That means that you can address this in a training session in which this concept is addressed, and various closing questions are created for different situations. Your sales force can practice those questions, and you can expect them to improve their performance on this issue, and hold them accountable for doing so.

This is one of those questions that lends itself to interaction from my readers. How about writing in with your answers to this question: What do you do to self-manage your reaction to hearing “no?”

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. A great source of specific tools to help you close is Dave’s book, Question Your Way to Sales Success. Check it out here.