I found myself in an impromptu coaching session with my 12- and 14-year-old sons last week that had me reflecting on chats I regularly have with (slightly older) branch bankers. In this case, we were standing outside of a grocery store to sell fundraising coupon books for their Boy Scout troop.
I smiled while thinking of how certain challenges stay with us from childhood and throughout our careers.
As I helped them set up a small card table, my younger son wanted to move it as far back as possible, against a display of ferns. I suggested, "We're not here to build a duck blind. The goal is for people to actually see us." Once we had our posters taped up and a big American flag propped behind us, we were ready for action.
Or so I thought. As I prepared to step away, my older son said, "Uh… I don't think I want to do this." The younger quickly agreed with him. Truth be told, it was nice to see them in total agreement on anything. But this wasn't the kind of brotherly accord I was looking for at that time.
When I asked why, my younger Willy Loman explained, "If we try to sell them things, we might bother people."
I kidded, "You guys bother each other all of the time. You're good at it." Both then admitted that what they were really nervous about was getting face-to-face rejections.
I then said with a serious voice, "You don't like rejection? It hurts your feelings? Well, you know what that makes you?" Before they could mumble whatever was going to come out of their mouths, I said, "Normal. That feeling is 100% normal. I don't like rejection either. Nobody does."
After accepting that and recommitting to give it a go anyway, we quickly covered a few Sales 101 basics similar to things I've discussed with thousands of branch bankers. To begin with, their product was a good one at a fair price. They weren't cheating anyone. There's power in selling with a clear conscious.
Second, somebody being uninterested wasn't a personal insult or poor reflection upon them. Heck, most folks' go-to response to hearing, "Hi, would you like to…" is "No." It doesn't make them or you a bad person.
Third, facing rejection is the price to be paid for sales success. That's just how it works. Folks who are willing to pay the price tend to eventually succeed. Those who aren't usually won't.
Over the course of three hours (Is there a "good dad" merit badge?), I had in-store bank branch flashbacks as I worked with them on where to stand, smiling and making eye-contact, how to show politeness when instantly rejected and gratitude when folks stopped and gave them the time of day.
Maybe most importantly, I stressed how important it was to learn to laugh a little when things don't go as you'd hoped. Humor beats commiseration any day. They got a few laughs hearing some of my personal stories of rejection.
Over two decades and 46 states, I've had the opportunities of being rejected on far grander scales. I joked, "You guys get to be turned down 10 minutes from our house. Heck, I've flown all across the country for the opportunity of being rejected!"
I knew it was sinking in when, after one rejection, my younger son walked back chuckling, "Wow, she didn't even let me get a word out. I must remind her of someone she hates." Without missing a beat, his older brother quipped, "Nah. It's you." I stepped back as they laughed and decided who would approach the next customer.
No, they weren't especially well-organized or locked in on best practices. But they were having fun and not dwelling on the negatives. We were smiling, having conversations, and meeting folks. And I'd be willing to bet they generated the first smiles some of those folks had on their faces all day.
And they got progressively more comfortable and effective speaking to folks as the day went on.
In the end, the boys heard "no" far more than they heard "yes." And that's just as was expected. But they heard yes enough to sell out their entire inventory.
It's quite likely that you and/or your top performers have "failure stories" (most are usually funny with the passage of time) that would be every bit as inspiring for your teams to hear as success stories.
Show me the most successful sales professionals in most businesses, and I'll show you people who have heard some version of "no" far more than their peers.
In a competitive, increasingly commoditized industry, most of us will be in "sales," regardless of what the titles on our cards say.
The best sales folks realize rejection isn't necessarily a sign that they're bad at their jobs, but instead a sign that they are actually out there doing their jobs.
Are you and your team doing yours this week?
Dave Martin is an executive vice president and chief training consultant at NCBS, a SunTrust Banks Inc. subsidiary that offers consulting, training, design and construction services for retail banking programs. He can be reached at email@example.com.