Expect to Win, but Be Unfazed by Rejection



Updated August 22, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Founding Sales: The Early-Stage Go-To-Market Handbook, a book by Pete Kazanjy. The most in-depth, tactical handbook ever written for early-stage B2B sales, it distills early sales first principles and teaches the skills required, from being a founder selling to being an early salesperson and a sales leader. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

In most of your professional interactions, you probably achieve some semblance of your goal most of the time, largely because you wouldn’t be engaged in the activity in question if you didn’t think you had a reasonable expectation of success.

This is definitely not the case in sales. You’re going to get shot down most of the time—you will not close the deal on that particular pass through the pipeline. For whatever reason: there won’t be enough budget, the timing will be off, the prospect will be happy with their current tools, a competitor will win the deal, the prospect will just disappear, and so on. It happens. Depending on your industry, and the point at which sales gets a prospect in the funnel, if yours is a new, innovative solution, a 20–30% win rate is solid.

The mindset change required to contend with this is the ability to hold what are essentially two seemingly opposed ideas in your head at once. You need to have and project full confidence that you’re going to win the deal but at the same time be unfazed when you do not. Being unfazed by rejection, and not internalizing it as a negative reflection on you or your offering, is key to maintaining the tempo and confidence required for sales success.

This is not to say that you should not learn from those losses; the reason for the loss should be recorded to benefit product iteration and also for reference the next time you engage with the account. Be intellectually honest about where the loss came from: Was it timing? Did you get beaten by a competitor because you didn’t follow up appropriately? Or because the product had a feature deficit? And make sure that the answer gets shared with others, so they don’t have to learn the same hard lesson you did by eating a loss. But after honestly reviewing and recording the loss cause, put it aside and move on. You should still expect to win the next one.

Record Everything—But Efficiently

As an outcome of sales strategies we’ve already covered—the sheer magnitude of professional interactions you’ll have and the importance of high activity—the reality is that you’re going to classify most of your opportunities as closed-lost. For that reason, a mindset of constant record keeping is paramount for success.

Previously, you could perhaps rely on your own memory to recall what it is that you were working on or what your last conversation with a given person had covered. No longer.

Instead, you need to admit to yourself that there’s no way that you can retain all this information, not just day to day and week to week when dealing with your current pipeline, but month to month and quarter to quarter as you revisit and resurrect previously closed opportunities. On my sales teams, we call it “setting future-you up for success.” When you come back to look at this account in a week, month, or quarter, what information will you wish you had? Record that now while it’s available, and make the ephemeral permanent.

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