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The Green Sheet Online Edition

January 27, 2014 • Issue 14:01:02

Rejection: The self-fulfilling prophecy

By Benjamin Abel
Bank Associated Merchant Services

It was the fall of 1998, and Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa stepped to the plate. He was in the midst of a race against Mark McGwire to break the single season home run record, but his goal was in jeopardy. In the last few games he had been struggling. He had gone 17 at-bats without even getting on base, forget about hitting a home run.

Had Sammy gotten weaker or become a worse player? Doubtful. In big-league baseball a slump is typically a mental issue, not a physical one. It's not that the player is unable to perform in the way he once did, something psychological is preventing him from doing so. Maybe he blew a big game or struck out when he knew he could have played better – and he started to doubt himself when picking up the bat.

The MLS at bat

In sales, something similar can happen. You make a few calls, they all go terribly; then you reach for the phone and say to yourself, "This guy is probably going to hang up on me." And what do you know – that's just what he does.

Have you suddenly become a worse merchant level salesperson (MLS), unable to achieve even the most basic of commitments from a merchant? Doubtful. In sales, rejection is part of the process. For some salespeople, though, continual rejection can create a self-fulfilling prophecy with the potential to cripple production. Only by better understanding how you process and react to this rejection can you prevent it from making such an impact in your sales ability.

The science behind it

Humans are social animals, having lived in some form of tribes for our entire history as a species. Once upon a time, rejection from the group could literally have deadly consequences; being forced to walk the land alone held immediate risks. Because of this, our brains became hard wired to feel social and emotional pain as a true threat to our being.

A recent article in Psychology Today reported that rejection destabilizes one's feeling of "belonging to the group"; MRIs show the same areas of the brain becoming active when people experience rejection as when they experience physical pain. Even worse, the human brain catalogs social pain in a more retrievable way.

Think back to a time when you may have been injured, perhaps broken a bone or even just stubbed your toe. You can likely think to yourself, "Yep, that hurt." Now, consider instead a time you had your heart broken. You will likely feel an overwhelming tsunami of emotion come crashing over you, as though you were right back in that moment.

Misplaced blame

The same article reported that when someone experiences rejection, regardless of the actual reasoning behind the decision, the rejected party internalizes the blame. He or she views the act as a rejection of himself or herself as an individual, laying waste to the person's self-esteem.

The batter in a slump tells himself he is unable to hit a home run, even though he still has the physical capability to do so. This type of phenomenon was tested by participants in a speed dating experiment who were being rejected by insiders. The subjects would enter into a cycle of self-doubt as the experiment continued, with each following attempt made with less enthusiasm and a more sullen tone. Even after having been told the experiment was rigged, participants expressed that that knowledge did little to alleviate their hurt feelings.

So how do you, as an MLS, keep from withdrawing into a protective cocoon after you strike out five times in a row? Several things can be done, but it all starts with the outlook you bring to the situation. Every sale is unique and cannot be approached in the context of the ones before it.

In baseball it's called "Major League Memory." This means every time a pro steps to the plate he doesn't think back or consider any other time he's stood there. It's all about that one attempt, that one swing, that one sale. And if your confidence flags in that moment, you're soon out of the game.

A positive perspective

While it may be difficult to brush off past rejections and missed opportunities, you can take a few mental notes to reinforce a positive perspective.

First, know that when a prospect says no to you it is not a direct attack on you or your service. Also, if a merchant expresses a complete lack of interest on a cold call, it is usually just a knee-jerk reaction, similar to when you say no to food or drink offered at someone's house, even though you really could go for a bite.

Second, always remember that each sale is part of a much bigger picture. You will never get every person to buy from you, but with the right approach and confidence in your service you will find the right clients. It's just a question of getting to them. It may take two hundred phone calls in one day to get five people to sit with you, but if you gave up after the first 10 rejections, you would never have gotten a single yes.

Third, keep in mind timing can be everything. When merchants say no to you, they may actually be saying not right now. Even if a sale doesn't go through, never bury the lead or burn the bridge. Keep in touch, and follow up periodically to see if there may eventually be more potential to develop the relationship.

If you come from a position of value and integrity, there will always be opportunity on the horizon.

end of article

Ben Abel is Regional Director at Bank Associates Merchant Services. Since joining the team in 2006, he has risen through company ranks with a paradigm that his success was measured by the success of those around him. Ben is a dedicated and pioneering trainer whose methods of merchant services consultation have helped many agents expand their portfolios in terms of processing volume, deal count and profitability. He has been responsible for building many successful long term relationships with VARs, developers and accountants and is always looking for the next opportunity on the horizon. Ben can be contacted at 347-866-9571 or ben@bams.com.

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