A “no” is one step closer to a “yes”

A table with two pieces of paper sit in front of you. You pick up the phone and dial a number. “Hi, how are doing today…” “NO, THANK YOU!” [busy line signal]… You take the pen cross-out a line on the paper on your left and add a tick to the one on your right. Pick up the phone and dial the next number.

The difficulty in sales

The example above seams pretty dreadful to me to experience as my daily job. This is what some sales people do every day. Basically, they are being told “NO” (sometimes more than that) multiple times each day.

It takes an unusual person to do sales well and stick with it. It is extremely unnatural to be faced with constant rejections and to keep going.

The director of an american company doing life insurances says that from 60 000 people who apply for jobs with them, they carefully select 600. But by the end of the first year half of them quit. By the end of the fourth year 80% of them have gone.

On a daily basis these salesmen take “no” after “no”. They start each call positive, and end up receiving sometimes very angry responses and shouts. After a while they get discouraged. This leads to avoiding to do the next call and finding other things to occupy their time. It reduces their monthly earnings and they decide it’s time to quit.

The ones that succeed are the ones that do 10 calls every day, no matter what.

There is a statistic, a unwritten rule in sales that if you do ten calls one of them will be a sale. Obviously this is not a hard rule and sometimes you have to do 20-30 calls before you get 2-3 sales in a row. The point is though, that you have to keep calling.

The salesmen that don’t loose their motivation see each “no” as a positive event. It’s a reason to celebrate. They have made one small step toward reaching their goal of receiving a “yes”.

Getting through to doing your best

There is much to be taken from the salesmen’s example. Every difficult situation we meet provides multiple perspectives and each of those brings its own conclusions.

Most of the time you have two options. To get demotivated (or start going down that road) and sooner or later quit. To use the event as food for motivation, to turn it around and see how it serves you. The second is as much a perspective as it is a skill that you can train.

There is only one way to get to do your best work. You need to make mistakes, a lot of mistakes. You need to get rejected and receive criticism. There are no shortcuts to this if you really want to own, know and be part of that great work. It’s the same as the sweat that must be shed in a sport, to be come a master of it.

Work hard to produce a lot. Get through the parts where you make silly mistakes. That way you can get to the part where you make great things. Don’t be afraid to make the mistakes – yearn making them, because you know they are a stage in a bigger process that will lead you to fulfilling your potential in whatever you are doing.

The example with the sales company is taken from the book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E. P. Seligman.

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