Speech: “Rejection, Perfection, and the Power of Perspective”

On October 23, 2017, I gave a speech to 800 sales professionals from the life insurance industry, on how to handle rejection. I was invited by the Life Underwriters Association of the Philippines, and gave the speech at the Grand Convention Center in Cebu City, Philippines.



Rejection is an unavoidable part of being in a sales profession, and as I had done sales for six years in Shanghai, I was able to put myself into the shoes of my audience.


Here are some key take-aways from my speech, titled “Rejection, Perfection, and the Power of Perspective”:


Part One: The Reality of Rejection

  • We often don’t see things the way they are. We see things the way WE are.
  • Rejection is part of life. You have to accept the concept of rejection, or you can start to hate your job, your career, people, even yourself – which is the worst. So remember that: Rejection is Part of Life.
  • Rejection is something that needs to be looked at logically, but even more important, unemotionally. Which is not easy to do. Because the first thing we associate with rejection IS emotion.
  • One of the major reasons that Rejection feels so bad is that it offends our sense of pride.But pride, i.e. arrogance, should never be part of your mentality as a salesperson.
  • If pride is a problem for you, there are a few things you must keep in mind to deal with pride:
    • First, keep in mind that you’re not God. People don’t have to obey you, and you are not so great and glorious that people have to do what you say. The world doesn’t revolve around you.
    • Second, don’t turn a rejection into a catastrophe. You’re not the worst salesman in the world because you got rejected. And even the best salesmen get rejected – sometimes on a regular basis.
    • Third, often our pride is mistakenly based on what we think others think about us. Don’t worry about what others are thinking about you, and don’t compare yourself to others. You’re not living THEIR life. You are living YOURS!
    • Fourth, remember that outside of your job, you are a customer too. You also reject people. You also say “no”. You, like your customer, have the power to reject. So when you are rejected, don’t feel powerless. You have that power too.


Part Two: The Perils of Perfectionism

  • As salespeople, we fall into this trap of thinking that every customer is a potential sale. This is good thinking in principle, but unfortunately it leads to a feeling that we can close every lead.
  • I once said to my boss, “I’m going to close every client this month.” He looked at me and said nothing – I think he knew I would have to learn for myself that Rejection was part of the job. Eventually, he said to me, “You can’t win ‘em all”.
  • No salesman closes every lead, no businessman closes every deal, no team wins every game.
  • On 26 occasions in his career, Michael Jordan was asked to take the game-winning shot, the shot that would win the game for the Chicago Bulls – and he missed.
  • But there is also the fear side. A fear of rejection leads to perfectionism. And perfectionism means paralysis. When you fear rejection, you are essentially expecting perfection — you are expecting everything to go exactly as you want it to.
  • And when you start to fear rejection, that means not making calls, not wanting to go to meetings — and ultimately, not making sales.
  • Whenever you feel that fear creeping into your mind, pick up the phone and dial that number. Send that email that you were afraid to send.
  • We must take risks in order to improve our lives. If you don’t take risks, you are not free — you are a prisoner of Fear.
  • Rejection is part of being human, just like the other bad and good things. Life is a mixed bag, full of bad and good.
  • But don’t forget all the good things in there. Joy, love, beautiful music, great food, all those things are part of the same bag that rejection is in.
  • To sum up: Rejection comes with the territory of being alive.


Part Three: Perspectives of Power

  • On the days when you’ve had rejections, when things aren’t going your way, remind yourself that you do a job which most people are too weak and too afraid to do, and which most people can’t do. If business was the military, you would be the brave soldiers on the front lines. And that’s why I wore my military boots today – in honor of you!
  • Secondly, I would like to impress upon you that a rejection is not a dead end. With some leads, yes, there’s no need to ever contact them again – they make it clear that they are not interested. But what I mean is that life often opens a window if it closes a door. Yes, you may have to look hard for this, but it is often there.
  • But also, rejection is often a way for us to assess our selling techniques and to improve ourselves.
  • I went to my first sales meeting and bored my prospect by telling her about all the features of my product, without telling her the benefits. No wonder I got rejected. But, being rejected helped me to become better at what I did.
  • Thomas Edison, the famous inventor, was having a hard time inventing the light bulb, when someone told him that he had “FAILED”. He replied, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Notice that he didn’t turn his failures into a catastrophe. He saw each of them as steps of the latter leading to success.
  • Another way to strengthen your perspective is to accept that customers, unfortunately, are human. They make mistakes, and they make bad decisions. Sometimes they have no good reason for not buying your product. They may be overreacting to some bad news they heard before, they may be having a bad personal day, they may be overly worried about personal finances. Or they are just not smart. Yes, customers can be unwise or just plain dishonest. (“Buyers are Liars”)
  • I’d like to emphasize the importance of maintaining a positive outlook on life. Your happiness does not come from external things. It comes from the outlook that you have on life. If you base your happiness solely on what happens to you every day, you will not be a happy person. Life is hard, life is difficult. Whatever life is, it isn’t meant to be easy. There are too many bad things that we face for us to base our happiness on what happens outside of our own minds.
  • So how to strengthen myself against feeling down after rejection?
    • Relationships (talking lets you “vent”): with co-workers, family, wife or husband.
    • Feeling in control: (remember that you DO have control over some things in your life – you are not powerless): your opinions, your mind, your judgments, tastes, interests.
    • Exercise (gives you a feeling of accomplishment): the benefits of exercise are 50% mental.
    • Accepting that every rejection is a new beginning, and that change is fundamentally a good thing.
  • Lastly, never forget that each of us here has been given so much. God has given us our health, the ability to walk, to see the beauty of the world, to hear music, to move. We have families, hobbies, so many wonderful things in our lives.
  • Are we going to let a little rejection bother us? Are we going to let rejection bring us down? NO.
  • Why? Because we are soldiers, tough, and ready to go out and do battle each day.
  • No one can bring you down except YOU


By Tom McKinley, author of Winning the Fight to Be Happy and Make the Right Decisions Early.

Website: www.tommckinley.com

Facebook: Tom McKinley Self-Help

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