Updated: Sep 9
In a previous post, I talked about making it a goal to get rejected at least once a day. I received a lot of messages and emails about that post. Apparently far more people struggle with this than I had originally thought and understandably so. Rejection sucks… no matter the form it takes, there is no question that no one thrives on rejection.
Many people will do everything possible to avoid rejection and some are so afraid of it, they will significantly limit any activity that opens up the potential for rejection from others.
Unfortunately though, by doing so they are limiting the possibilities in their life, their business, careers and relationships. Nothing risked, nothing gained… the same is true of rejection. If you don’t put yourself in a position to be rejected, you won’t see the gain from that new connection, new conversation, new client, partner or relationship.
I've Been Cold Calling for About 30 Years Now
I was first recruited into “cold calling” back when I was just 15 years old. I was working in a computer company east of Los Angeles and I thought for sure my future would involve engineering, designing and building computers, robotics or something similar. My first job was installing power supplies and other components into enclosures. I would go there every day after school and every weekend and I loved it. After about 2 months of this, one of the sales managers spotted me and wanted to know what I was doing. I told him all about this fantastic work I was doing and how much I loved it… he laughed and said, come with me, I want to show you something. I followed him upstairs to his office and what he showed me was a desk, a phone and a phone book sized directory. I was to call as many people in that directory as I could each day and try to buy any excess inventory of computer components that they might have.
I must have made over a hundred calls during the first week and was hung up on, cussed out in a couple of cases and was told, “don’t call back” by more people than I could count. This was really strange to me as from what I understood, I was doing them a service by potentially giving them value for outdated or overstocked inventory. But their reactions came off like I was doing something terrible.
Turn Frustration into Fuel
This was hard. Building computers, soldering electronics and assembling things had come easy to me, so why was calling people on the phone so hard and why was I getting such a negative reaction. I must be terrible at this. But because I am stubborn, actually very stubborn, I didn’t quit. I stuck it out for weeks and made hundreds more calls. In the end, I started turning the frustration from apologizing into being direct and assertive.
I was 15 and I sounded like it. I didn’t know what I was doing really and I sounded like it. I started to deepen my voice intentionally and speak with as much confidence as I could muster. When someone would snap back at my request, I’d calmly explain that they must be misunderstanding the reason for my call. I am calling to help them out, not annoy them or sell them something. I was offering a service and it was a valuable one. It worked. Maybe they just felt sorry for me but suddenly the person on the other end of the line said, “Ok, give me a number and I’ll fax over a list of some items.” We managed to strike a deal later that week and that was it. I had landed my first deal and I was hooked...for life apparently.
I got plenty more rejection after that day but it really didn’t matter any more. I knew what was possible. I knew that each day several people would hang up, several would get irritated with me and from time to time people would still yell at me and slam the phone down not matter how much I plead my case. I knew that was my reality and I didn’t hide from it. I embraced it.
I started each day knowing that several people would shut me down but if I stayed at it and didn’t quit I would find opportunities and make sales. I also knew that for every few people that turned me down, others would be open to partnering and working with us.
No Matter Your Role, Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone
In my 30 year career so far, I’ve never stopped doing cold outreach in any role I’ve held or any business, regardless of my position. I’ve learned to embrace the rejection that goes with extending myself and I’ve benefited countless times from the people that I’ve been able to connect with and do business with in one form or another over the years.
If you are a business development or other sales rep in the trenches right now, making cold calls, doing cold outreach on LinkedIn, sending emails into the abyss, you have no choice but to get over the rejection factor, or you end up just doing something else for a career. Maybe you justify it as a means to an end and hope that at some point your job will not involve accepting rejection on a daily basis. Maybe you just try to ignore the rejection and push forward. I would encourage you to instead, start seeking that rejection and seeking it every day. Put yourself in a position to be rejected multiple times a day and do it knowing that the inevitable result will be worth it. You will achieve more than your peers that allow rejection to stand in their way.
For the CEO’s, Business Owners and Solopreneurs out there, no one is going to tell you that you have to put yourself in a position to get rejected each and every day. It is not your job to cold call or do cold outreach. Certainly, you can rely on warm introductions and other warm connections to come your way. Maybe that is true but imagine the kind of progress you could make if you extended your efforts beyond the comfort of your immediate network. Imagine the possibilities. It might lead to your biggest opportunity for growth of your business or your best partnership or the next strategic move that launches your business to the next level. What do you have to lose really? If rejection is the worse case scenario and there is so much potential upside, what is holding you back?
I would encourage everyone, regardless of whether your specific role requires it or not, reach outside of your comfort zone and seek rejection, knowing that your next big opportunity might be just one more call, email or message away. The gain is worth the pain.