rejected-salesThere are few things that sting more in sales than unexpected rejection. If only prospects knew how much we put into closing deals and meeting their needs.

The roller coaster of emotion starts when you uncover a good fit and start to hear buying signals. It creeps up fueled with adrenaline as you work the deal with the urgency of the hunt. These guys just might be your ticket to a great month/quarter/year, a big payout, lots of recognition, and that top-performer status (and heck, perhaps even that new iPhone).

After all that, though, there are times when you find out your hard work was all for naught, as you get that short email or phone call out of left field -- the quick, casual blow-off that is utterly soul-crushing.

Can anyone relate? After someone steals President’s Club from you, it can be tough to end the relationship on good terms. Once the sting of that rejection fades, though, you remember you are a true sales professional and that time is your most valuable commodity. A-players are nothing if not resilient and will turn even the toughest rejections into a learning experience to improve their craft. Here’s how you can do just that.

Bow Out Gracefully When Rejected

If the company you were prospecting was truly a great fit, they will likely come back to you in the future. Once you've done everything you can to save the deal, simply thank them for their time. Ask for permission to stay in touch and put them on your quarterly touch list.

Each time you reach out to them in the future, lead with an interesting tidbit aligned to the goals and challenges you uncovered in the sales process. Earnings reports, LinkedIn, their company website, and a simple Google search are great places to get relevant information. Nothing feels better than a bluebird, and these guys might just be yours in the future.

Ask Prospect for Referral

You have earned their respect by running a great sales process and the right to ask for something in return. If they are a fantastic fit for your product or services, they likely know other people who are as well.

Warm referrals are a great way to fill your pipeline and tee up a great first conversation. You already know quite a bit about the new prospect based on the time you just put into the previous deal. Kicking off a call with “I work with companies in X space and they commonly have challenges A and B. Are you dealing with those as well?” is a premier way to establish yourself as a trusted adviser from the get-go.

Use Experience to Awaken Old Pipeline

Spend a few minutes sifting through your closed lost deals to find prospects in a similar industry, job role, or business need.

Reach back out and lead with something like, “Mr. Prospect, I recently spent time with a company that shared a similar business challenge. They had a unique approach to solving it that I would love to share.” There could be some real quick wins here by approaching old leads in this manner.

Take Time to Improve Sales Process

Failure doesn’t happen in a vacuum -- we always play an active role. What signs could have tipped you off earlier that you might lose this deal? What questions could you have asked that you didn’t? What verbal cues did your happy ears ignore? Put ego and circumstance aside and ask the prospect for candid feedback.

Ultimately, the only true thing that can take the sting out of rejection is having a robust enough pipeline that it isn’t smoked by one loss. It's time to bounce back, hit the phones, and do what you do best. Time is always better spent finding a great new fit than commiserating about a loss.

Alexandra Curtiss is a Partner Strategist at HubSpot and a seasoned top-performing sales professional.

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Originally published Nov 6, 2013 9:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

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Grit in Sales