This is not a "fire them" which would be the obvious case in a traditional situation. Think about it more like a training situation or even educational situation for a complete newbie who wants to learn and the employer is willing to develop this employee.

The particular employee, a girl, is brand new to sales. While she has done months of studying on her own time and reading sales courses and books, she is having a hard time emotionally with handling rejection. She gets extremely emotional and cries after a phone call, worse when she gets rejected, spends 30 minutes in the bathroom crying. She wants to grow, but is just having a hard time.

It is not due to personal issues in her life as I know her very well and see her 12 hours per day, and know her family and everything. this is issues with pressure and handling rejection. Of course it stems from deeper emotional issues but let's forego the "see a psychologist" answer. I'm looking for ways to help her directly.

After two weeks, most days, 0 calls were made. On only three days, 5 or 10 calls were made. The original goal was 100, lowered to 50, and even 25 calls per day seems unfeasible at this early stage. This is dismal and in a different situation would result in immediate termination. However, in this situation especially considering coronavirus, the employer is willing to spend some months to train and develop her personally emotionally and professionally to do the job.

What are effective strategies to help her deal with it and actually do the work instead of getting broken up and crying and not actually picking up the phone?


5 Answers 5


While you say this employee has read a number of books and courses, it's clear she hasn't truly internalized how many rejections you expect her to experience every single day. I would sit down with her and lay that out. Something like this:

It is so painful to see how much these rejections hurt you. I know you want to do this sales job. Here's the thing: our eventual goal for you is 100 calls per day. We can't actually do 100 sales a day worth of work. We are fully expecting that 90 of those calls will be an immediate no. Of the remaining 10, 9 will be a slow no, which are wasteful and expensive, and 1 will be a sale. That's the pace we want from you. You will be hearing 90+ rejections a day when you get up to speed.

Obviously this means you need to handle rejections more quickly and be back on the horse ready for the next one. Not today, but eventually. So rather than focusing on "I need to get better so that more people say yes" I need you to focus on "I need to lay out what we offer, find out if that's what they need right now, and if it's not, move on and get to the next call quickly."

When you have a 5 or 10 (or 1!) minute conversation with a lead like this, "hi, we do X" "sorry, we have no need for X" "ok, thanks, bye" there is no way the rejection is personal. It's not about the person who is calling or how well they described X. It's that this lead doesn't need X. That's not about you. There's nothing personal in it. The longer you spend trying not to be rejected, the worse you will feel if that lead just doesn't need our stuff, and also the fewer calls you will make per day. 100 calls a day is about 10 minutes a call. (The yesses take longer than the noes, but there are hardly any yesses.) There isn't time in 10 minutes for this to be about you in any way, and that's great -- better for you emotionally and better for getting the volume of calls made.

Then reassure her that the company is committed to this project over a period of weeks or even months, and nobody expects her to make 100 calls tomorrow or even this week. But that making shorter calls is better for her emotional well being. Encourage her to work on that specifically. Not on number of calls but on how long the call was and how long the recovery after the call was, and to work on driving both down. So a possible win would be "made 3 calls before needing a break to cry" or "made 3 calls in an hour even though I couldn't make any other calls that day."

It's possible no amount of training or coaching will turn her into someone who can be rejected 90 times a day. But at the moment it sure sounds like nobody told her that was part of the job.

  • Excellent post. She's definitely aware that the job entails rejection. She's talked about how she read how to handle it, but actually getting it in person was different than reading about it. Great ideas and this will help.
    – work
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 3:12
  • This is a great approach. Make success about the length and number of calls and not about whether she made a sale or not. Then getting rejected ten times in quick succession is a success, not a failure. You can always work on the actual sales technique later.
    – Kat
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 20:21

Fact is that not everyone is good at every job and not suited for every job. I would hate doing sales. I think i would be capable of doing the job, but I don’t think I would be good at it. Whatever, me working in sales would be a very bad idea. I wouldn’t be good at it, and I wouldn’t be happy.

Sounds like she is in a similar position. If she can’t get her mind to accept that rejection is normal - in some places making 100 calls and getting one sale is an excellent result - then she needs to do something different. This job just isn’t for her. She will be a lot happier and a lot more successful in a different job.

Take an accountant position. The complete opposite. Zero rejection. Needs being focussed and 100% free of mistakes. Considered boring by many, probably because it is. Not saying that’s her path, just an example of two different jobs requiring totally different characters.

  • +1000. I was in sales before moving to IT in the early 90's. Made really good money. Hated the sales process. So I made a career switch.
    – JazzmanJim
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 16:21
  • personally I love sales but it isn't everyone's natural talent. I also love IT. So, they are not mutually exclusive.
    – work
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 16:55

Sales is a rejection game - not many people can do it, and fewer can do it well. Keep her on track by reminding her that it's not a personal rejection that she's getting - it's a rejection to the company and/or the product. There can be any number of reasons as to why she gets the rejections; it comes down to a numbers game. For sales, I recommend a copy of 'How I raised myself from Failure to Success in Selling', by Frank Bettger. It's very similar to the situation she finds herself in. An old book, but the lessons are timeless.

  • weird, i am recorded as dv this answer, but i actually quite like it. cannot change my vote either!
    – bharal
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 20:24

I'm looking for ways to help her directly.

Keep paying her and giving as much positive feedback as possible. The rest comes with time, she'll either learn to cope on her own or not, but it's out of your role and potentially inappropriate to do more than that.

Resolving mental issues and therapy should not be attempted by non professionals. They can do more harm then good.

  • Right, I meant to help her be diligent and do the work instead of breaking down, not to do therapy. Nice thoughts and yes I think you're right positive feedback is good. I'm actually a very close friend so it is appropriate in this case to help her learn how to cope.
    – work
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 0:55
  • Another thing I was thinking was doing role playing calls on a regular basis to help her get adjusted. She has no experience at all.
    – work
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 1:03
  • 2
    She does have experience, 2 weeks, it's not rocket science. It's not the work that is the problem. You may be a friend, but don't become a crutch for her, that in the long run is not great for a career to start relying on others too much. Stunts the growth of self-confidence which is a salespersons biggest asset.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 3:42
  • 2
    +1 she will either learn to cope with it or realize that it's not a job for her. Being a crutch is not really helping with either.
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 11:09
  • 4
    2 weeks hardly counts for experience in any field. I wouldn't expect a new employee with no experience to remember where the restrooms are in two weeks let alone be proficient in their job. If you're expecting her to be a "pro" in two weeks than you're the problem.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 11:55

I love sales. Pretty much everything in life is sales - your job hunt, explaining your ideas at work, dating - pretty much everything.

The trick is not to view rejections as a problem, but as a milestone that must be reached.

For example, let's say I'm going for a job. It's not "oh no I got rejected I'm worthless", that's not going to get you anywhere. Instead, keep track of your ratio to rejections/interviews. You might tweak it a little (fix your CV etc), but that's your baseline. If you're getting one interview every 10 job applications, then it's not about getting rejected, but rather the current metric is i need to do 10 applications to get one interview.

There is no point sending out 8 applications in a day then - you need 10 to get an interview! And of course, then you keep track of interviews/offers, and from this you get the picture that to get one job, you might need to send out 100 applications.

Same for your sales staff - each rejection isn't a problem. Rather, it's just one more on the way to getting a yes and onto the next step. They're to be celebrated, not cursed.

  • Bharal, you know that, and I know that. Maybe the young lady herself knows it. It's of no help when it happens. You can't change your nature.
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 7:53

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