Sales is a difficult role, I would argue the most difficult role, in any company.  The skill set and mind set required to be successful is rare in the general population.  Yet, strong salespeople are out there and hopefully on your team.

However, most teams that we assess have a salesperson (or more) who is not performing up to expectations.  This salesperson seems to have the tools, but something is holding him or her back.  The concern I always have, in this situation, is that they possess the most dangerous sales weakness.

Fear of rejection.

For sales, this is the big one.  This weakness can single-handedly neutralize any strengths the salesperson possesses.  The powerful issues with this weakness is that it can stop the salesperson before they even start.  Their fear of getting a “no” will paralyze them in difficult situations.

The key is simple, yet utterly difficult to overcome.  The salesperson must learn to separate their value from their performance.  Imagine an actor playing a role in a movie, the actor’s portraying someone else (i.e. a performance).  Sales requires a similar mindset – it is a performance that does not tie directly to their value.

I know, we want genuine salespeople, not fakes.  The separation of role vs. identity can be achieved while still maintaining an authenticity to the sales role.

The best advice I can provide – assess for this ability before you hire them.  We can help.

Good article here from titled Reject Me, Please.  Handling rejection just may be the most important trait of any strong salesperson.  Rejection is the key differentiation between sales and all other positions.  Salespeople have to be able to handle this topic well.

Excellent sales people realize it’s about the products and service, and not them. They may have represented the product poorly and answered questions about the services ineptly, but nonetheless, the opposition is about what’s being sold, not the seller. This ability to distinguish between the purveyor and the purveyed I call Separation Clarity.

Well stated and I am now a fan of the phrase “separation clarity.”  I tend to tell salespeople that sales is what you do, it is not who you are – almost like an actor in a play.

Here is the reason why this separation is difficult for many:

Successful salespeople have support networks. They do not rely on random others’ feedback, or approval, or validation, or even communication. They know who they are and are bolstered by their loved ones, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances.
      Personally, I’ve seen very few top salespeople who don’t have great loves in their life, or close friends, or family of some kind. Thus, this is the Appropriate Love Factor. You don’t need your prospect, client, or buyer to love you.

Exactly.  Too often salespeople confuse rapport with relationship.  The need is to establish rapport with the prospect and earn their respect.  It is not wise to target a personal relationship with a prospect since that approach is what leads to the difficulty in handling rejection.

Notice I wrote “prospect.”  Close relationships can develop with customers over time, but that should not be the salesperson’s motivation.

Persuasion is a key ability of any successful salespeople.  Think of the worst car salesperson or door-to-door salesperson you have encountered and you will know why this ability is so critical to success.’s article – How persuasive are you? – interviews an individual who runs the Persuasion Institute who brought up this fine point:

Let’s take, for instance, how we handle objections, whether from a customer or some other audience, such as a boss we’re asking for a raise. Early on in life, we learn to perceive objections as opposition, so we get defensive. An unskilled persuader, often without realizing it, will show tension, uneasiness, or irritation when someone raises an objection, usually because the objection or concern stirs up the persuader’s own insecurities: “Aren’t I doing a good enough job explaining this? Didn’t I go over that already?” This way of thinking will only make matters worse.

By contrast, great persuaders who have learned new persuasion skills know how to welcome objections. Instead of seeing them as opposition, these persuaders see objections as a natural, and valuable, part of the process. They use their audience’s concerns as a way to open a dialogue, a chance to exchange ideas and discover new areas of common ground. Truly great persuaders may cut to the chase by addressing an objection before it’s even been voiced, just to get that communications ball rolling.

I say that is a fine point in that how salespeople handle rejection is key to their success.  We often discuss what traits are most important in sales and I think I would vote for handling rejection.  I think it is, in simple terms, the key differentiator between high-performance sales and mediocrity.