We’re all in the business of persuading people to do things–sometimes things they don’t necessarily want to do. Is your coworker really happy about picking up the slack while you’re on vacation? Is your sister genuinely okay with you borrowing her car for the weekend?
This means you’re susceptible to hearing no when you desperately want to hear yes. The good news is that there are proven things you can do to improve your odds of getting to yes. But first we need to get past your fear of rejection (not to mention its close cousin, objection) and push past the disruptive emotions it triggers.
Make no mistake: Rejection is incredibly painful. In fact, a 2011 study shows that social rejection can mimic physical pain. Here’s what that means for you: Whether you want to ask for a raise, court a new client, or convince another business to partner with you, you must learn how to anticipate this pain without letting it derail your efforts. You must learn to ask confidently. You must manage objections and rejections in a healthy way. Without these skills, you’ll find it difficult to make progress in your life and career.
Sales is the one profession where rejection happens on a daily basis. The top salespeople know how to control their emotions, reduce resistance to requests, turn around objections, and–ultimately–skip past nos and get to yes. You, too, can learn to implement these strategies to develop a thick skin. Here’s how.
Train for rejection like soldiers prepare for battle
When you put yourself in a position to experience rejection on a daily basis, you’re conditioning yourself to be comfortable with hearing no. This will make you more immune to fear, and you’ll also train yourself to condition your emotions better. If this sounds daunting to you, you can start off small. Force yourself to speak up in meetings, commit to calling one potential client every day, or approach higher-ups with new ideas when you get a chance. You’ll find that it gets easier with practice, and then you can start to put yourself in even more uncomfortable situations.
Visualize the outcome you want, not the one you don’t want
Your brain is hardwired to dwell on worst-case scenarios. This can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. After all, when you spend your energy thinking about all the bad things that might happen, you might trick yourself into thinking that success is not possible. Focusing on adverse outcomes can also paralyze you, and prevent you from taking the steps that are crucial for your success.
On the other hand, when you visualize success, you tell your mind how to act to make that outcome happen. Sure, imagining yourself landing a six-figure deal doesn’t guarantee it will happen. But as human performance expert Jack Groppel previously told Fast Company, when you visualize the process of getting that result (like sinking a put, rather than winning a golf tournament), you can learn to identify what’s in your control, and focus your energy on executing those actions.
Try “murder boarding” to prepare before you ask
If you’re seeking a promotion, the best way to prepare is to put yourself in your boss’s shoes. What hard questions might they ask? What objections might they raise that could kill the deal? How does your request factor in when it comes to their goals and priorities?
This is a technique that salespeople call “murder boarding.” By nature, negotiation is stressful–but if you anticipate objections and prepare ahead of time, you’ll be in a much better place to control your emotions. The fewer surprises there are, the better you’ll be at advocating for the outcome you want.
Seize the amygdala’s attention by disrupting expectations. When salespeople are seen as “boring,” prospects are likely to ignore them. That’s because as a survival instinct, the brain (specifically, the amygdala) focuses on disruptions, meaning anything new or different. So if you’re wooing a new client, for example, do, say, or even wear something unexpected. At the very least, you’ll grab their attention right from the start, and you can negotiate with the expectation that you’ll have their full attention.
Learn how to shut up and listen
Sometimes, salespeople will ask for what they want and keep talking. They think as long as they’re saying something, the other party won’t reject them. Don’t do this. Silence is more potent than desperate babbling.
People also fall into the trap of talking “at” people rather than shutting up and letting them tell a truth they may not want to hear. This is counterproductive. The other party isn’t going to change their mind just because you didn’t give them a chance to speak. But they might if you let them reveal what they’re really thinking, and you minimize those objections convincingly. If it turns out to be something that’s nonnegotiable on their end, you can save time and move on quickly.
Instead of an “all-or-nothing” question, ask for a micro-commitment
Getting what you want takes time. For example, say you met a VP of a company you admire at a networking event. It’s probably not the best idea to ask them for a job right away. Instead, ask them if you can connect over lunch because you want to learn more about their career journey. Then perhaps you can ask if you can sit in a sales meeting because you’re interested in deepening your industry knowledge. Later, you can offer your services as a freelancer for any upcoming projects they might have. When prospects consistently invest time, action, and emotion in you, there is a much higher probability that you will close the deal.
I’ve seen these tactics work for countless salespeople, and I’m confident that they’ll work for you, too. Remember, rejection is an inevitable part of life. The more nos you get, the closer you are to getting a yes.
Jeb Blount is the author of Objections:The Ultimate Guide for Mastering the Art and Science of Getting Past No.