From the March 2009 issue of Entrepreneur

Your ability to handle rejection and obstacles while selling in hard times really depends on your capacity to focus on the essential activities that help you stay in control. Here are three ways to deal with oncoming sales setbacks and negative situations:

  1. Keep your eyes on the oak tree. Re-establish your key sales goals, write them down and have them clearly in front of you every day. Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off your goal. A successful businessperson once told me that the biggest reason people fail is because they take their eyes off the oak tree. When he was young and plowing on his farm, he would never look down at the ground. Instead, he would aim for a row of oak trees and plow a straighter furrow as a result. If you look at all the adversities--a rock, a tree stump or a small ravine--you'll wander all over the place. But if you've got an oak tree in your sight, you'll get past the rocks and accomplish your goals.
  2. Combine deep learning with qualified activity. I can't think of two stronger activities to build your sales confidence. As we engage in learning--whether it's about our customers, skills or strategies--we increase our value and take our mind off the worries of what we need to do, focusing instead on the knowledge that will help us do it. Combining learning with qualified sales activity helps you shake off rejection more easily.

    When I'm customizing a seminar for a specific company, I often interview its top producers. If there's one statement most of them share, it's this: "I just see lots of people, and good things happen." Another common statement: "I make cold calls during the good times so the tough times aren't so bad."
  3. Falling isn't failing--as long as you don't fail to get back up. It's not just about the knowledge you gain from picking yourself up and trying a new strategy; it's also about the awareness that when you're trying to accomplish something challenging, bruises and difficulties are part of the game. When I first started martial arts training with a 6-foot bo staff, my teacher said I would get welts from whipping the staff and catching it under my arm, but eventually my skin would toughen up. It's the same with setbacks in the sales process. In the long run, the setbacks won't be as damaging to your confidence and won't deter you from getting back up and trying again. Many of my hardest deals came with a lot of obstacles. But those are what toughen up your skin and open your mind for the next round of challenges.