From the February 2001 issue of Startups

What's keeping you from picking up the phone and calling that prospective customer or investor? What makes you sweat bullets and stammer as you start a sales presentation? What causes you to sleep in, when you know you should be attending a networking event that morning? Come on. You know what I'm talking about. You're scared.of being rejected.

Look, it's OK to admit it. The fear of rejection is a natural feeling, and all successful entrepreneurs experience it at some point. That's because we naturally long to be liked and accepted. We want to know our ideas and actions merit favor from important people. So we fear the "what ifs"-you know, what if they say no!


Sean M. Lyden is the principal and senior writer of The Professional Writing Firm Inc., a Kennesaw, Georgia, company that specializes in ghostwriting articles. Lyden writes frequently on motivation, management and marketing issues.

Get Over It

Clay Sills, 31, can relate. Sills' first start-up didn't fly-and he acknowledges that his fear of rejection was a key inhibitor. "You start worrying that people don't want to talk to you-that people won't like your product," says Sills, whose new venture, Atlanta-based online learning company Tcert Inc., has attracted more than $2 million in funding and employs more than 30 people. "And then you get that sinking feeling that you won't be able to address their objections." As a result, no matter how well you know your business, you come across as lacking confidence in your product or service-sabotaging your efforts to sell.

If you find yourself consumed with the fear of rejection, how can you get over it-today!-to increase sales, improve recruiting or land new funding? We've got four strategies.

1. Count the cost. You want to call the shots, earn unlimited income and set your own schedule, right? Then you can't afford to fear rejection. If you find yourself terrified of making the phone calls you need to make in order to land new customers or employees or to secure new funding, ask yourself, "Am I willing to give up my dream for this fear?" The answer to this question should motivate you to make those phone calls.

2. Tap your killer instinct. "I think to myself, 'I'm doing this to beat my competitor-to get bigger, more successful,' " explains Sills. "If beating someone weren't important to me, I wouldn't be able to put enough into [my business] to win."

3. Affirm rejection. "Don't look at any single episode as 'defeat,' " advises Sill, "but as a way of finding out what you have to do better." Tom Hopkins, in his book, How to Master the Art of Selling, suggests repeating the following five affirmations, which he calls "5 Attitudes Toward Rejection."

I never see failure as failure, but only as a learning experience.
I never see failure as failure, but only as the negative feedback I need [in order] to change course in my direction.
I never see failure as failure, but only as the opportunity to develop my sense of humor.
I never see failure as failure, but only as the opportunity to practice my techniques and perfect my performance.
I never see failure as failure, but only as the game I must play to win.

4. Make it a game. Create your own daily challenge. Identify the activity that intimidates you the most, and make that your top priority for the day. Then do it! It's kind of like riding a bike for the first time. You're scared to death of falling-then you fall, but you get up thinking "Man, that wasn't so bad!" From that point on, you're a daredevil. Take the same approach with your business. When you confront intimidating situations head-on, you'll find yourself feeling more and more confident.

ResourceGuide

Need more help overcoming your fears? These articles might help.
It's Just Emotion
Getting Past No
Attitude Adjustment