18. The Activist’s Need Not to Be Rejected

Why would activists make the mistake of addressing their needs instead of their customers’? First, because of the mistake I discussed in Chapter 9: thinking that the importance of their cause somehow nullifies the laws of marketing and sales. It doesn’t.

Second, because seeing things from someone else’s viewpoint is hard. It’s not as comfortable as seeing things from our own viewpoint.

Finally, we often focus on our own needs when those needs are highly compelling to us. One need in particular that compels activists and salespeople to act against their success is the need to avoid rejection.

Rejection is one of the most painful of human experiences, and many people go to great lengths to avoid it—even giving up on cherished business, artistic, romantic and other dreams. Rejection is an inevitable part of sales, however—and of activism. And I believe that fear of rejection lies at the heart of much of the ineffective activism we see around us every day.

A rejection-averse businessperson usually doesn’t tell herself she’s rejection-averse: she just never gets around to starting her business, or starts it but busies herself with “essential” non-sales activities. She forgets that sales is one of the most essential activities of all for a new business—and that, without sales, there can be no business. So, by not-selling, she kills her business.

A rejection-averse activist can make exactly the same mistakes: either never getting around to doing activism at all, or busying himself with activities other than selling. Or, he can spend much of his time “selling” to his colleagues: not the best use of his time, since they probably already agree with him, but at least it saves him from going out and talking to people who might reject him. This is probably the genesis of many a classic “echo chamber” problem where activists spend most of their time talking with each other instead of the people they are supposed to be influencing.

It’s understandable why anyone would be tempted to do whatever he could to avoid rejection, but it’s a temptation that the serious activist must resist. Rejection is inevitable in activism, so learning to handle it is an essential skill. Top salespeople have an almost preternatural ability to withstand rejection: it’s a cliché that, when you say “No” to one, what he actually hears is, “maybe.” The remaining 98 percent of us, however, must learn to deal with the pain rejection causes. Some techniques for doing that include:

• Having multiple sales going on at once, so that any one rejection isn’t too devastating.

• Remembering that the customer is rejecting the thing you are selling, not you personally.

• Being part of a supportive community that can help you cope with rejection when it occurs.

• Not being perfectionist, negative or hypersensitive. And not panicking. (See Part III.)

The best way to cope with rejection is to minimize the chances of it happening, and the best way to do that is to do your marketing and sales in a disciplined, professional way. That’s because, as you’ll learn when I discuss the marketing and sales processes in detail starting in Chapter 21, marketing and sales, done properly, “filter” the available customer pool so that most of the customers you come in contact with will be highly likely to buy. Your odds of rejection, consequently, are much reduced.

Before we get to the processes, however, I have a few final things to say about the Bitter Truths . . .