Common sense and research agree that resilience correlates with sales success. But most of the professionals I coach believe that they are resilient (even when their assessment report says otherwise). Is everyone equally resilient? If not, then how can you tell whether a salesperson will demonstrate resilience that leads to consistent high performance?


“…most of the professionals I coach believe that they are resilient

(even when their assessment report says otherwise).”


There are three ways that resilient salespeople are different from their less resilient peers. The first one is obvious (and you’ve already thought about it). The second is less obvious. The third difference may surprise you.


How They Handle Rejection


Resilient salespeople differ from their peers in how they handle rejection in the field. Since this point may seem obvious, let’s dig deeper to see what actual behaviors change from low-resilience to high-resilience.

Low-resilience: Sales person begins to avoid prospects, procrastinate on follow up, and take the rejection personally (as evidenced by depressed mood). In addition, the sales person transfers that rejection to future calls with other prospects and begins to expect rejection. This leads to a downward spiral of procrastination and negative expectations that become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Medium-resilience: Sales person physically bounces back from rejection. There is no visible evidence of slowdown or avoidance, possibly because the individual is highly self-motivated and able to push through. However, internal personal beliefs may start to change. There may be a forced smile and firm handshake, but the sales person’s confidence is eroding. This will come out in behavior later on unless the person experiences significant success that re-sets their internal beliefs.

High-resilience: The highly-resilient sales person not only stays engaged and motivated in pursuing other prospects, he or she is also not threatened by the process of self-reflection and learning from the rejection. Since their internal beliefs are securely grounded (and not susceptible to rising or falling with this month’s numbers), they are able to objectively identify mistakes (Was the prospect not properly researched and qualified? Did they skip a step in the process? Does their presentation needs polish?).


How They Handle Complaints


Highly resilient sales people respond differently to negative feedback from clients and prospects. Instead of becoming defensive, they ask questions to clarify the client’s complaints and keep the client’s needs and satisfaction as a top priority. A highly resilient sales person is not intimidated by attacks or complaints that seem personal. Their resiliency can even lead to a stronger relationship with the client, who now feels heard and valued. The low-resilience sales person will defend himself, avoid facing the client, or even argue with the client.


How They Handle Corrective Feedback


When most people think about sales people being resilient, they think of external rejection. But resilience is needed for internal work relationships, too. If sales people are like athletes, then sales managers are like coaches. A coach has to show you what you’re doing wrong so that you don’t make the same mistake on the next play. A coach sometimes has to get in your face or kick you in the rear.

Many sales people are independent by nature and have high ego strength. But if they are not also resilient, they may respond negatively by bowing up in self-defense, arguing back, getting mad, avoiding the manager, or just plain ignoring the feedback.

A salesperson with high resiliency can handle corrective feedback, process it thoughtfully, and respond by making necessary behavior changes to be more successful.

Sales is a demanding, high-pressure environment. Think about whether you have the time and money to build up someone’s resiliency after you hire them. It’s better to hire candidates who have already developed resilience. We recommend and sell the SalesMax instrument to accurately measure resilience during the interview process.



Fundamentally, resilience is measured by two factors: 1) what I believe about myself after having a negative experience, and 2) what actions I choose to take next. By that measure, how resilient are your sales people today?
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Dr. Shero believes that leadership can be learned and that the best organizations intentionally develop leadership at every level. Leaders have the privilege of influencing other human lives for the better. That's why Phillip cares so much about learning to lead well and helping others do the same.

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