Steer Clear of the Rejection Trap

How you handle the deals that go awry can determine your success in real estate.

May 1, 2005

Rejection might be a part of selling real estate, but top practitioners say a sales professional’s ability to gracefully weather the emotional highs and lows can mean the difference between success and failure.

David Thomas should know. During his first six months selling real estate, the sales associate with Century 21 Bundesen in Petaluma, Calif., watched his first seven deals go sideways.

Gaining the dubious distinction as the salesperson with the most consecutive canceled transactions in the history of the company could deter some, but Thomas is still selling homes five years after a tough start. And his record? It still stands.

“The sooner you can accept the fact that you’re not going to get every listing every time, or get only one offer accepted out of 10 you submitted, the more balanced you will be,” Thomas says.

Don’t Assign Blame

In a tight market with fierce competition, no real estate practitioner can avoid rejection completely. To combat rejection, broker-associate Carol Fontana, ABR®, CRS®, director of training for ERA Boston Real Estate Group, says big or small, focus on the victories and don’t blame yourself. “Sometimes it’s not your fault,” Fontana says. “It’s just a matter of personalities not clicking.”

Melody S. Roloff, LTG, a sales associate with Carlson GMAC Real Estate in Woburn, Mass., says some people allow rejection to eclipse everything else. “And in the meantime, the rest of their business is going by the wayside,” Roloff says.

Acceptance is important, but motivational speaker and sales coach Joeann Fossland, CEO of Advantage Solutions Group in Tucson, Ariz., says attitude is everything.

“Life is too short to perfect your weaknesses,” Fossland says. “What you focus on expands. If you focus on what didn’t work and the rejection, it just spirals down your attitude and your energy. So focus on what’s working, and put the rejection in perspective. It’s just a part of the whole.”

To reinforce this affirming ideal, Fossland encourages sales professionals to make a short list each day that reviews what worked, recognizes improvements, and celebrates successes.

Look at Your Part

Thomas requests honest feedback about what he could have done better from potential clients. He also goes one step further and asks listing agents, brokers, and peers for constructive input. Although sometimes difficult to listen to, Thomas says, the truth is always worth hearing.

For Bob Falter, sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Trust in Worcester, Mass., the truth is worth seeing. During 20 years with the military, Falter conducted an “after-action report” at the end of every project.

“The main objective was to review all the positives and negatives that occurred before, during, and after the project,” says Falter, who retired from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps in 2001.

Today, Falter uses the same written process to dissect every real estate transaction, document his strengths and weaknesses, develop new selling strategies, and deal with rejection. He recommends the approach for sales associates and their managers.

Prepare for Rejection Roadblocks

Because reluctance comes in many forms, an analytical approach is not always best.

Scott Singleton, GRI, a sales associate for Preston Carlton Real Estate Services Inc. in Cedar Park, Texas, says top salespeople pinpoint real issues and deflect common objections with hard data, information, resources, and personal resolution.

“Top achievers in real estate treat rejection in their work like they treat every rejection in life—dig in and keep working to get it done,” Singleton says. “Many times, you’ll work it out and get done what you need to accomplish just because you were willing to put out a little effort and not give up.”

Like Singleton, Nina Hicks, ABR®, a sales associate with Realty Executive Forum in Scottsdale, Ariz., believes overcoming rejection requires education.

“My experiences have taught me that if you do your homework in a timely manner, 98 percent of transactions will have positive results,” Hicks says. “So learn the red flags from the onset. If you're new in the business and don't know what red flags to look out for, hang out with the experienced. And do the research needed on your buyers, sellers, and the properties at hand.”

Dare to Share

But when knowledge fails and rejection stings, Fontana says sharing feelings of rejection with other real estate professionals can put the business in perspective and minimize self-pity, insecurity, anger, and envy.

When sharing war stories, Boyd J. Campbell, GRI®, broker-owner for Century 21 Home Center in Lanham, Md., cautions salespeople to focus on positive examples and avoid the negative side of things.

“We need to accept the fact that losing opportunities is part of the journey to winning,” Campbell says. “Too many times, I see a seasoned practitioner winding down their career paint such a bleak picture of the business to a new salesperson that it saps the new salesperson of their enthusiasm.”

For Marilyn Urso, CRS®, GRI, broker-co-owner of Long Island Village Realty Inc. in Syosset, N.Y., addressing rejection takes a two-step process. First, find a quiet place and write a letter to the person who rejected you. When finished, just say “next” and move on to the next customer or action on your to-do list. Sending the letter isn’t critical. Urso admits most of her letters end up in the paper shredder. “The idea is to let go of what you’re feeling and get closure,” she explains, “not necessarily to have the last word.”

Take a Step Back

Still, not every rejection can be vanquished with a well-turned phrase and a paper shredder. Faced with a hard loss and ensuing feelings, Fossland recommends a time out.

“Just taking four or five minutes to close your eyes and breathe can bring you out of that reactionary mode that’s full of emotion and take you back to a place where you’re centered and can make better decisions,” Fossland says.

John D. Youker, ABR®, broker and senior-associate partner for Keller Williams Results First Realty Inc. in Dayton, Ohio, advises a 24-hour recovery period to regroup and prepare for the next challenge.

“If something bad happens, I go out on the stream and fly-fish for a couple of hours and put it behind me,” Youker says. “You can worry about what hurt you yesterday or focus on what’s going to pay you tomorrow and move forward.”

Thomas agrees. “Things happen,” he says. “Clients change their minds. Inspections turn out worse than you expected. Houses don't appraise. And loans fall through. But as long as I'm confident that I've done everything I can to the best of my ability, I can move on to the next opportunity with confidence.”

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