How Social Selling Can Help the Psychology of Rejection

In Martin “Marty” Seligman’s autobiography “The Hope Circuit” he talks about “helplessness”.

Let me go back to square one.

The psychologist, Ivan Pavlov, did experiments on dogs, he rang a bell and then fed them. He did it over and over again, until all he had to do was ring the bell and the dogs would salivate. Thinking they would get fed. This means that dogs, and with experiments on rats, can be conditioned. Early on in Marty’s career he found that if you do experiments with animals to try and condition them, sometimes they often just give up, it’s what Marty called his theory of “helplessness”. In one example, dogs were given electric shocks and rather than do what was necessary to get away from the electric shocks they would just lie down. It’s a position that modern torture is supposed to re-create in humans. Not very nice, I admit, and what has this got to do with cold calling? In 1980, Marty attended a conference with a number of CEOs of Life Insurance companies, one of them was John Creedon the CEO of Metropolitan Life. John, explained his salespeople were quitting in droves and he didn’t know why. John hired 5,000 insurance salespeople every year, it cost them $5,000 to train each one. Half of them quit in the first year and 80% have quit after 3 years. What Marty found was that humans too suffer from “helplessness” which happens through humans keep getting rejection. As you can imagine the life insurance sales people and cold callers get enough of that. Maybe that’s why there is a whiff of machoism that covers cold calling. I’ve been told to “man up”, “stop being so weak”, it is people trying to bully you into their way of thinking by making you think you are less good as them.

Did Marty and John Find a Solution?

Well they did, but there was no magic bullet. Marty did a number of “experiments” on the Met Life sales people and found that “pessimists” we’re more likely to quit and “optimists” were more likely to make it. This research went onto experiments with the US swimming team, where again “pessimists” were more likely to give up and “optimists” more likely to strive harder. So much so that Marty actually found a way to predict basketball games by what the coaches said in the newspapers. What does this mean for us in sales? In the recruitment of SDRs or salespeople you can have a recruitment process that screens for optimism and pessimism and you can put your team through a process of “Positive Psychology” but people still have to deal with rejection and will still suffer from helplessness.

The Problem with Cold calling that Social Selling Cures

The problem with cold calling is it so terribly inefficient. You have to phone 100 people to have 10 conversations, where as with social selling you can find those ten people and have conversations with them. Our view is that social selling is ten times as efficient as cold calling, Tony Hughes (no relation) research says social selling is twice as efficient. Either way, cold calling means you are wasting time and the sales people are getting rejected, which causes helplessness and burn out. Here at Digital Leadership Associates (DLA) we teach people how to use their social profiles and content to filter out the people who won’t buy so you can focus on the people that will buy. Wasting time and effort on people that won’t buy seems a bad use of people’s time and company resources. Of course, you should be able to keep your SDRs longer and those that stay will be happy and more fulfilled. Related: Time for that Social Selling Competitive Advantage?