Why hearing "no" makes us feel bad, and how we can harness the power of rejection to improve our sales and ourselves.
The Problem of "No": Why Hearing It Makes Us Feel Bad
Got this from a gentleman that insisted dozens of times “talk to anyone here instead of me,” “I am not spending money,” and “I am not interested.”
"I'm good right now"
"I only like (trait/ethnicity/size)"
"I'm only here to drink."
"I'm just chilling."
One of the hardest and most unexpected parts of dancing is the constant daily rejection. There is no one in the industry that goes without hearing no over and over, with varying degrees of rudeness and directness. On top of this, avoiding this rejection only leads to more personal and financial difficulty.
If you've ever done any of these you can relate:
- Hanging out with customers for way too long without asking for dances or rooms, even when you feel like they will say no later on.
- Sitting at the bar or in the locker room waiting for it to "get busy" or for customers to "get ready."
- Crowding with large groups of dancers and avoiding client interactions.
- Waiting for customers to approach you instead of approaching them.
- And going home with less than you know you could have made if you'd talked to more people through the night.
So how come we manage to find a thousand ways to avoid hearing no, even thought it's always a part of the job??
We've Evolved to Hate Rejection
Rejection isn't just part of dancing; it's part of being human, and we have evolved to avoid rejection at all costs. This is because if thousands of years ago you'd lived in a small community that needed to stick together for survival, being rejected or picked apart could mean the end of your life. You probably interacted with only a few hundred people over your lifetime, so making sure you were accepted by all or most of them mattered deeply. Because of this need, you're literally hard wired to respond to rejection in the same way you respond to physical pain (https://ideas.ted.com/why-rejection-hurts-so-much-and-what-to-do-about-it/).
But you (hopefully) don't live in a small cave with fifty of your closest friends anymore. In fact, at any given night at work you will interact with dozens if not hundreds of people. Which means when you maintain the same approach that worked for your ancestors, you're only chemically reacting to the situation instead of evaluating it from your point of view.
From where you're sitting, rejection can be a useful tool to keep you moving on the floor. It can prevent you from wasting hours on customers that have no intention of buying, and put you in interactions with customers that want to spend on you. Rejection from one social group can put you closer to others that have similar interests and goals to yours. And learning to handle rejection can make you more resilient, gritty, and focused- traits that go beyond the club and that will keep you awesome long after you stop dancing.
We Take "No" At Face Value
Another component of how we process rejection is that when someone says "no" we actually hear "no."
We've been taught our entire lives that when someone says "no," they're actually expressing what they want and need to us. And since there's no training manual that teaches us how to move people from "no" to "yes," dancers leave untold amounts of money on the table by only following through with customers that are ready to say "yes" when we're ready to ask for a commitment on the first try. Just because a customer says "no" doesn't mean he's being honest and truthful with you about what he will need to get to a yes. That's the part you get to find out.
We Take "No" As a Personal Rejection
Dancing is unlike any other sales position because we do not sell a product that is separate from ourselves. Someone that sells vacuums can be a terrible salesperson and still go home at the end of the day and blame the vacuums for being a crappy product that no one wanted to buy.
But for dancers, drawing a line between who we are outside of work and what we sell when we go through the doors is almost impossible at times. On top of that, when we are responsible for selling our time, energy and looks, it's not hard to hear a "no" directed at our services and take it as a rejection of who we are.
So, how do get over these obstacles? and why shouldn't we stab someone with the sharp end of a Pleaser when they deny our awesomeness?
Productively Handling "No": A New Way To Think About Rejection
With a mindset shift, no can become your favorite word to hear at work. And no. I'm not kidding you :P Learning how to handle objections and manage rejection will propel you forward as a dancer and as an individual, but only if you drastically change your understanding of what this loaded word means.
If you hate hearing no, it's likely because of one of these three reasons. We're going to go through each one and break down how to rethink our baseline assumptions.
a. You believe a customer when he says no
b. You associate no with failure or with personal rejection
c. You've been taught that hearing "no" means you will make less money
What It Means When A Customer Says No
Let's assume that you walk up to a customer with a pretty standard introduction.
"Hi, my name is Carmen. And yours?"
"I'm good right now, thanks."
Well, damn. He didn't even introduce himself. He didn't even give you a chance to entertain him. That's shitty, right? From the perspective of a dancer, this dude seems like a total jerk off. But let's break down this scenario from the perspective of a customer.
Let's say this dude just flew into town. He's been in three different states this week, and it's only Thursday. His flight was delayed, and his bag got lost on the way in. The upgrade for his hotel room didn't go through, so now he's staying somewhere he doesn't want to stay at in a city he doesn't want to be at. He has to go into work early the next day, at a job he doesn't' want to do. And all he's heard all day has been "no." Can I get an earlier flight? No. Can I get a better room? No. Can I have a better job that doesn't have me out of town all week? No.
He goes out to dinner, has a couple of drinks, and then sees the sign for your club. Man, it would be great to have some company, he thinks. So, after traveling thousands of miles to get here and enduring his long day that will be followed by another long day, he pays the cover, buys the overpriced drink and sits down at your club. This is the first time he's gotten to take a moment to himself all day. And as soon as he starts to settle in, you approach him and immediately introduce yourself.
Of course he's going to say no right then and there! He's emotionally exhausted, probably afraid that you're going to give him yet another negative experience to tack onto his week, and he has no idea who you are. You're not a person to him yet. He doesn't know you, and doesn't know you're a professional, or that you're empathetic and kind and interesting and absolutely willing to provide an amazing experience for him provided that he can afford it.
Here's the thing: It's your job to get him to know you. As a dancer, you have to be ready to handle your customers when they throw out these objections, and the only way you will do that is the same you get good at anything else in life. Practice, repetition, and trial and error.
If he says no, here's some of what it could mean:
- I'm not ready yet. I need a few drinks and to get used to the environment before we start interacting.
- I don't trust you. Someone else has given me a negative experience, and I don't feel safe that you will treat me with respect and kindness. Can you earn my trust?
- I don't want to feel used. I know that you're here to make money, but I am uncomfortable feeling like a walking ATM. I don't feel appreciated at home, and I want you to make me feel appreciated here before I ever make a purchase.
- I didn't come here to spend money. Of course, every time I come here, I end up spending money. But I'm trying to tell myself that I won't this time. You could definitely convince me to spend money if you used the right tactic.
- I came here looking for someone else. It has nothing to do with you, I just enjoy the company of this type of person more, and that is the service that I would like to pay for while I'm here.
- I legitimately don't want to spend time with you. I either can't afford it, or don't enjoy getting dances or doing rooms. And I'm willing to endure constant offerings from dancers just to drink overpriced beer here. If we're being honest, I could still be convinced. But it's probably not worth your time to convince me.
There's probably dozens of other potential meanings out there, but the point is that as the entertainer, it's your job to figure out which one of these applies to your customer, and then to proceed accordingly!
We'll go over some exercises you can do to improve this skill, but the most important nugget to digest right now is that if all you hear is no then you're not getting enough information to move forward. Unless you're willing to stick it out through the "no" and find a way to continue talking to difficult customers, you're leaving money behind.
c. You Take No as a Personal Slight
We've all experienced personal rejection, and it sucks. Being told we're not good enough to make the team, not likeable enough to be desired as a partner, or not smart enough to get a gig has a way of really ruining the day. And if we don't think through workplace rejection, it usually gets filed under the same category as our personal failures.
The difference between the two is that personal rejection usually involves people you know and their opinion of you based on your actual or perceived behavior. Workplace rejection, at least up front, is based on your customer, not on you. Judging yourself based on the reactionary response of a customer is not only a deeply inaccurate representation of what's happening; it's also hurtful to you with no reward in exchange.
At work, you should actually be seeking out rejection, and looking for ways to be rejected more often. Don't believe me?
How many times have you sat with a customer for twenty, thirty minutes, even for hours, before they tell you they are not interested in paying you? If you've never done this, congratulations. But for most dancers, especially early on, it's common to hear complaints of customers that "wasted my time!" But be honest with yourself. If you didn't push the customer to make a decision, i.e., to potentially reject you, you were wasting your own time!
I'm not saying that you shouldn't give customers any of your attention; there are plenty of times when sitting with a customer and building rapport can translate into thousands of dollars. But to wholly commit to spending your energy and kindness on a customer without asking him to commit to compensating you is a recipe for burnout, exhaustion, and even more fear of rejection later on.
If you are able to come to terms with rejection as a natural part of the job, then you can spend your time improving your approaches, appearance, conversational and dance skills to increase how many customers buy from you; but you can also get rid of the ones that aren't interested in buying right now and move on to the customers that will. And that's when you'll really start seeing a difference in your earnings.
From Theory to Practice
Here, you might be thinking: easy for you to say, but how am I supposed to deal with rejection when it actually happens? It's fun to read about, but how do I move myself from taking rejection poorly to actually using it in my favor?
If you still have questions, read Handling Rejection: Strategies to Sell Past No. And as always, please let me know what you think below!