We all talk a good game when it comes to welcoming criticism. But the reality is that no matter who delivers the message, we rarely take it well. In a group setting, we get some comfort if the critic is surrounded by our strongest advocate, hoping they may silence an otherwise unwelcome outburst.
Mike Gerhardstein, the man I consider my mentor in sales, once told me a proverb about donkeys that helped me overcome someone's unwelcome criticism. Although I have seen this in various forms, the way it was told to me was, “If one man calls you an ass, pay him no mind. If three men call you an ass, look for tracks. If five men call you an ass, you better shop for a saddle.”
And so it is with the way I look at criticism. If the frequency of the observation is high and consistent, I better come to terms with it quickly. However, if it’s few and far between, or the source stands alone, then I revert to “…pay him no mind.”
Where this tends to come to a head in sales is the rejection from the buyer of what we have to sell. It’s easy to take it personally, as a reflection on us, the person. When I recorded the podcast “When faced with sales rejection, don’t take it personally”, much of that segment focuses on isolating why the sale or product was not being well-received (by the buyer) versus a reflection on someone’s character.
In your sales presentations, find ways to offer attendees the opportunity to find fault in your work. Listen carefully to what they have to say, and reflect on their challenge before you respond. Rather than retreat from a critic, you should give them every opportunity to come forward; usher them to the front row.