The 80/20 Rule, Rejection and Your Sales Figures

The Pareto principle, also known as the 80–20 Rule, states that, for very many events, approximately 80 per cent of the effects come from 20 per cent of the causes. In business, for example:

  • 80 per cent of your profits come from 20 per cent of your customers
  • 80 per cent of your complaints come from 20 per cent of your customers
  • 80 per cent of your sales come from 20 per cent of your products
  • 80 per cent of your sales are made by 20 per cent of the sales team
  • 80 per cent of your sales come from 20 per cent of the time you spend

It is those last two points that I want to expand on here…

I’ve been in sales for over thirty years now and I know that top salespeople (the 20 per cent of the 20 per cent) are amongst the highest paid people in the world.

I have also often pondered why it is that salespeople are able to earn so much and I believe the answer is two-fold:

Firstly, because until a sale is made – there is no income and no profit. No matter what genius or geniuses develop any product or service, someone usually has to sell it. More often than not it is a salesperson. So a salesperson is often valued as a company’s most important resource. If they are not – they should be – well good ones anyway.

Secondly, because salespeople and probably more so than any other profession, have to deal with rejection and nobody enjoys being rejected. Therefore the reason we can earn so much is to compensate us for what is often considered by most people to be something so very hard to deal with but what we inevitably must face from time to time. So if rejection bothers you, here are just three of my many thoughts on the subject…

One: Rejection never leaves you any worse off than you were before. If you have done everything you could have done and should have done, said everything you could have and should have said, asked all the questions you should have asked etc., then you are now better off. You have another prospect off your list that simply did not qualify for your product or service,  time and expertise, can be deleted from your prospect list and free up your time to concentrate on others who may qualify. That is a positive outcome. 

Two: If you analyse what went wrong on that telephone call or face to face meeting and possibly discuss the experience with your sales manager, your colleagues, your mentor or your mastermind group, you will learn something you can use in the future to overcome rejection. That is a positive outcome.

Three: A NO from one prospect will inevitably be followed by a YES from another sooner or later. So getting a NO is just another step nearer to a YES. If you know your ratios, which is a must do in sales (as in my book How To Double Your Sales), you will know just how much sooner or later that YES will come.  Another positive outcome.

That brings me back to the 80/20 Rule. Top salespeople invest at least 80 per cent of their time (NOT 20 per cent) doing the things that create sales which is usually prospecting, presenting and closing sales – all three areas being those where they are most likely to face rejection. The rest waste 80 per cent of their time doing the things that will not create sales and therefore avoid rejection.

If rejection is something that has bothered you in the past, I trust this article will help you face it and conquer your fears.


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