The Art of Accepting Feedback

As human beings, our fear of rejection stems from our evolution. However, if you do not face your fear of rejection by asking your clients for feedback, you could be leaving money on the table.

The Challenge of Accepting Criticism

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my career so far is the art of accepting feedback. Critical opinions of others can be particularly difficult to hear. And as human beings, it’s in our nature to desire love and acceptance and fear rejection.

The truth is, often co-workers, colleagues, managers, and even clients are afraid to give honest feedback because they are conscious that the truth in their feedback may not be received well. Showing that we can accept feedback no matter how senior or successful we are is the ultimate challenge.

In a world of different filters, perceptions, and personality types, we will only reach our potential if we can lift up that curtain to expose our flaws and work on them with the help of others. This is especially important in the world of sales.

Always Ask Clients For Feedback

It can be easy for top performers to get complacent and become addicted to focusing on new prospects whose business they successfully bring in and churn out.

I was the sales manager for a top-performing salesman— Joshua. One of his clients had been using our services sporadically for a few months. In a one-to-one catch-up, I asked Joshua to describe his relationship with the HR team for this client.

He replied that he believed it to be great but he lacked certainty. Upon asking him to describe his areas of success in their relationship, he was unable to give me concrete examples.

I did him a favor and called the client to check in and they responded, “We aren’t quite sure who Joshua is, but we think we’ve used your company’s services”.

When I relaid this feedback to Joshua, he was mortified. His activity log also showed that he had been checking in with them consistently, although he hadn’t actually visited or set up a virtual meeting.

Accepting Feedback and Moving Forward

The response spurred him into action to set up a face-to-face quality service check.

During the appointment, he learned that he only had 15% of their potential business and they were actually disappointed with some of his slower responses, which led them to use other clients more frequently.

To rectify this, Joshua improved his speed and visited the client monthly. Over time, he was able to rebuild trust with his client, establish, develop, and nurture a relationship with them, and turn that relationship into more business.

To this day, they are his top billing client and he has 95% of their business. He’s still working on bringing that number to 100%.

Face Your Fear Of Rejection

In Joshua’s case, he was so busy focusing on his new prospects that he forgot to nurture and expand his existing relationships.

He also had a tendency to fear rejection, so he hadn’t asked for honest feedback from his client to gauge their relationship. This lesson taught him to face it and to avoid comfortable assumptions.

It is too easy to make assumptions when it comes to our clients, and these clients may assume that we are content with their business.

As human beings, our fear of rejection stems from our evolution. It’s a natural human response to fear criticism. If cavemen were rejected by their tribe, they’d be left to fight for their lives.

From this story, we can take away four key lessons about accepting feedback from clients:

  1. Never assume your client has an established relationship with you.
  2. Always organize a face-to-face or virtual appointment no matter how much you have spoken over the phone. Feedback is easier to give and receive face-to-face.
  3. Scale their business and your potential proportion of it from day one.
  4. Seek and explore any negative feedback, viewing it as a gift to get on track to win more business. You don’t have to agree with it, but their filter is valid and you can improve that perception.

Learn the keys to thinking on your feet in stressful situations and becoming an agile communicator in sales conversations with Gina’s FREE Book of Play ebook.

About the author

Susanna Gray-Jones

After graduating from Cambridge University in Music and Education, Susanna took her first sales role selling…

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