One of my favorite industry articles is “The Power of No” by Dave Morgan. In it, Dave describes how the word “no” can be useful in business:
“Learning how and when to use the word is a vital lesson. This is true whether you are in sales, client service or product development. It’s particularly true in start-up companies, where resources are scarce, historical guidance is short, and making too many promises is devastatingly more dangerous than making too few.”
Another important aspect to the “power of no” is how you handle being on the other side of the word—when you are rejected. As Mike Tyson famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Here are some of the ways you can be rejected in business and how you should respond:
Financing. Most startup founders will get rejected many times when they attempt to raise money. Founders must fight through all the “no’s” and find someone who will fund their business. For example, the founder of Pandora was rejected 300 times before he found an investor to fund his business.
Sales. Some prospects will reject new ideas or solutions outright no matter how great they are. If you’re a founder or a salesperson you must focus on the early adopters that are willing to try something new and then work like crazy to make them happy. Eventually, some of the people that rejected you initially will come around to your way of thinking and buy your product.
Partnerships. In the beginning, potential partners may tell you “no” or ignore you because you are too small. Your job is to keep building your business until they have no choice but to sit down and talk with you.
Press. It’s often hard for early stage companies to get press. If you can’t get someone to tell your story for you then you need to do it yourself. Try things like self-publishing, hosting events with clients and keeping everyone updated on your progress via social media. Once you are successful the press will have no choice but pay attention.
Recruiting. Some professionals may say they want to join your startup but will ultimately decline the offer. These people are usually unwilling to go without the trappings of corporate life—a big salary and benefits package. When you come across these fence sitters make your best pitch and then move on. Indecision in business is usually just another way of saying “no.”
Being rejected isn’t fun, but understanding that it will happen and knowing how to respond is one of the biggest factors in becoming successful in business.