Eight ways to deal with rejection in business

A man rejecting an offer

Every business owner faces rejection from time to time but how you respond to knock-backs is key to your future success. Rachel Miller offers eight tips for dealing with rejection

One of the toughest challenges for any business owner is how to deal with rejection. To get a business off the ground, you have to sell your idea - to partners, investors, suppliers and customers. In the early days especially, you are likely to get a lot of knock-backs. Rejection can be dispiriting but how you respond to it will be key to your future success.

It's important to remember that rejection is not the same as failure and it doesn't mean your business idea won't work. In fact, rejection is an important part of every business journey, teaching you valuable lessons about your business and about the needs of the audience you are pitching to.

"The best way to deal with a fear of rejection is to get rejected"

Fear of failure is a common problem; it can stop you in your tracks and undermine your confidence. The best way to deal with a fear of rejection is to get rejected. Like any fear, if you face it you can learn to handle rejection and move on without losing your confidence.

Always remember that any pitch is part of a fishing expedition. Accept that you may have to make many attempts to get the funding you need or set up dozens of sales meetings to successfully win some new business.

Here are eight ways to deal with rejection in business:

1. Think of rejection as a turning point

Every successful entrepreneur has stories about the rejections they have faced and how they turned obstacles into opportunities. A rejection can be a bump in the road but what happens next is up to you. If you're not getting the response you're looking for, take stock and look at ways to improve. Work on maintaining a positive mindset and use rejection to fuel your motivation.

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2. Don't let emotions cloud your judgement

"This is business, not personal" - the famous line from The Godfather is worth remembering. When someone doesn't want to buy what you're selling, it can dent your pride. It's natural to take things personally but try not to dwell on the negative. Feeling sadness or shame after a rejection will knock your confidence and could affect your performance next time you are pitching.

3. Leave the door open for future talks

Reasons for rejection often have nothing to do with what you are offering. The most common reason of all is that the timing isn't right. Perhaps your prospect has already committed to buying from a competitor or maybe their budget for the year has already been spent. These things can change, so always promise to get in touch again at a future date. Above all, show that you respect their decision and have listened to the reasons given. Be gracious in defeat and there's a greater chance you'll be invited back to pitch again.

4. Learn from rejection

Of course, there could be things you could have done differently. Was your preparation good enough? Did your pitch hit all the right notes? Did you tailor your offer to the needs of the customer? Did you fumble an attempt to close a deal? By paying attention to the feedback you get from a prospect you can make your next presentation better. The most important thing to do in any pitch is to listen; find out what it will take for a prospect to accept your offer.

5. Be systematic

Any new business owner will have to knock on a lot of doors before they get the funding they need or that first big contract. If you understand that it's a numbers game, you can accept that rejections are an inevitable part of the journey to success. Consider the odds of making a sale. If you know that you have a one in ten chance, you won't be so disheartened when the answer is no. You can also ensure that you set up enough sales meetings to give you the results you want. You'll get more rejections along the way but you will increase your overall success.

6. Improve your response to objections

Have you ever given a perfect presentation and then been wrong-footed by an unexpected question or objection? Anticipating customer questions is a vital part of preparing for any pitch. An objection raised is a golden opportunity for you to remove the obstacles in the way of the sale. Some people won't share their concerns. A good way to win trust is to raise potential objections yourself in order to demonstrate that you have the solution. If you're presenting an innovative product or something that disrupts the market, you may have to educate your customers and ease their fears as a part of your sales pitch.

7. Target the right people

If you are getting a lot of knock-backs it could be that you're simply approaching the wrong people. Study the profiles of the people or businesses that you are targeting and consider whether these sales leads are right for your business. You may need to redefine who your perfect customer is based on the results you've had so far.

8. Focus on referrals

It's easy to think of a knock-back as the end of the road but many sales pitches open new doors via referrals. Your prospect may have turned you down, but if you impressed them, they may well recommend your business to a friend or colleague. Never forget that anyone you pitch to is a potential referral source, even if they themselves aren't ready to buy.

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