How to Handle Rejection in Business

The Niche Movement Founder Kevin O’Connell shares his experience with rejection as an entrepreneur. See how through embarking on his own business endeavors, Kevin was forced to build up his tolerance for rejection. He had to pick up and carry on after every single “no.”

No one can land opportunities 100% of the time, so follow Kevin’s advice for how to manage hearing “no” in your career.

Let’s just put it out there: rejection sucks!

The feeling especially sucks when you are just starting out in a new business venture or going for what you think is your dream job.

In your new business, you may think a proposal is going to close into an actual client and new transaction but ultimately doesn’t come to fruition.

While job searching, you may get asked to do an interview, then move onto a second round, think you are the candidate for the job and start to envision yourself working there.

I’ve been in both arenas more times than I’d like to recall. Each time getting many no’s along the way.

Rejection never gets easier, but it can become more manageable. This realization sparked me to build up my “no” tolerance about a year and a half ago.

Think of each “no” as part of a game. Every time you get a no, a rejection, or a potential client who doesn’t understand what you can do for them, buckle up. That rejection is just foder for you to build up that “no” tolerance. Each “no” hurts, but it also means that you are on a forward path, striving to get closer to your goals or the work you love. Each “no” means that you are on to something big and one step closer to getting a yes.

When going after new business, you might not get a “yes” right away. Landing deals is complicated and nonlinear. Often times you may not be talking to the decision maker even if they say they are the decision maker. Other times, it may just be too much of a risk for them to try something new, or maybe they are too busy to utilize your company’s expertise and services. Many people will say “no,” and it won’t always be clear why, but take each “no” and become resilient in the face of rejection. Little by little.

In the job search process, most times you have very little information on what is happening internally with the organization you have applied to and their hiring process. I have been part of job search processes where they know the candidate they are going to hire internally but they have to interview outside people. Often times, the job search process can be put on immediate hold for a number of reasons (i.e. budget cuts, a boss leaving, change of direction for the need of the department).

For those of you that are self employed or have a side hustle where rejection is going to happen more often that not, I have found that to decrease your chances of rejection it starts in the very beginning of the "sales" process.

I started developing a “Go/No-Go checklist” both when I reach out to new clients or get inquiries. The checklist challenges me to asks a series of questions I should consider before taking on a new project.

Just a few of the questions I consider are:

Does the prospect tell you why they’d like to work with you?

Is the engagement with your time monetarily?

Do you have the resources and capacity to complete the work satisfactorily?

What’s the reputation of the prospect?

Does this client or project align with where you are taking your business or align with your values?

If you answer positively to the majority of the Go/No-Go checklist, take the prospect on as a client! If you go through all the angles, and the prospect still doesn’t seem like a good fit, move on.

If you’re hunting for a job, take a similar approach. Go to the company’s website. Do some digging to uncover insight into the company’s culture. Check out your potential boss’ bio, LinkedIn, and social media accounts. Do they seem like an interesting human? Is the company a good fit? You are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. Remember, you can also say no to a job offer.

But no matter how much you prepare . . . the big question is: how do you reset after getting rejected?

Take a minute, an hour, or a day and sulk.

Be upset, scared, frustrated, disappointed.

It's part of the process.

But the next day, get back at it and focus on the work you do have in front of you, the coals that are still in the fire, and use the rejection for fuel to grow your business.

I challenge everyone to keep a running list of "People who said no."

Depending on your situation, every time a potential or current client says “no” or a hiring manager says “no,” add them to the list and tuck that list away. Eventually, you’ll see that the “no” list is probably much shorter than the list of people who took a chance on you. So just know that a “no” is part of the game, and it's something every entrepreneur and professional signs up for, especially when you are going after finding your niche.

Use each no as fire. Put that energy back into your business or professional growth. And remember that a “no” may just be a "no for now." Keep the dialogue cordial and perhaps even try to keep the relationship open. Don’t hesitate to follow up to see if any opportunities arise down the road. A “no” is a foot in the door and a fire in your belly. So keep going.