Even though I’ve always been a pretty confident guy, early in my career as an entrepreneur I struggled to deal with the rejection I received.
In part I think I was shocked that somebody would actually tell me no. But even once I got over that feeling rejection still had that sting to it…and if I didn’t do something about that sting my life as a entrepreneur may be short lived.
Why do you fear rejection?
You probably fear rejection for a number of reasons like the idea you will be considered a failure…or you will see it as public humiliation…or you’re a perfectionist…or you have a low self-esteem and just want everybody to approve of you.
Rejection brings those fears to the surface.
One of the reasons I bring this up is because it’s very important that you understand why you fear rejection…you understand your real fear. Because once you do that you can then actually do something about it…and use that fear to your advantage.
Why you must conquer your fear of rejection
The entrepreneurship game is a tough one…and it’s not for those who are weak in the stomach. If you don’t like hearing the word “no,” then you should probably find something else to do.
See, if starting a business was easy…everyone would be doing it. So think of rejection as weeding out the weak.
And the lesson every entrepreneur needs to learn is that rejection never goes away. It doesn’t matter if you are Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg…you will get rejected.
The secret is to let that rejection go…and use it to help motivate you to reach your business goals. Here are some tricks that have proved very helpful for me.
Accept rejection as a challenge
Using rejection to motivate you to prove people wrong can give you a powerful jolt to building your company. In fact, this is such a popular way of thinking among entrepreneurs that it’s almost a cliché, but that probably means there is a whole lot of truth to it…
For some entrepreneurs that response is kind of like an instinct and it’s usually combined with a hardheaded attitude that simply will not take no for an answer. They’re kind of like the bulldogs in business.
That doesn’t mean if you don’t have this instinct you can’t be an entrepreneur…it just means you’ll have to develop it.
How do you develop this kind of tenacity? Well, for starters you have to be completely obsessed with what you do. You have to believe that life has no meaning if you don’t do it. And you have to believe that thousands of people can benefit if you don’t do it.
If that doesn’t describe you, then you need to start looking for something else to do. Otherwise rejection will knock you down…and keep you down.
The other trick to developing this tenacity is to simply remind yourself not to take “no” for answer. Put up signs around your house and in your car to remind yourself.
Finally, hang out with people who will push you and encourage you not to give up. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely game, so find people you can trust who will hold you up when you get discouraged.
Be more assertive
Some people confuse being assertive with being aggressive…or being arrogant. That’s not what I mean. Being assertive is doing the following five things:
- Express what you need – Tell people what you want and need clearly and concisely. Be firm and steady when you state those wants and needs. People will definitely pay attention when you are confident like this.
- Change your body language – Learn how to keep your chin up and look people in the eye…cross your legs and fold your hands if it makes you feel more comfortable. One thing you don’t want to do is come across as cold or emotionless. Be friendly.
- Stop apologizing – Unless you’ve sincerely done something wrong then you don’t need to apologize for anything. Telling a potential client, “I’m sorry, it’s $24,000 to update you guys” will only lead them to asking, “If you were so sorry why don’t you do something about it?”
- Don’t ask questions when you make a demand – You will not sound assertive if you end all your statements with a question. That will only cause people to doubt you have the confidence to get the job done.
- Use the word “I” – This is a great way to be assertive because it shows that you are taking responsibility for you and your efforts. This will also help make your needs and wants more clear as it is only you making these demands…not anyone else.
If you are not naturally assertive, relax. Changing takes time, so use these tips to become more assertive, but allow yourself time to change.
Use the 24-hour rule when rejected
Of course it hurts to be turned down for funding, to lose a contract or watch your best employee leave for the competition, but that is going to happen to you.
One trap that you can fall into is swallowing in those rejections and then letting those rejections define you.
Don’t do that…swallow your pride, except the rejection and move on. In fact, if you experience a particularly difficult rejection…say you’ve prepared for a funding meeting for months, talked to the right people and got all your papers in order…and they turn you down…go sulk for 24 hours.
But after that get back up and go at it again.
Keep in mind that this rule works applies equally well to wins. If you happen to get the funding, contract or star employee, you can gloat and celebrate for 24 hours…then get back to work!
Count to ten
I know some entrepreneurs who like to count their rejections, not so they can get depressed, but so they know when they are going to get a win.
See, on average about ten rejections is the going price for any worthwhile win. People become legends when they don’t back down from rejections and keep trying and trying.
This is true for athletes, actors, presidents and entrepreneurs. You will eventually win as long as you stay in the game.
Work on your timing to minimize rejection
It’s important to understand that most of the time when you are rejected it’s not you who is really being rejected. It’s just the person on the other end has reasons not to get involved with you at that moment.
For example, you may try dozens of ways to approach potential clients and get shot down for a dozen reasons. This one is too busy right now…this one isn’t looking at new opportunities…this one is getting out the business.
In each of those cases you might have gotten a different response. Approach the new client when he’s not busy and you might get twenty minutes of his time. Or wait until that client is looking at new opportunities, and he may be interested. Or if you would’ve met three months early when that client was still in the game and things might have happened.
As you can see most rejections really don’t have anything to do with you or your idea. Anyone else who approached those potential clients probably would’ve gotten the same answer.
Analyze every rejection
Sometimes failure can provide us very powerful feedback…so I don’t want you to think I’m suggesting you dismiss every rejection is imaginary, and there is never anything wrong with your approach, product or idea.
Sometimes those failures can lead to some pretty powerful insights and profitable opportunities. Take any constructive criticism someone offers…about you, your product, your approach…and be ready to make proper changes if necessary.
In fact, I recommend a lot of young entrepreneurs to follow up with those who’ve rejected them, thank them for the opportunity and then ask for feedback. Then thank them with a card if they offer advice.
Understand why particular rejections hurt
Rejections tend to sting for three reasons:
- When you are rejected frequently – It’s easy to shrug off one bad meeting, but enduring twenty or more setbacks before a win can take its toll.
- You care about the person rejecting you – Being rejected by somebody who you are close to is not the same thing as being rejected by stranger. The more emotional involvement you have with a person the higher the pain of rejection will be.
- The person rejecting you is important – You value people’s opinion who you think to be smarter or better than you, so you might take that person’s rejection to the heart.
I’ve found that it is very helpful in getting over a rejection when I can pinpoint why that rejection stings. If you can identify which one it is out of the three, then you are a step closer to getting over it.
Create active ways to deal with rejection
A lot of the advice above is about coping with rejection after it happened by reframing it so you can learn from it. That’s kind of a passive way to deal with rejection, so I want to share a few active ways:
- Find a motivator – What is that one thing that keeps you obsessed about what you do? It could be a certain part of your business that you just love doing…and you don’t want to ever stop doing it. That will keep you motivated in the face of rejections.
- Keep your pipeline full – Rejections are easier to brush off when you have something else to fall back on. If you have all your eggs in one basket, then all your hope is riding on one outcome. Instead, spread out your fear over several things.
- Focus your efforts. Not everyone is a qualified prospect for you, so make sure you know who your most qualified prospects are and focus all your energy on them. Don’t waste time being rejected by people who don’t matter to you.
You can probably remember your first major rejection…I think we all can. And then the next and the next. What’s important for you to succeed as an entrepreneur is how you react to that rejection. Make sure you are taking steps to recover and focus on your next steps.
And don’t waste your time on negative thinking, just because you didn’t get the funding or contract doesn’t mean you won’t get the next one. To be honest, nothing is really easy when it comes to being an entrepreneur, but hopefully the above techniques will help you to enter the battle and stay in the battle a lot longer than you ever expected!
What techniques do you use to defeat rejection and use it to motivate you?