Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
As a parent, I often catch myself telling my kids “No.” A word that is hard to avoid when teaching them wrong from right. It is no wonder they already loathe the word as young kids and will voice their “opinion” quickly.
Looking back, I realize that I never liked hearing this word either. Whether it was when I was a toddler (“No, you can’t have dessert before dinner”), a teenager (“No, you can’t stay out past midnight”), or even a husband (“No, you can’t play golf this weekend”), it was not and still not something I like to hear.
No one likes rejection, which is why so many professionals avoid business development. They would rather avoid disappointment by doing very little, if any, outreach to their prospects.
Worse yet is reaching out to someone and never hearing back from them, a.k.a. getting ghosted. The frustration and self-doubt can be demoralizing. The imagination can easily turn to the negative, which will take the momentum out of doing more outreach.
So how can someone overcome this hurdle?
For starters, try not to take the rejection or ghosting personally. I realize this can be easier said than done but think about it for a minute. What would happen if every contact you reached out to replied “Thanks for reaching out. I need to hire you for a matter right now.” I realize that some of you might think “I’ll take it!” but after a while you will feel overwhelmed.
How about resetting the expectation?
Approach business development with the mindset that not everyone is going to need you or want to work with you. So many factors come into play. The prospect might not have a current need. They could already be working with a competitor. They don’t trust you…yet. Whatever the reason, understanding that when playing the “BD game” it can make a huge difference in how you respond to the “thanks, but no thanks,” or no reply at all.
The important thing to remember is that “No” typically doesn’t mean never. It means “not right now.” The dynamics can change over time. That same prospect might have a need 1 year later and will think of you because you didn’t give up on them and stayed in touch. The competitor that was serving your prospect might have raised their rates too high, dropped the ball on a project, or lost their lead partner to retirement. The prospect might have finally reached a point of trusting you over time and now wants to give you a shot.
Whatever the reason, do your best to understand that many reasons why a prospect doesn’t want to work with you right now or doesn’t even take the time to respond to you may have little to do with you and more about what is going on in their world. And their world can change over time. Hence why my three favorite words to describe BD are Patience, Persistence, and Resilience.
I am sure my kids will continue to cringe at hearing the word “No” from me. In addition to helping them be good people, I want them to realize that rejection is part of life and that it should not curtail them from taking risks in their pursuits. Growth comes from learning from failures and moving on. Now, if only my kids could appreciate what I am doing right now when I say “No.”