37:8 Dealing with rejection
There is no worse feeling than your proposal being rejected by a prospective client. All those hours spent on it can’t be recovered. 😭 The excitement you may have felt about the project dashed in an instant.
Lee Matthew Jackson
Yet rejection can be very helpful too! As we launch new products in our niche, we find a bit of rejection goes a long way. In this episode I will share why.
- Helps you refine your message
- A great opportunity to learn
- Frees you up to focus on winning other business
Regardless of if you win or lose a job, it is great practice to review activities, communication and documentation in order to see what works and what can be improved.
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Welcome to the Agency Trailblazer podcast. This is your host Lee, and in today’s show, we talk about rejection and why a little bit of rejection can go a long way. This is a recording of a live stream I did just a few weeks ago with our community. If you are not a member of our community, you can check that out over on trailblazer.fm before we continue. This episode is sponsored by Cloudways. They are my cloud platform of choice. You can find out more information over on cloudways.com. Now on with the show.
I want to share with you some thoughts on rejection because frankly, rejection sucks. We’ve all been there. We have put together an amazing proposal and been so frickin excited about the potential of that particular contract and yet we get that slap back. We get rejected. The client emails back and says, thank you so much for your time, but we have chosen somebody else. So we’re not going to go ahead with the project or whatever reason and that feeling, that disappointment absolutely sucks.
Now, we struggled with rejection for many, many years. And in our business, our model was to actually pitch for work. So we would put hours and hours of time in presenting beautiful designs that we may or may not end up selling, as well as large contracts and documents to a company with strategy, etc.. Essentially, we had to prove our worth to the client so that the client could then decide from us and other agencies and every time we were rejected. Every time another supplier was chosen, that was just another kind of kick to the balls as it was of our company and for us as individuals, we felt awful. Our feeling of self-confidence and self-worth and value continued to diminish and that also affected how we did business because we started to compete on price. We started to push prices down. Thing is, we were handling and dealing with rejection in the completely wrong manner.
So let me share with you what you should do with rejection, how you should deal with it, and how a little bit of rejection can and will go a long way. Now, with rejection comes your messaging. If you have come in and you’ve proposed something to someone, you can look at two areas of messaging. The first area of messaging is, frankly, your business. Did that potential lead, that client come in because your business has the right messaging and is attracting the right type of client? That’s worth checking out equally in your proposals that you are putting forward. Is the messaging in your proposal on point? Are you speaking in a manner that the client can understand?
So take a look at the messaging, both of your business and of the proposals that you are putting forward. Rejection is a wonderful opportunity for you to fix things, is to fix your messaging is to focus on the bigger picture. Why am I being rejected? Just once? OK, well, that’s the luck of the draw. If it’s as many times as we were getting rejected, we realized we had a much bigger problem and that rejection ended up going a long way for us because we changed the entire messaging of our business. We changed the entire way we bid on potential business, i.e. we kicked doing pitch work out of the window and we started doing it based on credentials and our existing merit and our worth and our value. And also it changed the way we presented the messaging, the words that we used in the relevant proposals.
So that rejection, which we dealt with awfully for a very long time, actually allowed us to flip things and learn the lessons. Which takes us to our second point, which is learn those valuable lessons when you are rejected is a great opportunity to have a conversation with that potential client and find out why they rejected you.
What were the reasons? Was it price? Did you not understand? The brief again? Was that your messaging? Had they got a better offer? Did you not offer all the services they needed? Were you not clear what was wrong with that proposal? I think and I believe that the potential client, owes you a conversation when they do reject your proposal. So it’s worth picking up the phone, having a friendly conversation. You don’t need to be upset. You don’t need to be rude. This is a valuable opportunity to get some value from them. They’ve already had you invest your time in presenting a proposal, they’ve picked someone else, that’s fine. Therefore, give them a call, have a friendly chat, get some value back and find out where you went wrong, because that is where you can learn and you can improve. Again, that might be a messaging. It might be your pricing in most cases i’ve found it’s the messaging.
There’s two things that I continue to do wrong and struggle with. First of all, it’s too many words that aren’t relevant and I’m talking about what I do rather than what the client will get. So that’s always a problem in my messaging. Then the second thing is I make my pricing structure so freaking complicated that even I can’t understand it, let alone the client. So that’s two lessons that I keep on learning from my proposals.
Then finally, when you are rejected, remember that, that actually frees you up to go chase other clients. So look at your messaging, learn all those lessons and then go and chase down some of those clients who are less likely to reject you because you’ve improved your game, because you are finding and attracting the right sort of clients who have the problem that you know how to solve.
Rewind back to when we were doing those pitches, we were pitching for generic businesses who had a need for a brand. Every single project was different. We didn’t really understand their general problem, other than they felt like they wanted a nice new brand and a nice refresh. So we had no compelling messaging. It was very hard for us to compete and very hard for us to stand out. So that rejection just kept pushing us and pushing us and pushing us down and down. The moment we focused on our messaging, understanding who it was we were serving, the problems that we were solving that shifted everything, it shifted how we talk, it shifted how we entered the game in proposal world.
It shifted the people that we went for, et cetera, and that changed a whole load of really essential elements of our business. We changed from serving anyone and everyone for anything to serving just the events industry with a very specific problem that we would solve. Therefore, we knew how to position ourselves and our proposals in such a way that we were less likely to be rejected because we learned those lessons, because we had refined our messaging.
Remember that rejection will continue. There will always be someone who’s a little bit cheaper or a little bit more attractive in whatever way that is. So you can continue to learn the lessons of rejection. Rejection is not a bad thing. I joked on my personal profile about my wife and how I was asking her out and she rejected me quite a few times until she eventually went out with me. So I said my process was to test, get rejected, iterate test again and eventually she decided to go out with me. And we’ve been together now for twenty years, which is absolutely phenomenal. And thankfully, we avoided ever getting to the position where a restraining order might have been taken against me.
Nick has said this: turning a negative into a positive. I love it, Nick. Me too, because life’s short. Life is way too short and if we spend too long dwelling on the past and the disappointments and the rejections and look at everything in a negative manner, it’s just going to affect us, our mental health, our confidence in ourselves, our self-worth and our value. And that starts to affect all of the decisions that we make in business.
If we’re feeling crappy about ourselves, if we’re taking rejection in the wrong way, we’re potentially going to start looking for more clients, get more and more desperate, start lowering our prices, lowering our standards with regards to the clients that we’re going after, making exceptions and making poor decisions. And it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that you start to build a business that you cannot manage anymore, a business that no longer makes you happy, a business that can and will be depressing.
So when you get rejected, please do not go into the pits of despair, but use that rejection to, number one, look at your messaging and refine it both for the business and for the proposals that you are sending out in order to learn the lessons. Give the client who’s rejected you a call, get some of that value back. You’ve invested in them. They know they need to invest back and give you some feedback as to why they didn’t go for you. And then finally, remember that that rejection, that project is there for a project you don’t need to work on anymore so that you can go and find other business that will pay better, that is more on target, more in keeping with what you are able to deliver.
All right, folks, that’s me for today. Let me know your biggest takeaway from this episode and if you are struggling with rejection or with your messaging, then come and hang out with us over in the Facebook group. That’s trailblazer.fm/group. Join over 3600 other web designers, agency owners and complete legends. That’s trailblazer.fm. If we don’t see you in the community, then we will see you in next week’s episode.