How-to Accept “No” for an Answer in 6 Simple Steps

The answer “No” hurts. 

I don’t care who you are or what you do for a living; hearing “No” doesn’t get any easier with time or experience. As a business owner myself, it still stings me every time. But I’ve learned that a no can be a simple redirection onto something better, and accepting it is the only way to move forward.

In your career and life in general, you will experience hearing the word no. Whether it’s a new job opportunity or promotion, a hot new client for your side hustle, or your own employees in your small business, you need to learn to cope with hearing “No” and recalibrate quickly. As an entrepreneur and business owner myself, I hear no more often than a yes. 

It’s important to learn how to respond to a no and adjust accordingly. It’s easier said than done, but I have six steps to help with the learning curve.

Watch this video interview about accepting “No” for an answer with Drew Wilson, National Sales Manager of Telemundo Denver:

How to Accept “No” for an Answer in 6 Simple Steps

1. Cast a wide net 

Maintain a large list of rich, diverse opportunities for your business or career. This way, you will not have time or energy to worry so much about receiving a no. As a business owner or freelancer, find who is most likely to benefit from your services on your list and strategize how best to approach them for new opportunities. If you’re looking for a promotion or new job, be sure to have a backup plan at all times.

2. Be patient 

Timing is everything, they say. Sometimes it’s not the right time for what you’re asking, and that’s OK. If it’s a well-deserved promotion, start looking for a new job. If it’s a customer you’ve been chasing for weeks, take is as a “Not yet” and re-strategize for your next opportunity.

3. Be persistent

Generally, clients might not see things right away from your perspective or the value you can offer them long-term. For you, this means it will take more listening and working toward relationships to lead to success.

4. Become an expert in what clients are trying to overcome

Instead of focusing on the products and services you offer, shift your focus and offerings to revolve around outcomes and solutions. Clients have pain points you can solve, so speaking to those problems can tip the scale toward a yes.

5. See it as an opportunity.

Think of no as a river that you’re trying to cross. Your hard work is the bridge to make across the river safely. Again, if timing isn’t right or pitch can be refined, take this as an opportunity to learn and work toward that goal.

6. Build your business on the answer no.

Let the answer “No” be the reason you have a career. By learning how-to adjust, continue with persistence, and being patient, you can still win in the long-term. For example, maybe you can turn your learnings into an anecdote for future prospects that will help you win those opportunities.

Case Study: How a “No” Helped Launch and Grow Zola to 300M Customers and over $40M in VC Funding

If you’ve been to a wedding in the last five to 10 years, you’ve likely seen a new kind of wedding registry than what your mom or grandmother had to create for their nuptials. Zola was founded on the hypothesis that modern couples didn’t want to register for bone china, crystal vases, or his and hers towels. 

Modern couples more often live together for years before getting married, so they already have household items prior generations did not. Instead, they wanted money for a big purchase or to register for experiences like a couples massage or snorkeling excursion on their honeymoon.

But as Zola limited their impact with just experiences and money, the founders kept hitting a wall with investors and their customers. Something wasn’t working. In 2014, they shifted their business model to include legacy or traditional household brands to ensure couples could register for all of the above. Since then, they’ve received over $400 million in venture capital funding and helped 300,000+ couples register for what they really want to celebrate their weddings. 

In Summation

  • Whether it’s your full-time job, small business, or personal life, a “No” can mean many things. One thing you need to remember is to not let emotions rule your reaction. Instead, refocus your efforts to try again or design a Plan B.
  • Practice patience and persistence. In business, sometimes the answer isn’t final and how you react can determine a potential relationship with a client down the road. Take time to refine your pitch, build a broad network of opportunities, and learn more about what your ideal client needs.
  • Sometimes a “no” will always be a “no”, but that’s totally OK. You may not know what’s best for you and your business. You may not see results high enough for yourself, like in the case of Zola. Take that as a lesson and harness that power when you get a no from a client. You may not know what’s best!

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