Rejection takes many forms and it’s always worth taking stock when it happens. Why does it happen? Well, yes it might be your fault. But it is rarely entirely the fault of one person. The best thing you can do is uncover the reasons for the rejection and work out how to mitigate them in the future.
Whatever is rejected, eg a grant for a community project, financial backing for a business proposition, an offer made to an apparently warm prospect; you need to review your approach, make changes and try again.
In this post I shall review some of the reasons for rejection. In later posts, I shall take a closer look at the impact of failure on individuals and of repeated failure on organisations.
Most Things Don’t Work
Over thirty years in community development, I can testify to this. I have had my successes but in the main, most things you try, do not work out.
Yes, there are stories of someone who comes up with a new idea, launches it and to everyone’s surprise it works first time! This is very rare. People who achieve this often share their story and so there seems to be a lot of success about. There isn’t; most things fail.
Usually success follows repeated attempts and periods of being stuck. If you fail and persist, you have to dig deeper but will also have a better understanding of what you are trying to do. The longer you keep going, the more likely you are to stumble upon an approach that works.
If it’s not working, change your approach!
So, the message is, keep going. Every failure is a step on the road to success. With one exception.
Don’t keep doing the same thing, if it doesn’t work. I was recently asked to organise a meeting, even though I knew the timescale was too short to publicise it properly and bring people in. I went ahead against my better judgement. No-one turned up.
Let’s pause and consider this for a moment. I’m sure it was a bad idea to run it so soon. Is it possible my pessimism contributed to its failure? Maybe I would have done better had I put my heart and soul into pushing the meeting.
I don’t know. But I do know the reasons for failure are multi-factorial. If I’d had time to market it properly, maybe my attitude would still have undermined numbers. And maybe the event itself was not attractive.
But here’s a thought. How can you turn a failure to your advantage? Is it possible we miss opportunities because we focus on the immediate failure and so do not see the bigger picture?
Failure to Close
Failure to close plagues the lives of many people starting out in business. We do not know how to bring a business conversation to a satisfactory close.
There are two positive ways to close. On yes and on no.
A yes, so long as it is a real yes, is clearly cause for celebration. It comes at the end of a complex sequence of actions and sometimes we make a mistake (or several). If we don’t know what works we’re working in the dark. There are plenty of guides about how to close. Use Daniel Pink’s book “To Sell is Human“, as a thorough starting point.
A no, means you need to see the bigger picture. This might be a “no for now” or a no forever. Whichever it is, can this person support you in other ways? Will they sign up to your list, recommend you to others, write a testimonial? I have found it incredibly difficult to get even these results primarily because I forget to ask (another example of failure to close!)
I’m afraid some clients misbehave. It goes with the territory. The first thing to remember is, if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t take them on.
Misbehaviour has many manifestations. It might range from saying yes and not meaning it, just so they can get out of the room or perhaps changing their mind and failing to tell you or apologise. Others simply cannot work with you. They are forever seeking insights from other practitioners and throwing their (not necessarily good) advice in your face. Or they just misbehave. After one particular client, I decided if a client can’t conduct themselves respectfully I will end our contract.
What to Do
Bad client behaviour is not your fault. Sadly, some people simply lack the social skills they need to conduct business properly. If you are a client and not happy, then say so. I have just done this with someone who is supporting me. I’ve written to point out a weakness in their approach. I haven’t ranted or demanded my money back or even blamed them. All you need to say is, I followed your advice and this happened, can we discuss it? After all, how do I know it was not my fault? Blaming others for our own failings is a common human response to failure.
Do be aware of one other thing. If you negotiate a contract with an organisation, you may find you are not working with the person who agreed the contract. You don’t know if the person who manages the contract agrees with it and you may not know what internal struggles are taking place in the organisation. This possibility may be worth discussing at the time you agree the contract.
I’m sure I haven’t discussed all the reasons for failure. What are your stories of failure? What have you found can go disastrously wrong?