One question I get asked the most by other entrepreneurs is: How do you deal with rejection?
Rejection sucks. There’s no doubt about it. But you have to understand that the default state of every new idea is no. This means that in the realm of entrepreneurship, especially if you’re doing something new and surprising, rejection is normal.
And this rejection has nothing to do with pricing; it has to do with human nature. People, and the organizations they inhabit, reject new ideas for various reasons: fear of loss, uncertainty and existing habits.
People would rather avoid lossing what they have than gaining more. Uncertainty paralyzes people, and lastly you can back up your arguments with data, but their existing habits are a big obstacle; habits are stronger than reason.
The hardest challenge for every innovator is adoption, and the illustration below shows what that looks like:
This is my favourite version of the Everett Rogers "diffusion of innovation curve" as described by @donberwick at #quality2018 It is drawn by @voinonen pic.twitter.com/3k7CRXz7n1
— Helen Bevan (@helenbevan) September 12, 2018
Innovators have to figure out how to make the leap from early adopters to the mainstream; that’s the challenge. Rejection happens when you go to the las three archetypes: early and late majority, and laggards.
This above doesn’t mean that early adopters will save you. But it does mean you have to approach go-to market as a sniper, as opposed to a shotgun approach, and be very strategic.
It’s their loss not yours
A few years ago a friend of mine started collaborating with me on innovation projects. He worked with me for one year. At the end of the year, we went out for dinner to have a chat and reflect on the year. One question I asked him was “what have you learned about yourself in the past year?”
Among the things he said was this: “I’ve learned what my emotional threshold is. I’ve never been rejected so many times in my life. And have also learned that most people don’t want to improve their outcomes exponentially; they’re set in their ways.”
That right there is a lot of people.
Every entrepreneur that’s blazing a new trail has to make peace with rejection. You don’t deal with it, you anticipate it. But what you have to do is believe in yourself so much that you see rejection as normal and keep moving forward.
One mistake I see entrepreneurs make is put pressure on themselves; I don’t. I flip it. Rather, I put pressure on the prospect to value the time and insight I’ve given them. I do everything in my power, what I can control, to explain and help them understand the value we provide. Basically, my mindset is “it’s your loss if you let me walk out of this room, don’t reach out and follow through with me.”
Of course, this is my way.
My buddy I told you about earlier is different. He likes to be liked, and pleases others to do so. So he took rejection hard because he’s used to finding ways to reach an agreement; precisely to avoid rejection.
Entrepreneurship is like riding and building an unfinished roller coaster with your eyes closed; at least it feels that way when you’re in it. There’s no straight line in this game, so it’s best to stay even keel; don’t get too high or too low.
Anyway, whatever approach you have you have to be highly self-confident. Rejection is normal, have a “it’s their loss” mindset instead of putting pressure on yourself. Now, it’s your turn: How do you deal with rejection?
For some inspiration, check out this TED talk on lessons from 100 days of rejection: