Being in business inevitably involves both wins and losses. How we navigate and respond to the losses can define how successful we are overall in our business roles. It’s never easy to receive criticism from a potential client or have your shortcomings pointed out, but there are constructive ways to handle the receipt of this information without being defensive. In fact, ideally, you can turn your rejection into a future opportunity. Here’s how:
Give Yourself Room to Recognize the Gift: Perhaps the most difficult thing—and the most important thing to do after being rejected is to recognize it as a gift of opportunity. Step back from the situation enough to allow yourself the chance to respond rather than react. Take a walk. Take a break. Do what you need to do to let go of any emotional charge around the situation. Invite this situation to be an opportunity for personal and professional growth.
Reopen a Closing Door: You could write this rejection off and watch the door close, or you could keep it open by inviting the client to delve into their reasons for rejecting you. It may feel challenging to rehash all of the reasons you lost the deal, but if the client is willing to have this conversation with you, it’s a golden opportunity to gain a tremendous amount of valuable information. Ask who they considered, who they finally chose, and why. Find out what you can do differently next time. Ask if there are any underlying concerns they’d like to address that haven’t been discussed yet. You may find that the client has misperceptions about the company that you can help to clear up. You wouldn’t get that chance if you didn’t initiate this conversation. Make sure you conclude the discussion by offering to be available if expectations aren’t met with the other vendor.
Study Your Competition: Many companies undertake this effort as a one-off task, when, in fact, it is important to build this into your strategy in an ongoing way. Create or update a list of all the companies that provide a product or service that gets between you and your client. Who are the companies that your clients are doing business with? Examine the capabilities of your competitors. Use Google ($GOOG) and Twitter ($TWTR) to see who’s saying what about those competitors. Read competitor blogs and articles. Search the company and its key players on LinkedIn ($LNKD). Who are they? What really stands out about them? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
Procure Five Candid Conversations: We all think we know what our greatest strengths are, but the goal of good competitive intelligence is to have relevant and accurate information that allows us to maximize the strengths of our company and expose the weaknesses of our competitors.
Do you know what your distinct competitive advantage is right now? If there’s one thing you could do better, what would it be? Ask these questions of at least five people, and get a 360-degree perspective. Look both inside and outside your company, and ensure that you include both people you serve and people who service you. This can be done quickly and informally by asking people for a candid, five-minute conversation.
Position Yourself as Second-Place Provider: Yes, you read that right: You need to communicate to the client that you want to position yourself in second place. Use those words. Let the client know that being a second-place provider means that you don’t need their financial commitment; you simply require the access that would allow you to be at-the-ready support. Position yourself to keep the door open and bring them new opportunities, information and ideas. Most importantly, be waiting in the wings for when their first choice fails to meet their expectations. Skipping this step is a wasted opportunity to build relationships with clients.
No one likes being rejected, but it is an opportunity to make improvements to your company and processes. Through these situations, we are given the chance to learn and get better at doing our jobs. Look closely at why you lost and allow the information you gather to catapult you to new successes.
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