Getting Comfortable Being Told ‘No’ in Business

Mike Taylor | 12 November 2018
Getting comfortable hearing no

Being told ‘no’ is a natural part of running a business. In all honesty, as you start to grow your business there will be a lot more no’s than yeses. While this can be disheartening at first, I’ve learnt that being told no, isn’t the end of the world, but it is something that will continue to occur.  

No’s will come in all different shapes and sizes and from all different angles. You’ll hear it from partners, suppliers, clients, and most definitely your team. But, remember, a ‘no’ is often the little spark you need to really get things moving.

Fuel the fire

Coming from a sports background you get used to the arm-chair coaches yelling out negative things or trying to knock you off your game. Running a business is very similar to sports, people are constantly telling you no or asking you to tweak something.

The key to performing at a high-level is turning these negatives and no’s into motivation and fuel to feed your fire. Anytime we get knocked back or someone tells me no, we take that feedback and look at our processes, look at what is and isn’t working, with the purpose of growing and improving. So, the next time we are in a similar situation, people have nothing else to say, except for yes!

Don’t be stubborn

As the old saying goes, sometimes you need to hear no 7 times before you hear a yes. Now I’m not saying this is law but it is realistic.

While being told ‘no’ is never a great feeling at the time, there are two ways you can look at a no or a piece of negative feedback. Firstly, you can act stubborn and act like your feelings are hurt. Although, this isn’t going to get you anywhere. If I sat down every time I ran into a hurdle or didn’t like what I heard, who knows where I’d be.

The alternative is to, hear it, acknowledge it and then learn from it. As business leaders, some of our biggest lessons and ideas come when we get knocked back. Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed”.

If we aren’t willing to get knocked down and learn from our negative experiences, we won’t get anywhere. Some of BBT’s most brilliant and game-changing ideas have come as a result of our team saying no to a client and then spending all night spitballing ideas until we’ve got exactly what the client needs. The outcome, unreal results, a happy client and a culture that doesn’t let ‘no’ or failure stand in their way.

They don’t stop

It is one of the first words we learn and it is one of the last we’ll hear. What does this mean? No matter where we are on our business journey there will always be the naysayers, the doubters and challenges to overcome.

I think one of the most important things we need to remember about no’s, is they will never stop coming your way. Thus, it is important we are comfortable hearing this simple two-letter word and to remember that being told no is generally never personal.

It doesn’t have to be straight away but make sure you seek feedback about why someone went in another direction. I have often found the initial ‘no’ is generally because something has been missed in the brief. No’s can stem from anything, maybe the ROI wasn’t explained fully, customer needs weren’t fully met or potentially it simply wasn’t the right time. The best thing to do is to try and understand why they said ‘no’.

Don’t be afraid to say no yourself

Being knocked back has this amazing power of enabling us to sharpen our focus. It is a great time to take in the feedback, reevaluate your position and understand where you need to improve, so next time there is no way anyone can say no.

Conversely, what I have learnt over the past few years, is the ability to say no, is just as powerful a tool for helping you realign your focus. I understand it can be hard for startups to say no to prospective clients or tell an existing client something can’t happen, but doing this can put you in a much better position in the long run.

For example, the ability to say no to a client who has unrealistic expectations or is dragging the chain may hurt your bottom line in the short term. But, it’s a lot better than failing to meet those expectations and losing that client because you failed to live up to their expectations.

No matter what industry you are in or what path you are on, being knocked back and told no is tough. As a business owner, it has been one of the hard I’ve lessons learnt over the last few years. But, it is a vital one that anyone who aspires to be in a leadership position must learn.