How entrepreneurs can turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’


Entrepreneurs have to deal with a lot of rejection. There's just no way around this. ‘No’ will be said to you so many times that you'll soon start loathing the word. From venture capitalists to prospective clients to potential customers, everyone will, more often than not, refuse to entertain any proposal you submit. But that doesn't mean it's the end of the road for you. If entrepreneurs stopped pursuing prospects who told them ‘no’, there wouldn't be too many of them around today. What I'm trying to say is that just because someone said ‘no’ it doesn't mean it can't be changed into a ‘yes’. Of course, bringing about this change of mind is a tricky task and, in full disclosure, it doesn't always work. But only by trying can one ever hope to master the art of turning a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’, and here are three steps you should follow to get started:

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Get clarity

Your first mission after being told ‘no’ should be to find out why you didn't get the ‘yes’. Bear in mind that people only say yes when they're absolutely sure but even a little uncertainty elicits a no. To understand their reasons, one should follow a polite and professional line of inquiry rather than one that simply entails an irritating slew of whys. Ask them specific questions about what isn't working for them in order to get actionable insights. Vague, haranguing questions will only serve to frustrate them and reinforce their initial decision. For example, if a prospective client refuses to partner with your business, ask them what they would expect from the ideal business partner. Once you've got something to work on, you can identify your shortcomings with far more accuracy.

Address their concerns

Once you've listened to, and understood, their concerns, it's up to you to present them with solutions as soon as possible. Tell them how and what you're willing to change to meet their requirements. If, for example, a VC thought that your business plan lacked conviction, identify the faults in it and draw up a new one to present at the earliest. Show them that you listened and are willing to do what it takes to make the proposal mutually beneficial. Sometimes, the ‘no’ might not be your fault at all. Perhaps you contacted the person at a bad time or there may some other circumstances preventing them from agreeing to your proposal. If that's the case, then keep reading.

Keep the conversation going

It's vital to maintain an open line of communication lest you be forgotten. A person who's said ‘no’ to you has already put the matter out of their mind and you have to give them a reason to remember you. This does not entail badgering them with incessant emails and phone calls. They're busy people too, and irritating them won't get you anywhere. Be patient and gradually move the conversation forward at their pace. Ask them when they're free to have a discussion or a meeting so that you can present your new proposal. Explain clearly what you're offering this time around that you didn't the first time. For them, the value of saying ‘yes’ to you has to be compelling enough to give you another chance.

If after all this, you still receive a resounding ‘no’ in response, you should accept it gracefully and move on. Burned bridges are difficult to rebuild and connections are incredibly important for succeeding in any business. Be professional and tell them that you understand their perspective. Also inform them that, should they ever change their mind, you'll be there to assist them.


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