06.04.2022 09:30

How Do you Deal with Customer Rejection?

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Rejection hurts, whether it’s from a customer, friend, or romantic partner. As an entrepreneur, you can’t turn a blind eye to customer rejection, either. It hurts not only emotionally, but it’s also a real threat to your business’s success. 

Startups are especially vulnerable: a recent research showed that around 90% failed over 10 years. 

One of the leading causes of failure? 

Customer rejection. 

All businesses go through hard times. But it can be difficult when it’s your own livelihood on the line and you’ve only recently opened your doors. 

What Is Customer Rejection? 

The short definition of customer rejection is obvious. It’s when customers reject your products or service. 

However, it’s important to understand exactly when and where this description is applicable. Rejection can mean that your product or service isn’t in demand, that there are already companies who meet consumers’ needs, your products/services aren’t good quality or are overpriced, or simply that you aren’t reaching customers. 

Initial Reaction

Your knee-jerk reaction to rejection might not be the most constructive, especially if you are relatively new to the startup “community”. At first, rejection of your business can feel like the end of the world; a personal attack on your character and an indication to throw in the towel. 

This reaction is natural, but ultimately unhelpful. 90% of small businesses may fail, but giving up too quickly ensures that you won’t be among the 10% that succeed. It can be hard to remain objective in the face of rejection. But in order for your startup to grow, it’s essential to learn how to deal with it constructively. 

One reason so many startups fail is that the demand for what they produce isn’t big enough. If this is the case with your business, it’s important to learn how to adjust your strategies and your relationship with your target market and not to give up. 

How To Deal With Rejection Constructively: First Steps

There are many ways to use customer rejection to grow your startup or business. Sales professionals frequently use a variety of tactics to handle rejection when interacting with customers. The initial discomfort is inevitable but can help you find new and better strategies to boost sales. Learning how to deal with rejection requires effort: emotionally, mentally and practically. 

Fortunately, we’ve got some tips that may be helpful in adjusting your attitude towards customer rejection.

1. Don’t take it personally

This is easier said than done. Facing customer rejection isn’t fun, but it is an inherent part of being an entrepreneur. 

Customer rejection can come in many forms, some more gentle than others, but most of us are accustomed to taking criticism personally. Many people grow up measuring their worth by their achievements—academic or sporting success, or any other pursuits that brought them praise from parents or other authority figures. It’s hard to unlearn that way of thinking, but every successful entrepreneur has first had to succeed in changing their attitude towards praise and rejection.

Rejection is about your business, not your character, and you can’t afford to respond to it from your ego. 

2. Adjust your mindset

Not taking customer rejection personally is the foundation for an attitude change. You might not have an “attitude problem” per se, but part of growing as an entrepreneur and overcoming rejection is adjusting your mindset. 

Other than not taking customer rejection personally, there are many actions that can help to transform your attitude towards rejection from despair to determination. 

Adopting a growth mindset can help you visualize every sales call, email or conversation as an improvement opportunity.

One of these is educating yourself. All entrepreneurs face rejection of one sort or another. Even some of the biggest names in business have suffered this fate. A high percentage of startups fail, but even the ones that succeed have faced their fair share of adversity. It’s not rejection itself that hurts, but what you do with it: finding out the root cause and addressing it. 

3. Learn from it

One of the keys to success in any field is the willingness to learn. Being teachable and having an open mind can get you further than you think. 

The first step here is to find out why your business/product/service was rejected and whether you can do something about it or not. Get feedback from your customers if you haven’t already done so, especially regarding any perceived shortfall. This can be done face-to-face or digitally and is hugely helpful in getting you back on track. 

It may be that your product/service is actually in high demand, but your approach to selling it has fallen flat. Make no mistake; some rejection is based on customers’ unmet needs, but not all. 

Marketing, for example, is something all businesses deal with—and struggle with, from time to time. Promoting yourself isn’t cheap, but it is essential. If you suffer a major rejection, it’s possible that your marketing strategy is off the mark rather than your product/service itself. 

Growth after rejection also involves listening. Seeking feedback from your target market is useless unless you commit to listening to and understanding it. Retreating to lick your (metaphorical) wounds might be your instinct. But opening communication channels with your critics is more productive in the long run. 

4. Address the issues

Sales success requires both the skills of persuasion and the persistence to cope with the many NOs. Entrepreneurs who experience customer rejection can react in one of two ways: destructively or constructively. 

Once you’ve got some feedback and given yourself a pep talk, it’s time to address the underlying issues— i.e.: what you can do to move past this kind of setback. 

How To Use Rejection To Grow: Practical Tips

At this point things get real. Getting your head around customer rejection is one thing. But addressing it in practical terms demands concrete action and targeted strategies.

1. Get rid of what’s not wanted

Customer rejection boils down to buyers not wanting what they’re being offered. If this is your product or service itself, it’s time to re-evaluate your startup. 

Did you do the necessary market research to establish if there’s a demand for what you’re selling? 

If you have misjudged things, try to work out whether you need to scrap your idea completely, or if there are alterations you can make that will catch your target market’s attention.

2. Address your relationship with your target market

If you experience customer rejection but know that there is a demand for your goods/services, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at how you communicate with your target market. 

Marketing is one of the cornerstones of entrepreneurship. It’s not an easy task, but an element of business that can make or break your startup. 

Getting your startup going relies on a number of things. You need strong branding, an identity, setting marketing goals, building a rapport with customers and being shrewd about what marketing channels to focus on. 

3. Find the best marketing strategy for your business

Startups often don’t have that much capital to splash out on huge marketing campaigns, but it is still possible to get a good ROI. If you need to do more market research after experiencing rejection, pay attention to the needs of your customers that are not being met. It’s possible for customers to reject products or services simply because they don’t have enough information about them, which is where effective marketing comes into play. 

One of the best ways to overcome rejection in sales is to focus your attention on the next opportunity. Salespeople who have lots of action in their pipeline are less likely to be depressed by each instance of rejection.

These days marketing needs to be targeted and highly strategic. Handing out flyers and sending a newsletter once a month just doesn’t cut it any longer, so if you haven’t already it’s time to invest in proper digital marketing and all that entails. 

A startup or small business needs to be visible in order to succeed, which means a strong social media presence is a non-negotiable. If you as the founder don’t have the skills and experience needed for effective digital marketing, it’s a good idea to partner with someone who does. 

Social media offers many opportunities to promote your business through creating your own page and through paid ads, and a well-versed marketing specialist will be able to tell what kind of campaign works best.

Apart from social media marketing, startups need to have strong branding, open lines of communication with customers, online content that stands out (including effective SEO), and a consistent presence in their particular industry. 

4. Reassess regularly

Rejection is an element of the sales process and everybody will experience it. Don’t hesitate to reevaluate your sales strategy regularly. When you’re bogged down in the day-to-day slog of running a startup it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. After a rejection, you might feel even more pressure to buckle down and work harder. But if you want to promote rapid business growth you need to take stock of your business on a regular basis. 

Picking yourself up after customer rejection doesn’t happen overnight—just like rejection in the first place. If you reevaluate things frequently you’re more likely to pick up on patterns and warning signs, in which case you can adjust your approach again. 

Final Thoughts on How to Deal with Customer Rejection = Growth Takes Time

Sales rejection is inevitable and let’s face it, often unpleasant. But, it’s also nothing to freak out about: rejection is the byproduct of our ability to learn, adapt, and grow. As sales rejections pile up, you begin to wonder if you should take it as a sign that you’re getting worse or there’s something inherently wrong with your personality. If this is happening, think back to moments where your knowledge served a prospect well.

Remain professional: Remaining calm and appreciative can help you present a positive demeanor to customers during rejection. This can enhance your company’s reputation and increase the likelihood of future business with the customer.

Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint-hearted. Research has revealed that almost 80% of US small businesses have only one employee: the founder. Most of these depend on personal savings. 

Starting a business comes with many risks—customer rejection being one of them. However, if you know how to handle this, you’re already one step ahead. 

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