How to deal with rejection in business

As a startup founder, you’ve probably experienced your fair share of rejection when pitching or promoting your business. It’s an inevitable part of the journey, and something that cannot be avoided. So, how do you effectively deal with it so that it doesn’t impact your ability to grow your business? 

In this blog, we’re going to unpack things a little more, and share some of our top tips! 


Firstly, why can rejection affect us all so personally? 

Rejection hurts because it goes against our inbuilt, human need to belong. We’re herd animals, and we’re wired for connection and security. So, when we face a “no” in business, it can often be difficult to separate autonomic feelings of vulnerability and isolation with the practical facts of what the “no” actually means. 

When we continue to allow rejection to feed our emotional brain, we begin to develop negative stories and narratives around what it means. For some of us, this may be feeling that we aren’t good enough or qualified enough. And for others, the fear of hearing a “no” can cause us to avoid any situations where rejection is a possibility in the first place. 


Change the narrative about what rejection means 

What’s important to remember is that rejection is going to occur in your business journey, whether you like it or not. If you allow yourself to feed into the emotional feelings that come from rejection, you’re going to naturally avoid seeking new customers or opportunities to grow your business. 

So, what can you do? 

You can rewire the narrative! Rejection doesn’t have to be seen as something negative or evil. If your natural inclination each time you hear a “no” is to run for the hills, then it’s time to change the story about what rejection means. You need to remove the emotion from the word “no”, and remind yourself that one person’s decision is not a reflection of your capabilities or value that you can offer.  

Now, this isn’t an overnight cure, and one positive thought will not outweigh every feeling that rejection brings up for you. It has to be a work in progress, and the more time you spend consciously redirecting your mind from an emotional response, to a practical one, the easier it will become. 


Rejection in buisness


Use rejection to push you to the next level

When you have effectively rewired the emotional response that can come from rejection, it’ll become easier to see just how great a “no” can be for you and your business! 

There are a number of factors that can come into play when you hear a “no” from a potential customer, partner, or investor. 

  • Firstly, a “no” right now doesn’t mean a no forever, it could just be the wrong time.
  • A “no” could mean that person wasn’t the right fit for you anyway, so why force it?
  • A “no” may mean that you didn’t effectively solve that person’s problem. Step back and assess your messaging and how you offer a solution to your audience’s problem. Are you hitting the right notes? 
  •  A “no” might mean that your product or service doesn’t fulfill that person’s needs in the way they had hoped. 


What’s important to remember is that every “no” takes you one step closer to a “yes”. Perhaps you still haven’t found your ideal audience, or you have some kinks in your messaging to iron out. Whatever it may be, use rejection as an opportunity to learn. 


Seek feedback and ask potential customers or investors (in a non threatening way) why they chose to say “no” to your offer. This could be framed like:

 “I value your decision, and want to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I’m always looking for feedback to improve my product/service, and would love to know, what is the reason you decided not to make a purchase today?” 

Now it’s time to listen. While it’s easy to get defensive (our businesses are our babies after all!), don’t let these emotions run you. Instead, pause and really take on board what you are hearing, as there may be some gems of information in there that you can apply to improve your offering, or your pitch! 


So there you have it – rejection doesn’t HAVE to be painful or scary, and a large part of being an entrepreneur is dealing with the challenges of our own mind, and the stories we tell ourselves. 

The next time you’re feeling a negative, emotional response to hearing a “no”, take a breath and remember that it doesn’t define you, and it isn’t necessarily a reflection on your or your business. 


At Startup Gippsland, we are passionate about supporting regional entrepreneurs to grow and scale their business ideas. You can learn more about our programs on our website.  



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