4 Ways to Use Rejection to Your Advantage

A sad face sign at the beach

You met with a prospective client, hit it off right away, and knew you could deliver spectacular results for their project. So you perform your due diligence and craft the perfect proposal. You send it out knowing you knocked it out of the park and sit back and wait for confirmation.

But after a few hours, you’re surprised that you haven’t heard back from the client. You start to wonder what could be taking them so long to realize that you’re the right candidate for the job. After all, it was for your team and your proposal definitely reflected that.

So what gives?

You chalk it up to your prospective client being super busy and shrug it off as nothing.

After a few days, you still don’t hear a peep back.

Cue the sinking I-didn’t-get-the-project feeling.

As your thoughts start to race, you can’t even begin to fathom the notion that they could have rejected your proposal.

Then the dreaded email confirmation comes in. Much to your disappointment, you didn’t land the gig.

Now your thoughts shift towards overthinking.You run every possible scenario through your head only to come up with more rationale for why they should have chosen your agency. But obviously, they didn’t.

They didn’t choose your agency for the project and you have no idea why. Instead of sulking in your misery—which, by the way, you have a free pass to do, but only for 15 timed minutes—you should be using this experience to your advantage.

Yep. You heard that right.

Although being rejected hurts pretty bad at first, there are lessons you can learn from the experience so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes again. And we’ll be showing you exactly how to do this in today’s article. So sit back and let those rejected feelings calmly fade away.

1. Never Make the Same Mistake Twice

With each missed contract, you should find out the “why” behind the rejection. Don’t assume you know what went wrong.

Although it may seem painful to ask, this is the only way you’ll know for sure what you could have done better. Let your potential client know that you’re disappointed with the outcome, but admit that you’d like to learn more about why you weren’t selected.

This hard to hear, yet helpful, feedback will give you insights into whether there was something you could have done better. If your prospective client comes back saying your prices were too high, don’t start dropping your rates in order to gain their business. Instead, understand that you may not have shown them enough value.

Take a hard look at your proposal to see if you’ve truly addressed their concerns. Re-read your proposal as if you were the client. Would you hire your agency based on the concerns they brought to the table? Be honest here.

Or maybe you didn’t properly vet your client. You’ll know next time that you should mention your rates early on so you’re not stuck wasting your time or theirs. (P.S. If you need help surviving client interviews, check out our free e-guide)

Person in a business meeting facing two other people

2. Evaluate What Your Agency is Looking For

Sometimes you’ll get a response that doesn’t give enough clues for your team to figure out what went wrong, and that’s okay. If you get an answer like, “It’s just not what we were looking for,” it may be time to evaluate if you were truly a good fit for the project in the first place.

On the surface, it may appear as if your team’s skills match what the project called for, but there could be more to the story you don’t know about.

Here’s an example of what this would look like. Does your team have experience designing e-commerce responsive sites or do they just have a general idea of how to design responsive websites? In the eyes of a client, this can be a huge deal breaker.

We talked about this situation in our article Should You Switch to Offering Niche Services or Stay Generalized? Clients are always going to choose someone with experience dealing with their specific problem. So if you don’t have an e-commerce responsive website to show them, they may be less inclined to say yes to someone who plans on figuring it out as they go.

Use this rejection to really narrow down what you’re looking for. If your agency has no desire to specialize in e-commerce responsive sites, this is probably not the project to focus your time on.

This is another surefire way to weed out what you don’t want either. You may find that you shouldn’t have bid on the job in the first place.

3. Build Relationships

When I first started out, I received a pretty blunt rejection email for what I thought was a “perfect” project. I passed all of my interviews with flying colors and thought I nailed the test assignment they threw at me.

Much to my surprise, I didn’t land the job. I even received the short and not-so-sweet response: Your work is not what we’re looking for.

I was so devastated that it took a lot of energy for me to muster up the courage to find out what happened. But I had to know. So I reached out to find out my “why”.

The editor was so surprised that I wanted to learn from the experience that she ended up finding another project for me to work on instead. So I didn’t lose the businessI learned something: I’m a terrible editor (which I no longer do).

The point is, don’t let the emotions that rejection conjures up deter you from maintaining a good relationship with the prospect. You may be in contact with them sooner than you think. I’ve also found that this can work to your advantage in case they select the wrong candidate.

We’ve all seen customers who chase after price, and although that’s not really who they want to work with, they may have been convinced by your competitor that going cheaper was the right move. That is, until they see the shoddy results from this bad decision.

By keeping the relationship strong, your prospective client may come back to you after they’ve realized they made a costly mistake and have to redo everything ASAP.

Keep in touch with prospects every so often and you may be surprised to land a gig here and there. I turned my rejected client into a 5-month long project that eventually turned into something I was no longer interested in.

4. Address Holes in Your Sales Process

As I mentioned earlier, maybe you didn’t vet your client enough or maybe it was something else entirely.

Spend time with your sales team identifying where things could have gone wrong. Did you have a bad vibe from the client initially? Is your team coming across as too pushy? Or are they too passive and back down as soon as an objection is thrown their way?

Woman writing notes in notebook

The best way to figure out where gaps are hiding in your sales process is by role playing with someone from your service side of the business. Your sales team is so focused on closing deals that they may not be listening to objections enough, or they may not be explaining how to deliver results accurately.

When I worked at an agency, our sales team had the confidence to sell the services that we offered, but they didn’t really understand how our specific process helped customers. Sure, they could understand that our SEO services improved a site’s rankings, but they couldn’t connect how our process was different from our competitor’s.

Oftentimes when someone complained that we were too expensive, they didn’t know how to explain what made us worth their investment.

Costly gaps in your sales process like this can be uncovered with the unexpected help of rejection. So if you’re seeing too many rejections lately, it may be time to sit down with your team to see the process from another perspective. You may find that it’s not as effective as you’d like it to be.

Although our human instinct when it comes to facing rejection is to wallow in our misery and hide, it’s clearly not our best option.

Instead, use rejection to your advantage so that you don’t make the same mistakes twice. Spend time re-evaluating what your agency is looking for, building a solid relationship with the potential client, and identifying holes in your sales process.

These activities are sure to land your next “perfect” project complete with a green light of approval from a client happy to work with you.

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