How to respond to “No”s

A.T. Gimbel shares some helpful things to focus on when you’re faced with “No”s from potential customers, investors, or team members.

A.T. Gimbel
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August 15, 2019

Moving forward and learning how to get a “Yes”

In the startup world, you often receive lots of “No”s. These can be from potential customers, potential investors, potential team members, etc. While each of these can be tough to receive, learning how to handle them and move forward is a critical skill for startups (and in life). Here are a few things to focus on to help get over the “No”s.

Understand why and learn

One big mistake I often see is people responding to “No”s by saying the other person just doesn’t get it and shifting all blame to them without fully understanding the why behind the decision. Instead, I like to learn more about why they said “No.” This involves listening and asking questions, as depending on how open the person is, you may have to dig a little for the real answer. After learning the why, it is much easier to reflect on what may need to change to move to “Yes.” It is also helpful to spot consistent patterns of reasons vs. just reacting to one-off reasons as patterns can be much more reflective of bigger learning opportunities.

All “No”s are not equal

In Ray Dalio’s book Principles, he encourages gathering information to make decisions but disproportionately valuing feedback from believable people. These are people who have successfully accomplished things multiple times and have great explanations for cause-effect relationships that lead to their conclusions. When getting “No”s, I care much more about what these people think and why. Identify these people and really learn from them to refine your views and evolve your business. There may also be customers or investors that a “No” is a blessing as they might not have been the right fit.

Remain positive

Lastly, it is easy to let the “No”s bring you down. Remember to stay positive, focus on the process and what you can control to move forward. Being an entrepreneur requires perseverance and time is much better spent trying to proactively improve things vs. wallowing in negativity. There is nothing like improving morale than getting to the next “Yes.”

While there will inevitably be many “No”s on your startup journey, learning from them and working smarter and harder to move forward makes the next “Yes” that much more rewarding!