Even as a thick-skinned entrepreneur, at the start of any day hitchhiking, there was always a feeling of nervousness. It typically happened just before sticking out my thumb or holding up a sign.
This is the moment of truth. You’re declaring your presence and your reason for being to all passing motorists…
On average, I waited about 25 minutes for a lift. On a busy road, this meant hundreds of vehicles would pass me before one stopped. But when you are the exposed solo hitchhiker seeking that single lift, the cars don’t just pass you, they reject you! And after a while, it can hurt.
But whilst many people gave me and my thumb the ‘thumbs down’, hitchhiking meant I had to face rejection square on. As a result, I learnt that the rejection process is ultimately a route to success – as long as you don’t give up and have something to offer. And it’s the same for the entrepreneur; you are rejected way more than you are accepted, especially in the early years. But that’s why the thick-skinned entrepreneur goes further.
In the formative weeks and months of the first agency business I started aged 23, I went to countless meetings with ideas and proposals; but very few people wanted to buy and sometimes not even listen. Failure to win work frustrated and dejected me but friends and advisers said not to take it personally and to persevere. Thankfully the occasional success kept me going and gradually sales ratios improved.
Of course, no one likes to be told ‘No’ and therefore we are attuned to avoid it. And this behaviour is right at the heart of why many start-up businesses fail.
All businesses must sell to survive. This necessarily means spending time meeting new people and putting yourself in situations just like the hitchhiker who seeks a lift. Unfortunately, fear of rejection can cripple because people find it difficult and/or sometimes impossible to put themselves on the line with others. The result of course is no chance of a sale or insufficient sales. Either way the business ultimately dies and the not-so thick-skinned entrepreneur goes with it.
How the thick-skinned entrepreneur succeeds
No one has sold every time. Some of the most successful business people in the world have experienced the most rejection. Likewise, no hitchhiker has thumbed a lift with the very first car every time and the best travelled hikers are the ones who don’t give up. Important entrepreneurial qualities include determination, perseverance and self-belief.
However, rejection is often accompanied by feedback and it’s crucial to take on board what people say in order to improve the chance of future success. Take a look at this great spoof film from Vooza to appreciate the important and subtle lessons of failure. Listening and acting on advice means your products/services have the opportunity to improve; and as sales increase so rejection ratios improve.
Finally, if you know you are bound for entrepreneurial life, my final suggestion is to find and attend an excellent sales training course. For reference, advice provided by the Sales Training Consultancy helped me a lot.
Unfortunately, sales has a bad name because most people who sell don’t receive quality training and/or think that sales is what a suited man with the ‘gift of the gab’ does in a car showroom. A good course will help you to understand people and how to approach and handle sales as well as rejection. As a consequence, you will be better able to start and grow your own business.
Key Learning Points: Rejection is part of entrepreneurial life. Whilst we don’t like being told ‘No’, you have to embrace it to succeed as an entrepreneur. Persevere & learn to improve business prospects & develop self-belief through the experience. For me, the thick-skinned entrepreneur always goes further.