By Gina Blitstein

No matter how diligently a professional pursues new business, she may not necessarily get it. In fact, it's probably safe to assume that not getting a bit of sought-after work is a fairly common occurrence. Since rejection is a fact of professional life, the best a person can do is to find a way to accept it.

Professional rejection, however, can be every bit as disappointing as that of a more personal nature, causing you to doubt yourself and what you have to offer. No matter how disconcerting, it's not productive to allow these professional bumps in the road to slow you down. The best way to deal with these types of professional disappointments is to foster a workable strategy that helps you deal with the situation, take it in stride and forge ahead.

Here's a four-part system to implement when you lose a professional opportunity, to help you move on, empowered by – rather than shattered by – the experience:

Overcoming professional rejection

1. Understand the facts of the situation
Common first reactions are anger and/or sadness at the loss. It may have represented a significant opportunity or potential for financial gain. It's only natural to be upset about and mourn those issues – temporarily. Allow yourself to experience the sense of disappointment – but avoid wallowing in it. Three things to remember during this phase are:

  • It might not be your fault - It's human nature to think, "What did I do wrong?" Remain open to the possibility that the answer is, "Nothing." Keeping that consideration top-of-mind will help keep you from going down an emotional hole while you figure out what did go awry.
  • Perhaps it just wasn't a good fit – Maybe there's a component to the relationship that was incongruent and, in your zeal to secure the business, you didn't recognize the signs when the other party did. Could they have recognized that they weren't the right company for you to work with – or that you weren't right for them?
  • Put the loss in perspective - To avoid an overreaction to the loss, step back and consider what you really failed to gain. It's easy to see something lost as more significant than it is in reality. 

2. Assess
Once you're past the initial "crisis" stage and you're calmer, more rational side kicks in, it's time to get analytical. Make the effort to identify what went wrong, if anything, so similar issues can be avoided in the future. Consider these questions, the answers to which can help enlighten and inform you as you move forward:

  • Was communication in both directions effective? Do you feel that you pitched your offerings clearly and in the most articulate terms? Was all the necessary intel gathered and acknowledged? Did the tone of communications match the style of the relationship?
  • Were expectations in line? Could there have been misunderstandings about what was required? Was your timeline and theirs in synch? Were all revisions recorded and shared with all parties involved?
  • Why didn't I get the work? If no reason is offered, there's no shame in asking why you didn't get the business. This feedback could help you provide for future prospects' needs.

3. Address/Adjust
While professional rejection can be disheartening, good can come from it if lessons are learned and heeded. Rejection may serve a purpose in helping you improve your work-procuring skills. Implementing your business' own best practices is the surest way to improve your batting average. Institute changes based upon your previous assessment:

  • Change faulty processes – Address the point(s) at which you suspect you may have dropped the ball. Make immediate changes to improve those areas of performance or workflow. If it's impactful enough to contribute to losing business, it's worth your effort to fix it.
  • Be proactive – Allow your past pitfalls to help you avoid them in the future. What needs further clarification or documentation? What will be your potential clients' common reactions to the wording in your proposal or your pricing model? The more you can do ahead of time to avoid potential problems, the more effective your entire pitch will be.

4. Move on
A professional rejection should neither discourage nor define you. Allow those experiences to help you grow and move ahead to the next opportunity – and the next. Bear these issues in mind:

  • The expression, "There are more fish in the sea," is apropos - There are clients out there for you. Avoid generalizing that since one entity took a pass, that all similar ones will follow suit. With time and experience, you'll gain niches where your pitch will be enhanced by word-of-mouth and recommendations. No, you won't catch all the fish, but you can become a better fisherman.
  • A rejection is a one-time thing – Unless you've been told something to the contrary, a rejection doesn't spell the end of your relationship with a potential client. Just because they didn't hire you this time doesn't mean that they won't hire you for another job at a later date. Avoid burning bridges and keep on their radar if you really fancy working with them, and an opportunity could well arise.

Professional rejection is common, but it doesn't have to cause you professional angst. This four-part strategy will give you a sense of control at a time when you could feel professionally vulnerable. When you seize the power to define, learn, take charge and move on, a rejection loses its power to discourage your business efforts.

Gina Blitstein combines her insight as a small business owner with her strong communication skills, exploring topics that enhance your business efforts.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank