Rejection: How to Turn No Into Yes
I’m a yes kinda gal. Who doesn’t love it when someone says yes to them?! I have received a lot of yeses in my career but I have received many more no’s. In fact, I think that’s how most of life is. For most of us there are a whole lot more no’s before there is a yes.
I started out my working life as an artist. And I was always going to be an artist. I was singing solos in the church choir when I was 5 (not kidding- I sang the first verse if Silent Night into a microphone at St. Julie’s Church in Tinley Park, Illinois at 5 in front of several hundred people at mid-night mass). Everyone from my hometown naturally thought I was going to be a star. Not just any star- like a really really famous one.
I pursued that path. All the way through to my MFA in acting, to national commercials, tv and finally Broadway. And in all of that there were so many, ‘She’s too skinny; she’s too fat; she’s too blond; she’s not blond enough; she looks like a young Martha!’ (I personally love that last one and maybe subconsciously it’s the reason I got into food). For everyone yes there were literally 200 no’s. When I hear the story about Mark Ruffalo doing 800 auditions in a year with no success, I totally believe that story.
So in changing careers and deciding to be an entrepreneur, I was honestly expecting it to be WAY easier. I had days, when acting, of 5 auditions a day, all over NYC. Subway to subway, outfit to outfit, script to script. This entrepreneur thing was going to be cake.
Of course, the universe slapped me in the face.
In the first few years it seemed like nothing at NibMor Chocolate, the brand I started, would go right. The product was inconsistent, cost of goods were all over the place, shipping was a nightmare (and cost a fortune). All the things that could go wrong did. Stores said yes and stores said no. I didn’t really understand the process because in those days I was on the creation and operations side.
Fast forward to hiring a new CEO at NibMor Chocolate. The first long meeting Ralph Chauvin and I had- I will never forget the words he said that nearly made me pee my pants, ‘Heather, you’re going to go out there and sell. It’s the most important thing. All hands on deck and you are the heart of this brand.’
Shit. That’s what I thought to myself. Shit.
If you listened to this weeks episode of my podcast, The Fifth Pallet Almost Killed Me, you’d know that in the beginning days of NibMor, I was taken off of demo duty because I took criticism very badly. Like yelling at people in the store badly. I took the criticism of the product extremely personally because I believed it was my baby. So hearing Ralph put me into a sales position, amongst other things, practically made me break out in hives.
I called every business mentor and friend I had. To some, I cried, complained and whined. To others, I needed every tool they had and I listened intently. I was only going to get one shot and I needed to make it happen.
One of the best suggestions I got was to create a spreadsheet- and I spoke about this on the podcast but I’m going to go into more depth here and there is a downloadable version of this on the podcast and blog pages so you can just copy it. This spreadsheet was all about collecting information from buyers.
Here’s what most entrepreneurs in CPG (consumer packaged goods) fail to recognize because they are so emotionally involved with their product: these buyers are usually experts. Most of them have been doing this a long time and know what will sell and what won’t. They analyze data and numbers and are held accountable to their higher ups when it comes to the decisions they make. Especially when they bring a new brand on and that brand is not performing. So before you complain about why a buyer is not bringing in your product for all the emotional reasons, listen to the practical reasons because ultimately those are the ones that will get you on the shelf eventually- if you just listen.
I created a spreadsheet of feedback. When I was in a meeting I did my thing and sometimes I got the yes right then and there (which is always awesome- and when you’re really prepared and know what a buyer is looking for you get the yes almost all the time! That’s REALLY fun! I’ll talk more about this on next weeks podcast) and even in those instances I listened to what they were telling me about my product, promos, things that work and don’t work in their stores, what they were looking for in the future and I’d put them all in this handy little spread sheet. That way when our team was sitting down I could recall and compare what different accounts were saying and we could make adjustments.
I can not tell you how much this changed my attitude. It gave me confidence and helped me to start connecting the dots instead of just waking up in the morning and making arbitrary decisions about the product or the brand and even the category as a whole.
Once I had this data, I was able to ask this key question when the answer was no from a buyer: When should we come back to you? What needs to change in order for us to get our next review/ meeting?
And they would answer. And then we’d get next the meeting. And then, more often than not, we’d get the yes. Because instead of defending our hunches, we were using the expertise of others coupled with a product, vision and brand that we were really passionate about.
You can change no into yes. The first way to do it is through your own psychology (listen to the podcast for that), but the second is with information. Make a change and watch the magic.