Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.
—Albert Einstein, German physicist.
Entrepreneurship is a humbling exercise in learning how to deal with your negative feelings, so as to do what’s best for your company. One of the most difficult feelings to tame is anger caused by a prospective customer who finds no value in your product or service and tells you so. I come across this situation often when mentoring young entrepreneurs who are so confident about their company that they really believe their offer is the best thing since sliced bread. They think, How can anyone say no to what we have to offer? In what they think is a retaliatory move, they curse the prospective customer. They convert a no that they received into a “never” by writing off the prospect.
I can certainly relate to this feeling of anger and disappointment that stems from rejection. It was especially intense when I courted customers, especially big ones, that for no apparent reason suddenly reneged on their commitment to buy. I vividly remember pursuing a Fortune 100 client for years. Finally, it agreed to sign a multiyear, six-figure contract, only to disappear when the time came to sign on the dotted line. I couldn’t believe that the deal fell through in that way. A novice entrepreneur, I was bitter and vowed never to have anything more to do with the company.
The phrase “This is business, not personal” made popular in The Godfather certainly applies to this lesson. You must not take business “personal” because it pushes you off track and leads to terrible business decisions. Instead, transform rejection or a negative occurrence in your business to positive energy that helps you persevere. That’s the mark of a veteran entrepreneur.
The simplest rule to follow in any business relationship is to treat even those who reject you like they are your biggest and best clients. Be courteous at all times, send thank-you notes, and provide them with information to help them in their business. These are just a few suggestions on how to maintain a positive reputation and boost chances of any opportunity in the future. Don’t write them off by speaking ill of them, suspending future contact, removing them from your mailing list, or even wishing them harm. Whatever you do, don’t cease communication, because conditions could change for the better at any moment; when they do, you’ll want the client to feel that the lines of communication have always been open.
As an entrepreneur, your ability to turn anger caused by rejection into motivation to persevere can take your company to soaring heights. Negative feelings can be your worst enemy, causing you to miss huge opportunities. I almost missed a big one. The Fortune 100 company I mentioned earlier that pulled out of a major deal did come around much later. My change in fortune may have come from killing them with kindness. It doesn’t pay to hold grudges in business. If you do, you can only be angry with yourself.