Hearing no usually feels pretty gross. It makes us feel like we're not good enough, that our ideas are junk, and that we're forever bound to disappointment. But Sarah Jones, founder of Miss Jones Baking Co., revels in that word and believes you ought to do so, too. She recommends making a game out of getting people to say it to you--for example, aim for five no responses a week.

The two big goals

Jones says that one of the big reasons to make a game of no is that, over time, you get desensitized to rejection. You normalize the process of handling the negative response and moving past it, and so getting turned down eventually loses some of its nasty sting. And when that happens, you can find yourself taking more or bigger risks, opening doors of opportunity for yourself that otherwise would stay locked. And as those opportunities yield good fruit, the success will boost your confidence.

But Jones suggests that lots of rejections can also help you be more emotionally intelligent and aware of the people around you, which plays a role in forging the relationships you need for personal and business success. It's all about discovering what they think and need so you can show them you can be of service.

"I think of it as a negotiation," Jones says. "When someone says 'no' or ignores you, it's just their opening offer. The key is to get them talking so you can understand their underlying motivations and objections. Once you understand what they need to say 'yes,' then you can craft an argument that will win them over. Sometimes this takes you being pushy and constantly asking questions to collect more 'no's until you finally hit on something that gets them interested or gets them to say 'yes.' "

No, pushy doesn't mean annoying

Jones clearly advocates being assertive with this game. But she believes you can be aggressive about feeling someone else out without irritating them. (After all, Miss Jones Baking Co. is all about the sweet stuff.) She uses the following guidelines to keep the experience positive:

  • Always try to offer something of value to the other person.
  • Make your message clear and succinct, so as to not waste their time.
  • Space out your requests and follow-ups at appropriate intervals, so you don't look too whiny/needy.
  • Look at the situation from their perspective. What else do they have on their plate, and how do you fit into it all?

Being aggressive within these considerations is a strategy Jones has learned over time. When she first started out in business, she says, she didn't always own the objectives in front of her. She'd back off right away, which she admits probably irritated her managers. Once her own company was on the line, though, she quickly learned that her old philosophy and behavior pattern simply wouldn't work.

"In business," Jones explains, "you usually don't get what you want from your first request. [By being more politely assertive and learning to take more no responses], you're basically just teaching yourself to become the best salesperson on the team. And if you're CEO, [you'd] better be the best salesperson on the team or you won't be able to push your company forward when you hit a roadblock."

Now, Jones is comfortable with not taking no at face value. She readily rejects initial explanations from others that something isn't working and focuses on understanding ways to overcome their objections or issues. In this way, she finds both common ground and viable solutions, challenging those around her to think more outside the box.

"Oftentimes people aren't 'expanding the pie' enough to look at all the different ways we could solve a problem and benefit everyone involved. They hit a roadblock and want to stop. My job is to help them overcome that roadblock, whether it's an employee, vendor, or customer."

So set your no quota. The worst that can happen is that you learn something and help others jump a hurdle for mutual benefit. That's not gross at all.

Published on: Jun 4, 2018
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