Getting to “No”!

no 2
I was very proud of one of my mentees when I learned how his venture had been on the bubble for selection to a very important summer program and was about to be rejected, but he pushed hard to get to accepted. It’s that refusal to take “no” for an answer that characterizes the best founders.

“A salesman’s job starts when the customer says no.” Mickey Tarnopol, investment banker, as quoted in The Greatest Trade Ever by Gregory Zuckerman, the story of how John Paulson made $15 billion betting against the housing bubble. “Paulson took this statement to heart and repeated it years later.”

Rejection is the name of the game in startups, in sales, and in so many aspects of life.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance sold millions of copies, but getting it published wasn’t easy, as this quote from the author’s obituary in The New York Times makes clear

Robert M. Pirsig, Author of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,’ Dies at 88

Mr. Pirsig maintained that 121 publishing houses rejected “Zen” before William Morrow accepted it. He was granted a $3,000 advance, but an editor cautioned him against hoping the book would earn a penny more. Within months of its release, it had sold 50,000 copies.
Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora, may have the rejection record for startups trying to raise money, according to this story on The Business Insider:

Founded in 1999 by Tim Westergren, Pandora was able to raise some money right before the dotcom bubble burst. Once that money ran out, however, Pandora struggled to raise more cash and “spent over two and a half years essentially broke.”

Westergren’s pitch to over 300 VCs during that period fell on deaf ears, as investors were extremely cautious about their commitments after the dotcom crash, and the music industry online was in disarray.

The examples are legion: if you are trying to sell something new and different it’s going to be tough. Expect to be rejected. Each rejection is a stepping stone in your path to success. It’s an opportunity to learn, to improve your pitch, and to better qualify your prospects.

So whether you are selling equity or a product, get started. It’s all about getting to “No”.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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