Why a rejected proposal can be a good thing

Is anything worse than a rejected proposal? Presumably, by the time you reach the proposal phase, you have had a good initial conversation with your prospect. Chances are, you have built some sort of rapport with them. You spend the time putting together the proposal, making sure to get everything just right. You are sure the prospect will say yes…

…but they say no.

A rejected proposal hurts. It hurts worse when you really want to work with the prospect.

So, how on earth can a rejected proposal be a good thing?

Why we hate a rejected proposal

As entrepreneurs, we want to solve problems. This is especially true of service providers. Because we are in the business of solving problems, some of us tend to go just a tad too far in order to convince a prospect to work with us.

Did you catch that? Some of us think we have to convince a prospect to work with us.

How do we convince a reluctant prospect to choose us? We make concessions in our pricing. We “throw in” extra products or services. We make promises we really intend to keep, but sometimes we make them not knowing how we will deliver.

In short, we do everything we can to make sure every prospect says yes. And, when the prospect says no, we might even take it personally.

What a rejected proposal tells us

Rejection hurts, but having every prospect say “yes” hurts more.

Yep. I’m suggesting it’s time we start embracing rejection.

When every prospect says “yes,” it indicates:

  • Your prices are too low. When you try to alter your prices to attract every client, you end up undercharging…and undervaluing your services.
  • You are trying to serve too broad of a client base. If you are appealing to everyone, you have too many messages out there. You are diluting your core message and making it harder for the people you really want to serve to find you.
  • You are on the express train to burnout. Trying to juggle too many different offerings in order to appeal to all your prospects will lead you to overpromise and underdeliver. You will end up letting down clients if you try to juggle too much, but you’re going to reach burnout long before that.

But a rejected proposal actually tells us we are doing things right:

  • With some exceptions, a client who “can’t afford” you is actually saying they aren’t prioritizing their spending in order to pay for the service you offer. This might tempt you to lower your prices. Don’t do it. Many of us are wired to negotiate, but not all negotiating is good.
  • When a prospect says “thanks, but no thanks” to your offering, they are saying you aren’t the best fit for them. This is the prospect’s way of telling you they are looking for something different than what you offered them, and you communicated your offering clearly enough for them to make this decision.
  • When you narrow down your offering to what you are best at – and what you truly enjoy – you will find you work less and your work quality improves. This makes for happy clients…and a happy you!

Learning to be happy with a rejected proposal

Will you ever rejoice over a rejected proposal? Probably not. A little bit of reframing, though, can help you learn to accept the rejection a bit better. And, once you learn to do this, you will find you have a stronger, healthier business.


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