Strategy vs Reality: What “No” Can Teach Us

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Sometimes, even our best pitches don’t get the response we want. Here’s how NO is a great teacher.

Great lessons can come from rejection – even if you’ve got a really persuasive pitch.

A negative response is an enormous CLUE from your listener. What’s your strategy for dealing with rejection?

As the song says, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” But maybe, just maybe…here’s what you need:


While you may view a negative as discouraging news, consider it an informational bulletin. “No” is a message that class is in session.

Pay attention! When you hear a “no”, it’s your turn to say, “Tell Me More…”. Find out why your pitch is not a fit. You could find that you can adjust your solution to the lesson at hand, if you listen to any objections and can correct your approach.

“No” really means:

  • You are about to learn more about something crucial to your pitch: listen closely!
  • There’s something you’ve left out. What is it? – There’s a hidden concern or agenda that you have failed to address.

Your solution may not be a fit. So: What is? – If the listener’s expectations are unrealistic, even a genie or Kris Kringle can’t help you. You have to have a clear definition of success, based on the solution you can provide.

Learn what you can. Address what you can fix.

Understand that not every pitch is a fit for every situation. Finding the right situation is sometimes a process of education. Ultimately, if your pitch is not a fit for your listener, you need to walk away with a greater understanding of why your solution is not a fit – so that you can be better prepared for the next conversation.

“But,” I can hear you thinking, “If they say no, my [invention won’t get made/ I won’t get the sale/the screenplay gets put on the shelf/we can’t produce the CD]!

How can I be OK with NO, when what I want is ‘YES!’ ?”


First of all, being “OK” with “NO” doesn’t mean that you work towards it. It doesn’t mean that you celebrate “NO” with a small office party, a parade, or even an extra cup of coffee. Do not expect a negative response, but PREPARE for it. Being prepared means that you learn from “NO”, so it doesn’t derail your elevator.

  • “NO” can mean “not now”. “NO” can mean, “not here”. “NO” can mean, “not for us”. Think of “NO” as a detour to yes.
  • It’s up to you to find out what where “NO” leads you; it’s up to you to assign meaning to a negative response.

Ask yourself: Have you done everything you can to get to “YES!”? Do you know the why and because, behind the “NO”? While you may not like the negative response, can you accept it, learn from it, and find another place and time that’s right for you, your story, and your ideas? After all, if I quit after the first “NO”, I never would have done much of anything with my life. (Or my wife, come to think of it.)


The NEW Elevator Pitch by Chris WestfallThis post is an excerpt from The NEW Elevator Pitch by Chris Westfall.  

Get your autographed copy here.

Available for all eReaders, and in print copy.  Find it on Amazon.com

Image  courtesy of Dmitry Chertousov. Used under creative commons, some rights reserved.

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