After a decade of self employment, I’ve been told “no” several thousand times. I have records. For the same period, I’ve been told “yes” a few dozen times. Fewer than a hundred. I have records of that, too.
As you can tell, I–like most humans, salesmen, and business owners–experience rejection more than acceptance. Unlike many people, however, I don’t let that discourage me as a proprietor. But I almost did once.
In my first year as a contractor, I worked out of a one-bedroom apartment on a Dell laptop at a tiny desk. Like most hacks starting out, I had no network, no contacts, and no portfolio, credentials, or experience with which to impress buyers. So I did the next best thing. I cold called. For six straight months.
It was the most sustained and deflating rejection I’ve ever endured. It wasn’t as bad as my worst job. But it was undoubtedly the most soul-searching work I’ve ever done. The kind that hurts so bad, you start to question your existence, place, and direction in life.
“I can’t do this,” I told myself around 4:30 one day, after a half year of nos. “I’m not cut out for this. I should quit.”
But then I had an idea that saved my business: “Don’t quit until everyone in the room tells you ‘no.'” I was on my last sheet of prospects, so I decided to call until everyone on the list told me “no.” At 4:59 on my last call of the day, some guy said, “maybe–call me back.”
That wasn’t a no. I ain’t quitting until everyone tells me no.
While waiting for that gentleman to decide if we’d do business, I had a second idea: “There are a lot of rooms in this world. I’m gonna walk into another room and ask around while the first room settles.”
As I quickly discovered, there are an endless supply of rooms in the world. Better yet, the big rooms regularly employ new people to call upon. For instance, lets say it takes you a few months to email prospects within a single Fortune 500 company, organization, whatever. Even if all of those prospects told you “no,” chances are new people will be there by the time you finish your first turn around the room. New people that could say, “yes.”
In other words, not only are there an endless supply of rooms in the world, there are an endless supply of new people to pitch, often times in those very same rooms. When looked upon in that way, rejection doesn’t seem so bleak. In fact, the odds of opportunity start looking favorable.
You see, “don’t quit until everyone in the room tells you ‘no'” is just a round about, if not more dynamic way, of saying “never give up.” I realize sometimes things just don’t work out. But if your heart’s still in something, never let a poor fit, the wrong person, or bad timing keep you from trying.
Success doesn’t have to be hard. But it always requires persistence. In my experience, the more unyielding you are, the more time you get to refine your talents and ultimately find someone that says the most exhilarating word in the world: Yes!
This story first published on December 9, 2013