The Real Reason Why People Are Telling You "No"

12/22/2016 05:15 pm ET Updated Dec 23, 2017

Being told "no" isn't easy. Especially in business, the sting of rejection can be painful, and can undercut our confidence when taking risks or making important decisions.

As it turns out, however, most of us fundamentally misunderstand the central reasons why we're getting rejected in the first place. Recent research by author and speaker Linda Swindling, who presented at Hubspot's annual INBOUND event, reveals that there's a significant gap between what we think makes people tell us "no," and what the actual reasons are.

In an original survey of over 1,000 respondents, Swindling found that people in business generally cite three main reasons why people would reject an idea or offer, which are listed as follows:

  1. They lack all of the information that they need
  2. The timing was off
  3. They're resistant to spending money

At face value, these appear to be reasonable -- right?

Wrong.

Upon deeper examination regarding why people actually say "no," these reasons weren't high on the list -- in fact, they weren't even in the top ten!

Overwhelmingly, people who reject offers or proposals do it for two main reasons. First, they'll say "no" if they feel like they're being asked something inappropriate. And second, they're unlikely to accept if the request comes from somebody who they don't like or respect.

With these findings in mind, Swindling makes three suggestions to people who are tired or discouraged by rejection:

  1. Ask first. When crafting a pitch, we often feel pressure to load it up with preface and credentials, citing our vast accomplishments or the benefits offered before getting to the point. But this can turn off the busy people reading your proposals. "Decision makers have a lot of people coming at them; they respond to short words and short sentences," Swindling notes. They'll respect your straightforwardness.

  • Ask often. Part of the reason why rejection can feel so difficult is that we put too much stake in one request, one pitch, one client. To that end, Swindling recommends going after 5 times the number of leads that you actually need. Not only will this take the pressure off each individual prospect, but it will give you plenty of practice figuring out what works and what doesn't when it comes to making requests.
  • Ask outrageously. From the time we're young children, we're surrounded by messages about not being greedy. Worried that we'll appear outlandish or overzealous, we're overly cautious about asking too much. But the fact of the matter is that "too much" is subjective: what is outrageous to one person may be completely reasonable to another. So don't be afraid about coming in too high: as long as you can backup your request, you shouldn't worry about coming off as greedy or inappropriate.
  • Of course, there's no sure-fire way to make people say "yes" to you. Rejection is a natural part of business, as anyone in the industry can attest.

    But as Swindling's research shows, why we think people say "no" to us often doesn't match up with reality. By understanding the real reasons why people reject us, we can pitch, prospect, and propose much more confidently and effectively.

    Don't be afraid to ask outrageously -- when you stop worrying about whether people will tell you "no," you might be surprised how often you hear "yes."