I interviewed a crack salesperson and a busy, flourishing actor to discover how they seem to be unaffected when they hear “no” in the course of their day.
If, like me, you consider the hardest part of the new business search the dusting oneself off from a harsh “no,” you, too will also be interested in learning how they motivate themselves to do what I consider the second hardest part—the follow up after the initial outreach.
A Good Deal
“I used to take ‘no’ personally,” Vicki Noble** told me, “but I don’t anymore.” [**This is not her real name.]
She’s been in the fashion business for 30 years selling embellishments, such as buttons, buckles and labels—even distinctive packaging that she designs–to manufacturers and retailers. The companies she represents are part of a team that a designer assembles to distinguish lingerie, shirts, dresses, sweaters—you name it. “Details are a critical part of a brand,” she’ll tell you.
“Most often,” said Noble, “the reasons people don’t want to give me a hearing and my sample books a viewing has nothing to do with me. Some are happy with the status quo and their current vendors. I understand loyalty. Yet they don’t realize that they owe it to their brand to see what’s new and out there. Others don’t want to rock the boat in this shaky economy. You can’t blame them; it’s not a good time for risk-taking.”
Do you go back if someone says ‘no?’
“You always go back because a manufacturer or retailer might suddenly be unhappy with their current supplier. You don’t want to be so annoying that a potential client sees your email and hits ‘delete.’
“I communicated with a woman who works for a major brand who asked if I represented any company that made ornamentation in Bangladesh. I didn’t at the time. I recently followed up to tell her about a company that was setting up there and she invited me in for a meeting.”
How many times do you follow up after hearing “no?” “You never give up.”
Are you by nature a hopeful person? “Yes. You have to be hopeful in life. If you’re not, what is there? Don’t get me wrong, I get discouraged, but it only lasts for so long.”
How do you get yourself to pick up the phone to follow up when you are not in the mood? “A lot of communication is done via email rather than by phone these days so if you don’t hear back, which happens most of the time, no harm done and if the answer is “no,” an email often muffles a rejection. Everyone is so busy but people do read emails. Have you noticed how people never put down their phones?”
The Show Goes On With or Without You
Next I spoke with Monique Sanchez, an actor.
When you hear “no” what makes you go on? “In terms of acting, you don’t hear ‘no’ very often; you just don’t hear anything. It’s not personal. If they are not interested in you they have decided well before you open your mouth. It has little to do with your talent.
“I grew up in a Cuban family with two brothers. My entire life my parents told me I couldn’t do anything because I was a girl. Basically when you tell me ‘no,’ I take it as ‘You want to bet?’ I’ve learned early on, not only can I do it, I have to do it better than the boys.”
If a director and/or casting director has previously rejected you, are you reluctant to return for an audition? “Usually it’s not a problem unless something has happened to make it one, such as if they go out of their way to be nasty.
“I had an audition for Dracula. When I walked in the director made a comment about my height which I’ve learned means I’m not a contender. Ten seconds into the monologue he interrupted me and asked me to tell a joke, which I had to come up with on the fly. Then he asked me to recite movie quotes from memory. I knew he wasn’t’ going to hire me, he just wanted me to entertain him. I won’t return for an audition if that person is involved.
“However if a director gives me good feedback, I’ll surely go back.”
Do actors follow up? “You are supposed to follow up because directors meet so many actors daily. Actors have the narcissism to think they are special and that they stand out but you need to follow up. It’s important to show that others want you –the people you consistently reach out to will want you too.
“Following up is time-consuming, like another job. Most directors don’t want to get email; they want a postcard which includes a headshot with info like ‘This is what I’m working on….I’d love to come and read to you sometime.’ They prefer that you don’t call unless they establish that you can.”
Are you an optimistic person? “Normally yes, though too many unfortunate things have happened to me in the last five months.”
In sales and acting, following up by telephone seems to be largely off the table while it’s part of what I must do with media a business prospects.
Do you prefer to be emailed or called in follow-up? What do you think is the most effective way to sell yourself, a product or service–phone, email or direct mail? How is it in your industry? Have you developed techniques that help you accept “no” gracefully so you can move on right away?