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Unlocking The “No” Multiplier

In speaking with a few mentees and some education consultant friends, I noticed a trend lately. All of us were hitting roadblocks and dealing with rejection on some front. OUCH!

Of course it hasn’t all been rejection. We are all getting wins as well. It is very much in line with the life of an edupreneur, with highs and lows coming unexpectedly. However, some of the people I spoke to were feeling it harder than others.

Rejection is something I’m used to. Before my career in education, I earned a creative writing degree with the hopes of becoming a novelist. Through submitting novel ideas and short stories, I became very familiar with the word no. I established a comfort zone with rejection, knowing that it would only lead me closer to a success. However, they still hurt.

As I heard the stories of these young edupreneurs trying to fight off the feelings of failure, it reminded me of a no that drastically multiplied my success. It taught me a crucial lesson that has changed both my teaching practice and my business philosophy. Here is the story of the “No Multiplier.”

A year into my work with Academic Mindset, we decided to pursue government contract bids to work at schools on a larger scale. We had built up success at individual locations and were ready to make the jump to district-wide work. However, we had zero experience. Creating bid proposals were a completely new skill and I quickly found myself heading the charge in this new effort.

Our first few proposals took days upon days of effort to create. I supplemented that with hours of reading articles and watching videos on proposal writing. We quickly found that we were scoring competitively, but we weren’t winning. I was accumulating rejections rapidly. It had me disheartened, knowing that I poured myself into this along with a team who truly cared about our success and ability to make an impact. All that work for nothing?

Then, my best no came along. I had wrote a proposal to a large school district in Texas who sought out professional development and curriculum in our area of specialty. This was my chance! I poured extra time, even beyond the massive hours I poured into learning this skill, to make the perfect proposal. Satisfied with the sweat equity I put in, I turned in the proposal early to stand out even more.

I got one of the worst scores of all.

Not even close.

Total failure.

I honestly wanted to give up at that point. I didn’t have what it took to make it in government contract bidding. With my best effort producing my worst response, I felt like it was a fruitless endeavor.

But then, I saw it. A small line at the end of my rejection letter. It said, “contact ____ to schedule an appointment to discuss the results.” I was ready to pack it in and give up on this aspect of our business growth, so I figured why not. Might as well try and see.

One email later and I had a zoom meeting scheduled with a key decision maker who rejected my proposal. She blocked off 30 minutes to discuss my proposal.

WOW! That thirty minutes taught me more than the hours I invested in learning proposal writing. She walked me through every aspect of my proposal and showed where I had failed to respond in an appropriate way.

One of my errors? I responded to an item in a way that made it look like I was charging tens of thousands of dollars more than I actually was. 🤦‍♂️Kind of an important detail!

Scattered throughout my proposal were errors in clarity. She was even able to tell me that she was impressed with our company and offerings and with slight adjustments throughout, we could have won this bid!

From those detailed notes, I left the meeting filled with gratitude. I finally had a strong sense of direction and a newfound confidence in this world that I had just entered. I began writing proposals vigorously, applying everything that rejection had taught me.

The results quickly spoke for themselves. I won my first bid shortly afterwards. In a few shorts months, I had won 5 of my next 7 bids. Even my losses were scoring well and competing with some of the top brands in education. I went from a sure-fire failure to a legitimate winner in a matter of months.

The unlock I hope this article gives you is the idea of making your no’s productive. It is easy to succumb to the inner voice that calls your rejections a failure. However, a no can quickly multiply your ability to be successful.

Next time someone tells you no, whether it’s a book proposal, sales call, article idea, or anything else, here’s what I want you to do… ASK QUESTIONS! Here’s a line I love to use…

“I appreciate you taking the time to consider me for this project and completely respect your decision. My goal is to grow this company and increase the positive impact I can have on (schools, students, teachers, etc.). Would you be willing to spend a quick few minutes with me to discuss my proposal, how you evaluated it, and what I could have expressed better or clarified in order to be considered more strongly? Thank you in advance for any help or guidance you can offer.”

Try it! Worst thing they say is no. Best thing they do is multiple your success and help you crush your learning curve! Wishing you success and growth!

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