I can tell a lot about an inventor based upon his or her attitude towards setbacks and more especially rejection. By ‘rejection' I mean when a prospective retailer or licensee gives the dreaded ‘it's not for us' answer.
Inventors respond most typically to such circumstances in one of two ways:
- Frustration, anger, bitterness
- Determination – vowing to retool, rework and prepare for the next presentation
To be honest, 1. above is our natural default response to setbacks and rejection, especially when we had exerted a good deal of time, effort, and money into our pitch only to be rebuffed.
But, to succeed as an inventor, you must learn to rise above such circumstances; to pick yourself up, and start anew. Whenever a rejection comes your way – and they will come your way quite often – it means you much change something you are doing or saying.
But, the second attitude is much easier said than done. What does it take to transition from the natural negative emotions to a positive, almost stoic, attitude of determination and resilience?
You Can Turn a Setback into Failure – or Success
Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, threats or significant sources of stress. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences. The good news is that everyone has some resilience and like any skill set, it can be strengthened and improved over time. Here is an article on 10 ways to improve resilience.
To prevent a setback from turning into a failure, I recommend you go into an important meeting with two plans: Plan A and Plan B. Plan A is what you will do if they say ‘yes' – to chart out the next steps, etc. Plan B is what, specifically, you will do should they say ‘it's not for us' – what inventors dread most.
Like most inventors, for the longest time, I went to every meeting armed only with Plan A, there was no Plan B other than to gracefully depart the meeting. One day, I realized I was missing golden opportunities to garner valuable information regardless of their decision – yes or no.
There are two very valuable pieces of information you can get from every ‘it's not for us' meeting. You can ask them the following:
- What, specifically, would you say is the key reason you are choosing not to go forward with this product?
- If you were me and this was your product, what would be your next step to move forward with it?
1. is a great way to get them to tell you what you really want to know: why are they saying ‘no' to your product? If you ask defensively, they will not want to hurt your feelings and you will learn nothing. But ask the same question in this sort of analytical format, they can hardly resist telling you what is their real reason. That is going to be very valuable information.
2. simply has you putting them in your shoes and asking them to recommend what you should do next to have a more positive outcome. This is almost always valuable information as well.
Once I changed my attitude towards ‘rejection' in this way, I anxiously anticipated the valuable information I would garner from the meeting no matter what their decision was.
Try it for yourself!