3 Surprising Lessons from Prospects Who Say No To You

Cathy Goodwin
4 min readFeb 20, 2021

Entrepreneurs gain valuable insights from prospects who rejected them.

Based on a photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash.

Melissa, an executive coach, had been talking to a medium-size company about their new training program. The company was looking for someone to coach six executives and run a weekend retreat.

Melissa spent a lot of time with Jack, the vice president who would be the decision-maker.

Jack asked for videos of previous presentations. He called a few of her references. She met with others who’d be on the team.

Of course, they also discussed prices. Melissa knew her price was well within the market but could be seen as high to people who weren’t familiar with her work.

As with any big-ticket item, the sales cycle lasted a long time. Melissa achieved some rapport with Jack. She began to see herself doing the job, realizing she was a perfect fit.

She was truly surprised and disappointed when Jack called to say, “Thanks for your time. We’ve decided to go with another company.”

Being rejected after coming so close: that’s hard.

Melissa’s first reaction was, “I’d like to know why. Maybe I can schedule a time to do some customer research.”

Jack wasn’t enthused. “Send me an email,” he said.

Melissa asked me, “What’s the best way to learn Jack’s backstory?

At this point, though, Jack’s backstory will not be especially helpful. When you get a “no” you need to uncover a different story. Here’s why.

(1) Your prospect may not have a good answer to the “why” question.

In general, asking “why” rarely gives you useful answers. I discuss this more in my article on marketing research questions. Asking your prospects why they turned you down will encourage them to be creative — and half the time they honestly don’t know.

At one time, I was buying a new home. I spent time talking to several different agents before making a spontaneous decision to work with someone I’d just met. I didn’t have a good reason for my choice and in hindsight, I’d have done better to choose someone else.

Cathy Goodwin

Create a compelling marketing message that attracts your ideal clients through your unique selling story. http://cathygoodwin.com