Over the next several weeks we will be writing several posts in response to what we have been hearing from the makers that we work with around putting yourself out there, rejection, what silence means, and the key mistake most makers make when sharing their work.
Here are some basic truths that we all already know, but tend to forget:
- If you aren’t putting yourself out there, if you aren’t boldly connecting on behalf of your art, then you and your business aren’t growing.
- If you do put yourself out there, you will face rejection.
So here is the fundamental shift that we have experienced, and that we see successful makers make...
Successful makers and entrepreneurs learn to reinterpret rejection and failure.
Except for the “lucky” few who somehow strike on just the right combination from the start, the rest of us have to grow through courage, experimentation, perseverance, and shifting what we do based on the overall results we get.
And all of that depends on a different relationship with rejection -- because the majority of the time, our efforts to connect won’t work and we’ll get “rejected” That’s fine, since only some of what we do needs to work in order for us to be wildly successful. But it does mean that unless we cultivate a new understanding of rejection, we will never be able to persevere past the first few weeks -- it will be too exhausting.
In order to reinterpret rejection, we have to gain a new understanding of what success means. The problem isn’t rejection in itself. The problem comes when we draw the wrong conclusions from rejection.
When we get a “no” from a store we thought was perfect and we think that it means that if that store didn’t work out, then what the hell will!? Or that wholesale isn’t the path for us. Or that we shouldn’t have reached out.
For connection to be sustainable, we have to detach ourselves from the ups and downs of the results. This is exactly what Steli Efti and Patrick McKenzie tell us, with a technique they use in the world of Silicon Valley sales. Steli says the trick is to distance yourself from the result, and focus more on the part you actually do.
One tactical way to do this is to count the emails sent, not the responses. So if you know that for every 20 stores you introduce yourself to, in the long run, after following up diligently, you will get 1 new account, then use a physical piece of paper where you check those off as you send them. A great tool for something like this is Elise Blaha’s Goal Tracker.
One caveat here: you absolutely do need to be thoughtful and passionate and discerning as you connect with stores about your art. Like Seth Godin says, it can hurt to ask, if you ask in the wrong way. You should not email people randomly and then hope that some tiny percentage buys from you. But if you are emailing stores that you truly believe would benefit from having your product on their shelves -- and you’re doing so in a respectful and thoughtful way -- then your job is simply to do that consistently and without letting each individual rejection cause you pain or turmoil.
Some will, some won’T -- so what?
There is a saying which we came across through our friend Katy of Made For | Made By: some will, some won’t, so what? Some people will get what you’re up to, some people won’t -- so what? Move on to the next person.
A “no” is not an indictment of your art or OF you.
A “no” just means that for a few reasons that you aren’t privy to it didn’t work. Maybe the store just placed an order with a similar artist. Maybe they didn’t like the font on your line sheet. Maybe they had a bad morning or their kid got in trouble at school.
No matter what the answer is, if you checked off your boxes for today, then you were successful in putting yourself out there, come what may.
Your only job now is to do the same courageous, difficult, necessary work of connecting -- today, tomorrow, and next week.