Thought Leadership

March 2, 2010

The Right Way to Reject

Anne Green

Is it weird to say that I had a great rejection call today? Well I did. Allow me to explain…


When it comes to new business, no batting average is perfect. You can have a stellar team, amazing ideas and great chemistry with a prospective client and still come out in second place. And in other cases…well, sometimes you just strike out big-time.


Win-some, lose-some. This is a rule of business (and life), and certainly not unique to PR agencies. But what really interests me is the rejection itself – what form it takes and (at the risk of being unintentionally funny) how it’s “executed.”


I’m not the first to observe that eight or nine times out of 10, PR agencies on the losing side of a pitch hear very little from the prospective client. We all know that the debrief, the post-mortem, the lessons-learned, etc., are a critical part of the pitching process. But the feedback loop – often so active and lively during the pitch process itself – typically gets severed the moment you hear the “no” (or even well before, as the silence grows deafening…).


What did we do well? Where did we connect? Did you feel we understood your needs, your business, your competitors, the challenges framed in your RFP? How did you like our people? Where did we blow it? Where we “off” by a lot or a little? Would you be open to staying in touch? Were you impressed enough to refer us to others with relevant needs? Or do we really need to do some soul-searching on where we went awry?


These (and many more) are the vital questions we’d love to ask. And that’s why I so appreciated the “rejection” received earlier today.


The prospect in question arranged a conference call with all the key parties. Both clients with whom we met immediately let us know the news, then shared specifics on why the decision was made. They outlined what aspects of our presentation and overall offering were compelling. And they shared where they felt the fit with their needs was off. They included insights on the factors that stood out for the winning agency. And yes…they let us know which agency it was.


In this particular case, we gave the business a very good run for the money and got a lot of positive feedback regarding our team and approach. So the sting of disappointment was somewhat tempered. Yet even if the feedback had been more critical, the very fact of connecting, asking questions and coming to a point of clear conclusion would have meant so much.


You pour your heart and soul into every pitch. You focus tremendous energy on everything about a given organization or challenge in question. And then suddenly…it’s over. Closure is key. So win or lose, give us the real feedback! We can take it. And what’s more, we really want it!


More in Thought Leadership