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BY Ambi Parameswaran

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I am sure all of us have met advertising, media, digital agency folks who claim that they have won every pitch they participated in. When you probe you will discover they have selective memory lapses: “Oh, that pitch was something we did not really try!”; “That was not really a pitch, it was pre-decided”; “We knew that there was no way they will select an Indian agency”. You would have heard these excuses and more.
There could be some truth in all those declarations. Yes, some pitches are pre-decided. Yes, sometimes agencies participate in a pitch without really thinking through how they are going to win the pitch. In my new book ‘Spring– Bouncing back from rejection’, I have examined the problem of new business prospecting and pitching. Instead of blaming the client and their faulty process, we can all become better if we learn the three-step process of handling rejection.
Let us assume that you made a good effort but you did not win the account. You can keep giving excuses or you can dig deeper. Find out what happened. The first step is to face the rejection and not get into a blame-game. You tried but you failed. Heavens will not fall. Get real. Feel bad. But don’t let that feeling dampen your enthusiasm to succeed. The second step is to process the rejection. Seek feedback from the client. Get a mentor who can help you find out what happened.
The third and the most important step is to learn from the rejection. What went right. What went wrong. What did the agency that won the pitch do that you did not? Once you have gone through this three-step process, you can be ready to reboot your effort. It is likely that this client is not going to look for a new agency in the next year or so. May be they will.
In my own experience I have had a situation where we were let go for what we thought was no fault of ours [isn’t it always]. But the faults were there, we did not choose to see the faults. On deeper probing and processing we realized that we did not read the situation well enough. It took some serious rejigging of the top deck, induction of top-level talent. And the same client who let us go, hired us back six months later on a bigger assignment.
What is true of a client pitch is applicable to you when you are hunting for your next job or next project. Why did you not make the cut? Why were you rejected? What can you learn from the rejection? How can you bounce back, or even bounce back stronger?
Remember that you have an internal spring. You can make it more agile by understanding the three-step process of handling rejection. Do this simple exercise. Think back of the three rejections you have faced in the last five years. What did you do when the rejection hit you? What could you have done better? What did you do to process the rejection? What would have been a better approach? And finally what did you learn from the rejection?

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