How to Handle “No”

We all know that changing somebody’s mind is hard to do. Most new ideas will be challenged and discarded at first, even really good ideas.

When you present a new idea, how do you react to “NO”?

Jenn Hyman, co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway, says that she heard “NO” a lot…at first.

According to legend, Hyman came up with the idea for Rent the Runway in 2008 after she watched her sister buy a brand new, high-end designer dress for a wedding – despite the fact that sis already owned a few beautiful dresses.

You see, social media had changed the game. There were a growing number of women who did not want to be photographed in the same dress again and again, especially if the picture could be posted somewhere. This gave Hyman her big idea.

Since woman need and want more expensive dresses, why not rent high fashion clothing and accessories at an accessible price point?

So just one year after meeting at Harvard business school, Hyman and her business partner Jen Fleiss started Rent the Runway.

And yes, the concept of renting vs. buying designer clothing was met with skepticism at first. It wasn’t easy to get designers on board.

Hyman’s strategy? “I viewed “no” as an invitation for a conversation.”

According to Hyman, when designers refused to sell her inventory for Rent the Runway, she asked questions, (in a non-confrontational way – tone is very important here):

  • “What don’t you like about this idea?”

  • “What’s scares you about this?”

  • “What can I change about my idea that might make this something that is more palatable to you?”

By being open to understanding why designers were apprehensive and then adapting the model to a designer’s needs, Hyman was able to sell in her idea and gain widespread adoption. Today, Rent the Runway has plenty of competition, so the concept is here to stay.

The next time you present a new idea, try viewing ‘no’ as an invitation for a conversation. This works beautifully as long as you stay curious and open to learning something new.

You just might turn the no into a YES!

Cheers, Cheryl

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