It may be the end of the project, with no new assignments directed our way. From connecting the dots, we know there is work that needs to get done. Only we aren't the ones who will be doing it. The reality is that's the end to that source of revenue, at least for a while, and the source of self doubt.
Another form is simple silence. The prospect had spoken with us, asked for additional samples, and later sent an email about pricing. Then nothing.
A third form is not being invited to the next round of competition. We apply. Then are informed that we didn't make the cut.
Here are some tips on how to manage the "no" and even make it, as the cliche goes, lead to a "yes."
Recognize we will never have all the answers. Sure, it's useful to do an autopsy on the relationship and the work products and figure out what we could have done better or differently. But we will never have access to all the data we need to gain a complete analysis.
Nassim Taleb's book "Antifragile" can be the best healer on this one. In his deconstruction of a turbulent economy, Taleb notes on page 6:
"I want to live happily in a world I don't understand."
No, we don't have to understand what happened to proceed with our business and lives in ways that don't hurt us.
Create another source of income. Increasingly creatives are cushioning disappointment and ensuring they pay the rent by doing a paid something else. The middle-aged kitchen designer I met at a Buddhist retreat also developed a mini business driving folks to airports and an expanding enterprise teaching Yoga.
Panic about money in itself can deep-six a possible and current business relationship and impair the quality of the work product. It's in our self interest to figure out other sources of income.
Follow their story. Althought it violates every fundamental of positive thinking and Christian/Buddhist thought, there is relief and release in discovering that the creeps who cut us off from work aren't doing so hot themselves. It could just be that their judgment in communications was off all the time. One who rejected me was terminated from a very good job and is now laboring in a subpar vineyard.
Be open. It could be that we may not be as brilliant in the field in which our brandname was established and that it's time we tried other niches. Opportunity could be an experiment or course away.
My hunch is that the sales platitude that a "no" (eventually) becomes a "yes" tends to be on the money because it gets our attention. We owe it to ourselves to use that pause in business-as-usual to come up with ways we can change our business in these crazy times.