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Repackaging: The Smarter Way to Handle Client Rejection

Mark Rizkalla
Repackage, Don't Massage The Smarter Way To Handle Client Rejection

We've all been there. You present a proposal, brimming with potential, only to be met with a resounding "No!". But instead of diving into the "why", some clients fall into a peculiar trap: the massage. They accept the firm "No!" and, through a series of tweaks and concessions, attempt to massage it into a “Yes!”. 


Sound familiar? Let's unpack this curious phenomenon. 


The Massage Parlor of Numbers 

The massage often starts with a focus on the numbers, which in most cases it is at the expense of the price.  Figures are adjusted, timelines are stretched, and budgets are reshuffled, which changes the overall value of the deal – all in the hope of transforming that emphatic "No!" into a "Yes". It's as if, by manipulating the numbers, the initial rejection can be somehow smoothed away. 

But here's the rub: massaging the numbers may not address the core reason for the "No!". It's like treating a symptom without diagnosing the underlying disease.  Sure, the presentation might look shinier, but the fundamental flaws remain buried beneath a layer of massaged numbers. And worst still – a lot of value has been given away. 


The Siren Song of Maybe 

So why do clients get caught in the massage trap? Well, the allure of the "deal" is undeniable. It offers a glimmer of hope, a chance to salvage the proposal without facing the harsh reality of rejection and at times the opportunity for personal gain via “the bonus”. It's easier to keep massaging and hoping than to uncover the uncomfortable truth head-on. 

But indulging in this fantasy comes at a cost. The massage is a time-consuming exercise in futility. It diverts energy and resources away from exploring the actual reasons for the "No!" and finding the genuine objection.  It fosters a culture of avoidance, where addressing difficult truths takes a backseat to superficial tweaks. All of which makes you the biggest loser by eroding value to gain agreement. 


Beyond the Massage 

Instead of getting lost in the massage parlour of numbers, here's a better approach: the Repackage, changes variables - without increasing them: 


  • Embrace the "No!" as an opportunity: It's a chance to learn, to understand the client's concerns, priorities, constraints, needs and to refine your idea. Ask questions, delve deeper, and uncover the "why" behind the rejection.  For example you might say “Help me understand why this proposal doesn’t work for you?” 
  • Focus on the "why" not the "what": Don't just massage the proposal, reframe the conversation. Instead of simply tweaking the positions, address the underlying concerns that led to the "No!". This might involve pivoting the concept, and adjusting the variables, without increasing the over value of the deal altogether.  Summarise the “why”- “So what you are saying is x,y and z? Have I heard you correctly?” 
  • Build trust through transparency: Be honest and upfront about the challenges. Don't try to massage away the "No!" with empty promises or dropping value. Open communication fosters trust and paves the way for genuine collaboration. For example “Thanks for helping me understand why this proposal doesn’t work for you, so to summarise you are ok with x,y and z, you have constraints around a and b? Let me take my proposal back and re-submit one that work for both of us.“ 


This reminds me of a time when, a major client in the financial industry, reached out to me for a proposal.  We'd had a few promising conversations, and I felt confident we could build a strong partnership. I crafted a comprehensive training and consulting package that addressed their specific needs.  Days turned into weeks, and the deafening silence from the client started to gnaw at my confidence.  Had I missed something? Was my proposal not what they were looking for? Finally, the “call” arrived. I quickly answered it, only to be met with a sentence that sent chills down my spine: 'We don't have the budget right now.'


I initially felt discouraged but didn’t stay despondent for long. My years of negotiation training kicked in and I quickly sprang into action. I started by calmly summarising their situation: 'So, if I understand correctly, you're interested in the package but lack the budget this fiscal year?' This simple act of acknowledging their constraints then opened the door for a productive conversation. By tailoring the payment terms to their needs, I was able to secure the deal for the full value of the original proposal. Not only did we run a successful program for their team, but it also opened the door for other teams within their organisation. Within a year, our partnership had flourished, generating significant new business for both of us. 


Remember, a firm "No!" can be a catalyst for growth. By resisting the urge to massage and instead embracing the "why", you can turn rejection into a springboard for better deals and stronger relationships though repackaging your proposal. So, the next time you hear a "No!", don't reach for the massage oil – reach for your curiosity instead. You might just surprise yourself with what you find. 


Happy negotiating! 

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