You Talentless Clown

by | Jun 26, 2024 | Money

[Editor’s note: I met our guest columnist, proposal pricing expert Casey Brown, when she delivered a keynote at the 2024 Build A Better Agency Summit  (BABA) last  May in Denver.]

Have you ever been called a talentless clown by a client? No? Me neither, but let’s be honest: rejection from clients can make us feel just that way, especially for those of us running professional services firms.

If you offer marketing, consulting, training, engineering, legal, or accounting services, you’re not just the brains behind the operation; you’re also the face of sales. You’re a “seller-doer.”

Whether you’re a founding member of a creative firm, a law firm partner, or a senior accountant, you have a deeply personal connection to the work you do.  So, when clients reject your proposals or push back on your pricing, it stings.

It doesn’t feel like a mere business setback. It feels personal. Instead of hearing, “Your firm’s services aren’t a good fit right now,” what goes through your mind is, “You aren’t any good, you talentless clown.”

A “yes” feels like a personal win. A “no” feels like a very personal loss. There is a lot of professional pride. There is a very personal connection to somebody saying yes to you and your service. And likewise, a very emotional, personal reaction to someone saying no.

I recently had a chat with senior leaders at a marketing agency facing this very issue. Some senior members of their team are so averse to hearing “no” that they take on projects—even at a loss—just to avoid the agony of hearing that no.”

But here’s the downside: taking rejection personally chips away at your confidence in your value, and that affects your pricing. You’ll start undervaluing and underpricing your services in future proposals and give in to price objections too easily.

So, next time you hear no from a client, try reframing it. They’re not rejecting you as a trusted advisor or questioning your expertise. They’re saying the service isn’t the right fit for them at this moment. And remember, a no today doesn’t mean a no forever.

This distinction can help you understand the customer choice more dispassionately, remain objective in future negotiations, and avoid underpricing.

Your confidence directly influences your profitability. By separating the no from your self-worth, you set the stage for future yeses—and safeguard your bottom line.

Casey Brown

Casey Brown, founder of, is on a mission to help organizations be paid well for their excellence. She leads a team of experts who helps organizations discover their true pricing power—and watch their profits rise as a result. With degrees in Chemical Engineering, Spanish, and Business and career experience in engineering, Six Sigma, and pricing strategy for multiple Fortune 500 companies, Casey brings unmatched expertise to help clients.