Failure: The Catalyst for Success in Sales

In Western culture, failure is regarded as the direct opposite of success. Salespeople who fail to close the sale are faced with the challenge of maintaining their motivation and self-esteem. Yet every salesperson must face this challenge, for few of us are fortunate enough to close every sale. How you deal with failure will determine your long-term success in your sales career. Here is a new perspective on failure that will help you to meet the challenge.

In truth, failure is an integral part of success because it contributes to the learning process. You cannot improve your product knowledge, refine your expertise, bolster your competence, or perfect your selling technique without failing and learning from the experience. Life itself can be looked at as a series of small and large failures occasionally punctuated by success. If life required you to close every sale you would never get out of bed. Life is, in fact, a process of learning through our mistakes, not in spite of them. It is a dynamic process in which you cannot get it right until you get it wrong first. So in spite of its usual negative connotation, failure is actually the catalyst for success.

Look at any inventor, any pioneer, and you will see that they tried and failed and tried and failed until they finally figured out what they were doing. A classic example is the famous inventor Thomas A. Edison. Edison tried over a thousand materials until he found the one that would make a filament for his light bulb that would not fizzle and burn in seconds. We do not remember Edison as a failure for the 999 substances that were a miss. We remember him for the one that was a hit.

If sports is your metaphor of choice, think of all the baseball greats who have hit over 300. That means they failed 70 percent of the time! The baseball player who strikes out can feel sure that next time he will be closer to hitting a home run. He does not obsess over the one that got away. The emphasis is on the next one.

NEXT is actually one of my favorite words in selling. By focusing your energies on the next sales situation, losing a deal can be looked at as a positive experience because it means you are now closer to the deal that will close. So when you “fail” to close a sale, yell “NEXT!” No one, including you, will remember the ones that got away. You will be recognized and compensated for the deals you close. If you take a positive approach, failure is not an enemy but your friend.

Hopefully you won’t have to strike out 999 times before you close a deal. But it is essential to recognize that one of the key qualities of great salespeople is persistence. They don’t let their failures stop them. Instead, they use their failures to learn and improve their selling technique.

Copyright © 2019 Ed Brodow.  All rights reserved.


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