Vistage Research Center

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Is failure really not an option?


We’ve all heard the phrase, “You learn more from your failures than successes.” Now, let’s apply the emotional intelligence skill of reality testing. Companies and sales organizations don’t really believe that statement. How do I know?

Walk into an office and you will find a success wall filled with plaques such as vendor of the year, CEO of the year or best places to work. Look around. Do you see any failure walls? If failure is our greatest teacher, why aren’t organizations boasting about their failures? (Okay, a failure wall in the front lobby might be a little much.)

Sales managers unknowingly create ‘play-it-safe’ sales cultures by not addressing the issue of failure. Here’s the real irony. If a salesperson is trying something new, such as opening a new market segment or going after a large opportunity, there is a good chance she doesn’t know everything needed to succeed.

The fear of failure looms over the salesperson’s head and she defaults to doing what’s comfortable, what she knows.  Status quo and comfort zone become the norm and sales revenues decline.

So what can sales managers do to create risk taking, failure loving sales cultures?

  1. Reward failure. At your next sales meeting, ask your team to share selling scenarios where they took a risk. Encourage a high-five celebration for moving out of their comfort zones and into the profit making zone.
  2. Ask the powerful questions.  “What lesson did you learn from the failure? How will this lesson serve you in the future in winning business?”

These questions help salespeople see the tangible results of failing. In the words of Thomas Edison, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” (click to tweet this)

Go out and fail. Get the lessons learned and apply them towards your next sales adventure and sales success.

Good Selling!

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