The saying by Thomas J Watson (the OG CEO of IBM) “if you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate” could not be truer. We all know sales is a tough gig, it requires a lot of experimenting which means that 9 times out of 10 you will fail and fail a lot before you can succeed.
When speaking with sales candidates, I ask for their biggest failure and success stories – more often than not, I am more intrigued by their attitude towards the failures. This is because someone who has experienced, and survived failure has found invaluable knowledge and the impregnable resilience, perseverance and determination created from overcoming difficult situations.
“YOU CAN’T LET YOUR FAILURES DEFINE YOU. YOU HAVE TO LET YOUR FAILURES TEACH YOU” – BARAK OBAMA
I went through a series of constant failures in the past which at the time felt like I was drowning and couldn’t see which way was up. I reflect back and am grateful for the powerful lessons I learnt from failing.
The first crucial lesson gained from failure is knowledge. We learn lessons better when we make mistakes because we can analyse and identify what went wrong and ensure we put in strategies, so we don’t make the same mistake twice. It is better to try, fail, and learn than do nothing because you are scared of failure. When we go through hardship and can come out on the other side with first-hand experience, it helps us to develop a proper perspective on success… and also allows the chance to start again, but more intelligently.
Failing in sales helps to build resilience. The more no’s we get, the closer we are to someone saying yes. In order to succeed in sales, we must be resilient. If we think that we’re going to win a new client on the first go from a call or email, or even the first few efforts, then we’re actually setting ourselves up for a significantly more unpleasant failure. Buyers these days are smarter, and it takes an average of 18 calls to actually connect with them. Thus, resilience is key and reminds us that true success will take a huge amount of work and effort.
After every failure (no matter how big or small), we grow and develop as salespeople. We always search for deeper analysis and insight about our approach and why we’re doing it the way we do. This enables us to resonate the rationale behind the tactic resulting in a self-development as we discover meaning from the failure.
We are meant to grow and improve in sales (and in life in general). We all have a weakness or something to improve on and with self-reflection the weakness can be changed into a strength. Keeping humble and honest with yourself is crucial towards personal development.
“SUCCESS IS STUMBLING FROM FAILURE TO FAILURE WITH NO LOSS OF ENTHUSIASM” – Winston Churchill
Not hitting your yearly target, screwing up on a cold call or missing out on a promotion or job is hard on the ego – it’s a terrible feeling when things don’t go as planned because of your own missteps. We are taught from very early on that failing is unfortunate and something bad; that shame, bitterness or resentment comes with failure. But if salespeople viewed failure as a learning opportunity rather than a step backwards they’ll become one step closer to discovering what really works!
Keep working, keep striving, never give up. Fall down 8 times, get back up 9. Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.
What other lessons has failure taught you?