The TACTIC: Understand the process of failure and let it work.
On the way back downstate, Barry kept thinking back on all the times he’d heard his colleague Ray state that next month would be the killer month. In fact, for the past year-and-a-half, that’s all he had heard. All Ray seemed to do at these monthly meetings was hand out one excuse after another.
Perhaps I am better off being downstate, away from the main office, thought Barry as he pulled into the parking lot for a late afternoon appointment. This was his first face-to-face with this prospect. The three phone calls that had gotten him this far had been tough. First the CEO had played hard-to-get, then we-have-no-money, and finally we-already-have-a-supplier.
As he pulled open the main office door, he wondered if he would be confronted with the gee-I-forgot-you-were-coming-in-today game.
“Ah,” said the CEO, greeting Barry after a wait of just a few minutes, “you must be that persistent salesperson that doesn’t take no for an answer.”
At a momentary loss for words, Barry was initially stunned by the CEO’s appearance. His Grateful Dead t-shirt had rips in it, and though cleaned, the old grease and dirt stains were still there. The jeans had holes in both knees. Finally, Barry could not stop staring at the huge gold earring and the long, silver-haired pony tail.
“Surprised you, didn’t I?” asked Malcolm, the CEO. “Expecting a three-piece and wing-tips, maybe?”
“Well . . . you certainly don’t look like you sound on the phone.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“You sounded like someone who was in charge.” The moment Barry said that, he knew it was over. It didn’t come out the way he wanted, but it was too late.
“I am in charge. Tell you what; since you don’t think I’m in charge, turn around, head out the door and find someone else in the company to talk to.” With that, Malcolm turned and walked back into his office.
Barry turned and walked back out to his car. Man, he thought to himself, did I ever screw that one up. Instead of driving off, he sat in his car and began mentally reviewing his approach to Malcolm starting with the first phone call.
Without a doubt, Barry failed at his attempt to sell. He was thrown out of the CEO’s office, but he is determined to learn why this happened.
Babe Ruth, one of the all-time great baseball players, struck out more than two-thirds of the time. In other words, he failed to get a hit more often than not. Does that fact make his career a failure?
Newly hired salespeople do not close most of the prospects they encounter. It’s a fact.
If you remove sales to existing customers, even veteran heavy-hitters do not close most of the first-time non-referral prospects they encounter. Does this make veteran heavy-hitters failures?
Should you think any of these are failures, then sales is a career you should leave. Quickly.
As you can see from the story, Barry has learned to discipline himself. By not taking Malcolm’s comments personally, he is able to objectively review what he did, and what some alternative approaches might have been.
Seeing each “failure” as an opportunity is one of Barry’s sales goals.
A second goal of Barry’s is to write down at least one thing he learns from every prospect/customer contact. This one thing might be a new sales approach, something he learns about himself, something he learns about the prospect. As a result of this failure, what Barry writes down will be very important for his own growth as a salesperson. This failure has given Barry the opportunity to grow and become stronger.
Part of dealing with failure is just that, truly seeing it as an opportunity to grow. If you see failure as some sort of blemish on your abilities, you will then seek to avoid failure situations. Thus, if you never fail, how can you possibly grow stronger? You cannot.
By establishing goals that make failure a learning experience, you can become a stronger salesperson.
Most salespeople set goals that have one thing in common; they are all number related. “I will make X number of sales in Y amount of time at Z profit margin.”
You can only manage your behavior; you cannot directly manage how much money you will make. If your goals, like Barry’s, are behavioral, you can manage them. Since failure to close happens the majority of the time, why not have behavioral goals that deal with it?
If you have failed, and then learned why you failed, you are 99% closer to increased success.
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