Three Ways Sales Managers Can Teach Their Team to Fail Well

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Posted: December 4, 2014

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Many salespeople have heard the phrase, “You learn more from your failures than your successes.”   However, if you look inside sales organizations, sales managers are sending a different message, one that creates a ‘play-it-safe’ sales culture.  

For example, most sales organizations have a wall where plaques of success are hanging.  There is a salesperson of the year, rookie of the year or best team player.  What’s missing is a failure wall, one that has plaques touting failures and lessons learned. 

Is it any wonder that salespeople avoid risk, play it safe and retreat to the proverbial comfort zone?   Sales managers, it’s time to inspire your people to take risks, experience failure and rise to greater level of success.   Here are three steps to failing well.

#1:  Create a lessons learned sales culture.  Take part of your sales meetings to discuss a lost deal or a selling situation where the competitor flat out outsold you.  Facilitate learning with these key questions:

  • What did you learn?  What will you change?
  • Could you have learned the lesson without this failure? 
  • How will these lessons serve you in winning bigger or better business in the future?

By walking your sales team through these questions, they understand how failure can and will make them more successful.

#2:  Remind your team to take the failure on their role as a salesperson, not their self-worth.   The most resilient salespeople have the ability to separate what they do for a living from who they are.   Most successful people have failed multiple times on their journey to success.  However, they don’t take the failure personally.  They know they still possess the attributes which make a great human being:  honesty, kindness, accountability, compassion, humor and the list goes on. 

A recent coaching session with a salesperson reminded me of this fear of failure.  We were debriefing her first year with the company.  She is hitting her quota; however, she shared an introspective comment.  “I wonder what I could have achieved if I had gone after the deals I didn’t think I could win.”   To her credit, she knew she had played it safe to avoid failure. 

#3:  Watch the video.  You will see that you are in good company with others that have failed and succeeded. Click on the wall image above to view.

Teach your sales team how to fail well.   You will find them taking more risks, learning great lessons and outperforming your ‘play-it-safe’ competitor. 

Good selling!