July 18

How Good Is Your Sales Organization At Failing?


We’ve all heard the phrase, “You learn more from your failures than your successes.” But often, sales organizations aren’t walking the talk. I see a lot of different offices in my line of work. And I see a lot offices with success walls, you know the walls with plaques announcing company of the year, vendor of the year, salesperson of the year. But the problem is I don’t see any failure walls. I imagine this type of wall would have notes about getting outsold by the competitor and the valuable lessons learned. Or a poster memorializing the service after the sales failure and the five new steps put in place to ensure client satisfaction.  

Sales organizations are good at rewarding success but not really good at rewarding failure. They say one thing but actions demonstrate another.

As a result, they create sales cultures that are risk averse, resulting in slow growth or no growth. The reality is that sales is a risky business. You have to take risks to grow revenues. Risks such as:  

  • Calling on new markets where you have no contacts, connections or brand awareness.
  • Calling on bigger opportunities with big decision makers requiring bigger sales conversations.
  • Selling new lines of business with no track record.

All of the above is risky because salespeople don’t know the questions they will be asked during a sales meeting. They haven’t figured out the objections that will be lobbed at them during a sales conversation. So, they avoid the risk associated with new selling behaviors to avoid failing.

So how do CEO’s and sales managers create sales teams that embrace failure? Risk taking?

Change your coaching conversations with salespeople. When debriefing a deal that didn’t get across the finish line, empathize and acknowledge the salesperson’s disappointment. Then, ask your salesperson the powerful coaching questions, “What’s the lesson learned? How will this lesson serve you in winning the next deal?” These questions---and answers---will move the conversation around failure from rhetoric to practical application.

You do learn more from your failures than your successes. Make sure you incorporate failure coaching into your daily and weekly sales coaching conversations.

Good Selling!


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