September 22

You Don’t Make Mistakes. Mistakes Make You.


The movie “The Last Word” inspired the title of this blog. The movie depicts the story of a successful business woman, Harriet Lauler, who engages a young, local newspaper reporter, Anne Sherman, to write her obituary before she dies.

In one of their many lively dialogues, Lauler gives a piece of advice to the aspiring journalist: “You don’t make mistakes. Mistakes make you.” This great advice should be mentioned often during group sales meetings and one-on-one coaching sessions. 

Most of us have heard the phrase, “You learn more from your failures than your successes.” Everyone nods in agreement, then does their best to avoid failure anyway. Salespeople don’t call on large opportunities or decision makers because of their fear of failure, looking stupid or screwing up an opportunity. They don’t apply coaching from their sales manager or sales trainer because they’re afraid they haven’t quite mastered the skills. So they keep practicing and practicing, never applying new skills in a real-world selling scenario for fear of failing.

Here are three ways to embrace failure and make mistakes!    

  1. Separate what you DO for a living from WHO you are. One of the root causes for fear of failure is the inability to separate what you DO for a living from WHO you are. Your DO in life is your many roles, one being a sales professional or sales manager. Your WHO in life is your character and core values. 

If you make a mistake running a sales call, you’ve failed on your DO, your role as a salesperson, not as a person. You ran a lousy sales call. Period. Remember, you’re still a person of integrity and personal accountability, and you are hard-working. And because you are a person of integrity, you will do what it takes to do better on the next call.

  1. Get fierce about the lesson learned. When you fail, write down the lessons learned from the failure. Ask yourself, “Could I have learned these lessons without the failure? How will this lesson serve me in the future?” This technique is called “re-framing” or “re-appraisal.” Instead of focusing on the negative, you re-frame the situation and look at the positive outcomes of a setback, such as, “I will be more assertive in asking for what I need. It’s OK to disqualify an opportunity and not write a practice proposal.”   
  2. Find good mentors. Mentors have been there, done that and lived to tell about it. An early mentor of mine in the sales development business recognized that I was getting way too stressed about the number of no’s I received early in my sales training career. 

Instead of giving me a rah-rah, attagirl speech, he told me to get to 100 no’s as fast as I could. “By the time you’ve heard 100 no’s, you will have heard every question or objection possible in selling sales and sales management training,” he said. What a gift.My mentor showed me how to fail well, fail fast and move onto winning.

You Don’t Make Mistakes. Mistakes Make You.

What mistakes have made you a better salesperson or sales manager?


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