Failure as Key to Success in Sales & Marketing

By John Aberle | Business Lifestyle

Jan 31
Baby steps

In sales skills, as in baby steps, failure is the key to success.

My baby granddaughter reminded me of an important point

This past week, I watched a video of our youngest granddaughter that Ian posted on Facebook. He captured her as she made her first efforts to stand. What a treat! She was so proud of herself and excited as she wobbled trying to learn balance. She had a good grip on the pole she’d used to pull herself up. She’d let go with only one hand just pleased as could be. Naturally, daddy heaped praise on her too.

All success in life starts with failures

I often think about the parallel in sales and marketing to infants learning to stand, walk and talk. It fascinates me that infants are risk takers. Survival demands it. When we learn to stand and then to walk, we spend more time falling than we do standing or walking. The exciting thing is that everyone praises these early efforts. The same goes for learning to talk. Have you ever strove to understand a toddler’s gibberish? They try so hard to communicate. They’re so sincere and committed. Yet the process normally takes months, even years to become clear enough that people can understand anything more than the most basic images.

Yet somewhere along the line we forget that all life’s activity takes failure to succeed at new skills. This is true especially true in sales and marketing. The more complex something is, the more failure we’ll have to deal with. Good sales ability involves numerous skills, each of which we must master.

Use Visualization to Ingrain Skills But Not to Replace Live Practice

One way to success in sales is to visualize your sales calls, just like great athletes use visualization to improve their games. However, like the cliché about practice, imperfect visualization makes for imperfect skills. You can only master something by visualizing the correct actions so at some point you need training and then you need to apply your skills. I’ve had numerous times where I thought I’d mentally practiced saying something only to discover that it failed to flow smoothly off my tongue when I had to say it out loud.

Use Role Playing to Improve without Blowing Opportunities with Prospects

But instead of using your sales skills first on real prospects, do some role playing during sales training or sales meetings. You can also get a friend to practice with. It took me decades to appreciate this because I grew up with such pressure to be perfect that I dreaded criticism. So, to the best of your ability, make sure that your sales trainer is someone who’s supportive and encouraging through your efforts. Mean spirited critiques kill your spirit.

Likewise, when you do live sales calls, whether on the phone or in person, do your own review. What went well? What could be changed to become better? No matter how many years you are in sales, there will always be another step to become better, another refinement. This means that you will always have small failures to work on.

Your Choice, Use Failure to Succeed or to Quit

The key to success in sales lies in what you do about failure. Do you allow yourself to quit or do you use your failures to improve. Like my granddaughter’s wobbling as she learns her balance, fail, correct, try again. Eventually you get your balance. And like walking, you’ll occasionally stumble so review and adjust to become ever better. You too can find that sales is fun, fulfilling and mutually rewarding.

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About the Author

My first Kindle eBook, How Relationship Selling Rewards Small Businesses, went live on April 24, 2012. I've lived a lifetime of service and spiritual search so it's natural for me to incorporate these attitudes into my work. I believe that selling and marketing are spiritual service when done with a heart-centered, relationship selling approach. All of business success comes down to building strong relationships.