Failure in sales is very common. But, dealing with those failures is something many salespeople struggle with.
In this blog, I am going to talk about three ways you can effectively deal with failure.
How do we define a Failure in general?
If you pursue an outcome and if you are not able to fulfil the outcome as per your or the society’s expectations, it’s considered a FAILURE.
Sales is an outcome-based profession and the outcome of sales is Binary, you either lose or you win. Every salesperson experiences that awful feeling of not being able to achieve his sales quota.
This feeling can be very discouraging, it might make you feel ashamed of yourself.
However, failure in sales or Life, in general, is bound to happen.
In sports, for example, you lose some games, you win some games. We have seen THE BEST of the batsmen in cricket getting out at 0 runs. This does not mean that they have failed as a sportsperson.
Similarly in sales, you will lose some deals and win some deals. That’s how the sales profession is. Just because ONCE you weren’t able to hit your quota, does not automatically make you a failure.
In my B2B sales career, I have failed many times. I have also overachieved many times.
This entire experience of failing and winning has given me some sense of dealing with failure.
Through my experience, I have realised that failure in sales or general life is never the problem. The problem is how you perceive a failure and decide to deal with it.
I was once watching an interview of Ginni Rometty (ex CEO of IBM). She was asked how she dealt with failures. She was humble enough to admit that she had had many failures in her life and some were even public but she said that she never looked at them as failures. For her, every failure was an opportunity to analyze what went wrong and what could be learnt from it.
Success in sales is always looked at from the lens of achieving your sales quota. If you do your numbers, you are a successful salesperson. If you do not meet your sales quota, you are not a successful salesperson.
But, after spending more than 15 years in B2B sales, I have understood that in sales achieving your sales quota isn’t always in your hands.
Other things need to be taken into consideration.
According to me, success or failure in B2B sales depends on three fundamental things :
1. Salesperson’s skills and efforts
2. Company, Product, Competition, Price
3. Territory which Salesperson is handling
You could have the best of salespersons, but if nobody is buying in the territory where they are selling, or if the competition is too strong, if the market price is lesser than yours, chances are that you won’t succeed.
Likewise, if you have a great product and if the territory you are selling is in the mode of spending but you don’t have a skilled sales team to make use of this opportunity, you might end up losing a lot of business to the competition.
Failure in sales is quite common.
You cannot completely avoid failing, but you can learn how to effectively deal with them. You can learn how to make failure a stepping stone for success.
So let’s talk about the 3 ways of dealing with failure in sales.
Step 1: Be objective about the outcome
Every time we fail in sales and otherwise, we always push ourselves into this unending blame cycle. We either blame ourselves for not working hard enough or we blame the others for not supporting us when required.
Failure in sales is a difficult thing to deal with. Many times salespeople get emotional and take that failure personally instead of treating it objectively.
Sales is a function of business and business works on logic. This is why failure in sales needs to be viewed objectively, only then we would have a fair chance to be able to figure out what went wrong and find the real cause of that failure based on fact and not on judgment and biases.
Take the example of a toddler:
When he starts walking at first, he falls within a few steps. But he doesn’t get emotional about it. He might cry but that’s only because he must have gotten hurt. But he gets up and tries again.
In the entire process of him learning to walk on his own, how much ever time it takes, you won’t ever see him or his parents complaining. Neither do they get emotional about the child not being able to walk.
This is because they know that falling down is all part of the process. They look at the outcome objectively. They know that the toddler is bound to fall, they know that without falling, the toddler would not be able to walk on his own.
And they know that in a few months, his body will develop and the toddler would start walking and maybe also running on his own.
When we don’t take these important milestones of our lives emotionally, why do we take our work emotionally?
Step 2 – Learn from your failure in sales.
I have failed many times in sales and life in general. And through these ups and downs, I have come to believe that if we rename failure to learning, learning from our failures becomes very easy.
Let’s for a moment, think about success. What happens when you get successful in something? You feel nice, you are rewarded monetarily, people praise and appreciate your work, you have your moment of glory.
Now, what happens when you fail?
Maybe, you don’t get rewarded, you don’t have your moment of glory, but you get to know the things that you were not previously aware of.
Many times failures give us priceless insights.
Also, because you have tried doing that task, you have moved one step ahead at being better at your craft.
So, Failure helps you learn more than success. Whereas success is not that great a teacher. When you are successful you have already proven yourself, there is nothing new for you to do further.
Sales is a profession where you are bound to fail sometimes or the other. Instead of punishing yourself and letting that failure cause you anxiety and stress, it is better to wear your students’ hat and think about the outcome objectively.
According to me, one of the best examples of how you can learn from your failures comes from the story of SpaceX and its Falcon-1 launch.
In the year 2002, there were only giant companies like Boeing, Lockheed, and NASA, in the space travel industry. During that time Elon Musk made a bold decision of starting his startup, Space X, with a simple mission of making space travel affordable.
Elon Musk has always created headlines with his out-of-the-box innovations. However, SpaceX with its Falcon-1 rocket, also highlighted his ‘never give up’ attitude.
SpaceX, what we now recognize as a reputable and much talked about space organization was struggling badly in its initial days.
Elon Musk wanted to bring to reality his dream of making space travel easier and at the same time cheaper. This idea of commonly affordable space travel was deemed absurd by many veterans of the rocket industry from the get-go, and that only fueled Elon Musk’s ambition.
He started his project with a small budget in hand, a budget that would allow no more than 200 aerospace engineers to work on his dream project. But he had faith in them, and he did his best to motivate them.
And four years later in 2006, after countless sleepless nights, and unending workdays, Elon Musk and his team were all set for the launch of their first-ever rocket; Falcon-1 which would go on to create history.
Elon and his team of space engineers stood there, on the Kwaj island, watching as their first rocket was ready for takeoff. All of them were praying and were hopeful of their success. But just 30 seconds after takeoff, Falcon-1 exploded and came down on the ground with million shattered pieces, along with four years of dreams.
“Coming down and picking up the pieces was, personally, something that I struggled with for a couple of months. I was not used to not being successful. But, that is part of the business, and I had to get used to it. You have to fight it very hard, otherwise, it will take over.” – Hans Koenigsmann (Ex-Head aerospace engineer at SpaceX)
Elon Musk along with his team had worked hard day and night. But what they got was a massive failed attempt. Their attempts of flying Falcon-1 beyond earth’s orbit and then back again failed in succession the other two times as well, in 2007 and 2008.
These three back to back failures took a toll on SpaceX’s reputation as well as its longevity. After three failures and a loss of millions, SpaceX found itself on the cusp of bankruptcy.
They had ONE more rocket in their vault. If this failed, SpaceX would have to shut down forever.
But Elon Musk had faith in his team and his mission. In fact, he was eager to test his 4th launch. He was sure that this time, it would work,
“We have one more rocket. Let’s launch it as fast as we can.” – Elon Musk
On September 28, 2008, the SpaceX crew stood once again on Kwaj island. Some were crying, some were praying and some couldn’t even look up at the sky.
Halted breaths and racing heartbeats accompanied Falcon-1 as it took flight. It broke the atmosphere, flew past the earth’s orbit and … remained intact.
Kwaj Island and the headquarters of SpaceX were filled with joy and relief that day. Falcon-1 was high up in the sky and SpaceX would remain firmly on the ground creating history for decades to come.
“If we had not reached orbit on that attempt, SpaceX would not exist.”- Elon Musk
(On the tenth anniversary of Falcon-1’s successful flight)
Elon Musk vowed to never give up and he did not. He looked at all his failures objectively, learned from them and turned them into stepping stones that carried him to Massive success
Space X and Falcon 1’s first launch is a great story of resilience, learning from failure and turning it into a massive success.
Step 3: Avoid Comparison.
I believe 3 Idiots is one the best Bollywood movies ever made.
In the movie, there is quite a funny scene where Farhan and Raju go to check their results. Initially, they notice that their friend Rancho failed the exam and therefore they were very sad for him. However, later they come to know that Rancho hasn’t failed but has actually topped the exam. This makes his friends Raju and Farhan even sadder.
And this is where Farhan says this famous dialogue.
“Human behavior ke baare mein humne uss din kuch jaana. Dost fail ho jaaye toh dukh hota hai lekin dost first aa jaaye to zyada dukh hota hai.”
(Translation) That day we learnt something about the human behavior. When your friend fails, it hurts. But when your friend comes first, it hurts worse.
Doesn’t this scene remind you of real life?
Many times we feel lesser when we compare ourselves to people who have achieved more than us.
This happens many times in Sales because in sales when you are failing in achieving your goals, there is a possibility that one of your team members is overachieving his quota. And because your teammate is overachieving his targets, the goals of your team are getting fulfilled, this could add to our pain of failure.
Everyone has their own journey. No two people on this planet are exactly the same. And that is why comparing yourself with others isn’t the right way for evaluating your abilities and achievements.
The only person you can compare yourself to is who you were yesterday and who you want to be tomorrow.
Comparing only leads to disappointment.
Comparing yourself with others either gives you an inferior complex in cases where you are comparing yourself with someone seemingly better or toxic superiority in cases where you are comparing yourself with someone seemingly poorer.
Honestly, comparison is an endless cycle, a toxic one.
It never ends and you will always find someone better than you or lesser than you.
You don’t need to be better than anybody. You need to be better than yesterday’s you.
So, instead of sulking and feeling bad because of others’ success, let’s learn from others and use it for our success.
I hope this blog gave you clarity on how to deal with failures in sales. If you found this blog interesting, share it with others. Subscribe to never miss an article in the future. And if you have any queries, drop them in the comments, I am always happy to help.
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