May 21, 2014

What Failing in Sales Taught Me About Life


For years, I never considered myself to be the sales type. Due to the limitations to what I thought I could do, I held myself back from success and even worse, learning important lessons about life.

I wasn’t cut out to sell stuff, I thought. I’m more introverted than extroverted. I prefer a quiet coffee shop over a big event with people. When I meet someone new, I listen more than I talk. I’m the opposite of a social butterfly.

Today, I do a lot of sales. Even outside of a formal sales role, I sell clients on my services and sell partners on my ideas.

Looking back, the reasons that held me back from being successful in sales became key obstacles that I needed to overcome to move forward in life.


Your performance and actions are what counts

Overthinking, over analyzing, and over procrastinating. I used to live my life that way. Instead of trying things and making mistakes, I spent time making goals, strategies, plans, plans of plans, and never accomplishing much.

Our minds trick us into thinking that our thoughts and feelings are real, when they’re only our perceptions. They exist only in our minds and don’t change reality. The only things that are real are what we actually do.

In sales, the only things you can base your judgment on are your activities and performance. Everything else is unproven and a part of your perception. The only way to move forward is to send that email, make that sales call, and close that sale.


It’s about them, not you

We always think that everything is about us. Our preferences, our ambitions, and our needs. This strong focus on ourselves makes it hard for us to be around other people. And it made me believe that sales wasn’t for me, not seeing that sales-type activities are everywhere in life.

So often, sales talks and negotiations break down or never even get started because we’re so busy thinking about our solution and not listening to the customers needs. Our product has X and Y feature, way better than competitor Z.

This sounds like Sales 101, but a very fundamental principle to understand. In every step of the sales process and in life, the more that you can keep in mind that it’s not about you, the more you can be of benefit to others (including your customers) and the more you will be able to accomplish the right results.


Rejections don’t mean never

We tend to blow things out of proportions. When we fail or get rejected, we internalize it be something about us and to be something permanent. We fail to see all the conditions that may have attributed to that failure. Maybe it was the time, mood, availability, or even weather.

Because I never faired well in big social settings, I let it define me. I thought I would never be a sales person. Looking back, there were many other factors that may have caused those interactions to go the wrong way, and maybe none of them had to do with me.

We see this in successful sales people all the time. They don’t take no as a rejection of them or their product. This doesn’t mean that they charge on forward recklessly. But they seek to really understand the rejection. What are all the factors that have led to the prospect saying no? And even if now isn’t the right time for the sale, it doesn’t mean that it won’t change in the future.


In the moment, it is always difficult to discern what is good, bad, right, or wrong. But looking back and contemplating, I saw how all of these lessons were ones I needed to learn whether or not I worked in sales. Perhaps, I would have learned them much more quickly if I had. It makes me wonder and want to contemplate on how many other lessons I would have learned if I had gone against my perceptions.


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