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minute read
September 12, 2017

How Successful Sales Leaders View Failure (And How You Should Too)

Written by
Noel Hooban

Failure is inevitable in selling when you set ambitious goals. In fact, your team likely achieves more by falling shy of an ambitious goal than it does by meeting an overly conservative one.

However, missing targets can cause disappointment and frustration. Therefore, successful sales leaders need to manage their teams through trying times effectively.

The following is an overview of some tips to help you positively frame failures so that you and your team can learn from them rather than dwell on unmet objectives.

Identify Contributing Factors

In some cases, leaders mistake assessing failure for dwelling on it. You do need to evaluate missed targets to ascertain opportunities for correction.

In particular, it is important to figure out whether you fell short. Was it due to poor vision, or strategic, unrealistic expectations, a lack of execution, or more than one of these factors?

A weak strategy means that your leadership team needs to reassess your approach to allocating selling resources and developing reps.

If you set the bar too high relative to your reps and their capabilities, modify it for the upcoming period. A lack of execution means you either need to evaluate your talent or address training and development issues.

Sales Leaders Remain Positive

Failure, by definition, carries a negative connotation. However, failure is one of the best methods of learning. And, as such, should be taught to be seen as a positive condition.

Salespeople thrive on positive energy and confidence. So, even as you work to identify and address issues, remain positive and focused on the next objective.

Your team needs to believe that you have faith in their abilities to perform.

Otherwise, you create an unnecessary psychological hurdle that can lead to one failure contributing to the next.

Sales Leaders Develop a Growth-Oriented Culture

Much of your sales team’s reaction to failure hinges on the type of culture you establish.

If you operate with a cutthroat, no-excuses mentality, you can expect that reps will feel upset, frustrated, anxious and negative in response to failure.

However, if you build a culture that is positive and growth-centred, failure is viewed as an opportunity to reassess capabilities and focus on continuous improvement.

With this culture in place and a positive approach to coaching leadership, it is more likely that your reps view failure as a hiccup on the path toward personal, professional and team development.

Bill Gates -Sales Leaders - It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure

Sales Leaders Use Data for Support

Failure is especially frustrating when you have to guess as to the causes. If you have a data-driven operation, you can analyse some of the factors that contribute to missed targets.

Sales leaders can look at performance on a rep-by-rep and account-by-account basis. Leveraging data for assessment not only improves your ability to pinpoint reasons for failure, but it helps you coach reps by strengthening your decisions with facts.

You might even find that certain aspects of the missed target were out of the hands of your sales people.

Wrap Up

Failure is never wanted, but framed within a positive growth-oriented culture; view it as an opportunity to grow.

In fact, if you never experience failure, you may have expectations that are too low. Push your team, but support them with a good strategy, a positive attitude and realistic expectations.

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