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Losing Is Part of Progress

by Doug Davidoff | Mar 7, 2012 5:44:00 AM

losingI’ll never forget the defining moment of my sales career.  I had experienced some nice success in my early sales career.  I made more than my share of awards clubs, I was making good money and, frankly, I was having a lot of fun.

I also knew, intuitively, that, while I was doing well, what I was doing wasn’t going to get me the results I wanted over the long run.  So, in the midst of a successful career, I decided to radically change my approach to selling.

I decided that being a closer wasn’t enough.  While I didn’t use these words at the time, I realized that I needed to become a businessperson who sells.  I needed to earn “a seat at the executive table.”  And to do this, I knew that I would have to develop new skills, new systems and new disciplines.

The first steps of the journey were very exciting for me.  I felt great about what I was doing.  I got to laugh at all the closes I had memorized, and I dreamed of winning big deals, and of hanging out with the movers and shakers of business.

Making the change was tough. I had to work hard.  I’d constantly fall back on old behaviors and found myself pulling out my power closes even when I didn’t want to.  But I was making good progress.  I was entering new, better opportunities.  I was going against tougher competition – a clear sign that my business was growing they way I needed it to.

And then, all of the sudden, I got to face frustration head on.  I was losing opportunities.  Suddenly, I found myself losing more deals in a month than I had in a quarter or even a year.  Clearly something was wrong, and I thought seriously about whether my quest for a better form of selling was a mistake.

When I sat down to assess what wasn’t working, I realized that, while I was losing more opportunities, I was also winning more good, high-profit deals.  I realized that while my skills were improving, I hadn’t mastered them yet.  I was good enough to get in the door with the right people and the right opportunities, but I wasn’t yet good enough to win the business.

What was also fascinating was how much I was learning; both about selling better and about delivering a compelling proposition.  The no’s I was getting were making my company’s offerings better.

I realized that losing was a clear sign of progress and a learning opportunity.  As you grow your company, please don’t forget that, to get where you want to go, you’ll encounter very similar experiences.

If you’ve got a growth story, I’d love to hear about it.  Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.