Is a Lost Sale Better for Salespeople Than a Win?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Sep 16, 2012 @ 23:09 PM

winnersIn the past decade, Boston's sports teams have won a number of championships.  The two which excited me the most were the Red Sox' 2004 World Series victory and the Patriots' 2001 Super Bowl win.  When I reminisced about those long-awaited championships, I was surprised at how little time I spent savoring those wins, compared with how much time I spent mourning the huge losses.  I was on cloud nine the day after the big wins, but speechless, depressed and generally miserable for weeks after the big losses - especially the 1986 World Series loss to the Mets and the 2003 Playoff loss to the Yankees.

As always, this got me thinking about sales and whether the same reactions to wins and losses in sports held true for wins and losses in selling.  There is a huge difference between sports and selling:

  1. We are not spectators in sales, we are participating!  
  2. There is money at stake for salespeople, much different than when we root for our team (unless there is gambling taking place).
  3. We have some control over the selling outcome.

Does personal participation, a financial stake or being in control change how we feel about the selling outcomes?

I analyzed some of my own biggest wins and losses from the past 5 years and realized that the wins only provided me with satisfaction.  That's it you ask?  Yes, that's it.  Satisfaction.  There were no celebrations, champagne, ice cream or pats on my own back.  On the other hand, when I identified the losses (they were harder to locate), I remembered that more than anything else they made me angry.  So the losses in sales, just like in sports, evoked a greater emotional response from me than the wins.

So, which is better?  I believe it depends on the individual.  For most of us, wins build confidence, momentum and lead to greater success.  For others, losses make us better because unlike the wins, they force us to debrief, replay the entire process including each meeting, every conversation, follow-up, time lines, commitments and missed opportunities.  

When a baseball team wins the World Series, fans aren't thinking about how the team could improve to have a better chance at winning next year.  But when they lose, fans do think about potential trades, free agent signings and promising rookies who could come along to make the team better next year.

When salespeople are required to debrief after a loss, a call which didn't go as planned, a meeting which didn't have the desired outcome, or there was no decision, they improve and reduce the chance of a similar outcome.  I believe losses are more powerful than wins.  What do you think and what is your personal experience?

Topics: sales blog, sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, lost sales analysis, red sox, Patriots, sales debrief, sales success

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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