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Losing

by David Brock on December 20th, 2011

I’m writing this with some trepidation, I worry that my message will be misunderstood or used by poor sales people as an excuse.  With that as a disclaimer, there’s real value in losing—but we have to take the time and extract the value that losing provides us.

We never want to enter any sales situation to lose it.  We have to compete vigorously, doing everything we possibly can to win!  It’s our job, it’s what makes us successful, and it’s what professional sales people live for.

However, recently, I was engaged in a conversation with someone claiming his organization’s win rate was in excess of 99% (let’s put aside definitional issues, under virtually every definition, 99+% is very high).  My immediate reaction was, “That’s too bad, it must mean you  are missing lots of opportunities.”

Winning is great, but we really don’t learn much from winning.  We don’t learn where we can do better.  We don’t learn what we are missing, We don’t learn how to stretch ourselves to achieve more.  Winning too much means we are playing it safe–we aren’t taking risks.

There’s a danger in winning too much, we become arrogant, we become blind, we stop listening, we stop improving, we start believing we are unbeatable, we get comfortable and complacent.  Ultimately, we set ourselves up not just for losing, but for massive failure.

Losing is tremendously powerful.  The problem is too often we don’t take advantage this power.  It’s through losing that we really learn.  If we’ve lost because we have stretched ourselves, if we have tried something new, if we have pushed ourselves outside our comfort zone–either trying something new with our customers, going after new markets and new customers.

Losing is the most powerful way of learning something new–but we have to take the time to understand and learn.  We have to apply what we have learned to winning the next time.  Losing shows us where we can improve, how we can grow.  Winning can never teach us those lessons.

Wasting the opportunity to learn and grow through losing is just wasteful–it’s a failure in your personal professionalism or of management.

Losing isn’t something we try to do.  We shouldn’t make excuses when we lose, but we take the opportunity to learn, grow and move forward.

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