Learning from Failure

In one of my coaching sessions this past week I was reminded of the importance of learning from failure. We have two choices when we fail at something. The first choice is to give up and start the blame game. The second choice is to analyze why you failed, adjust your methods, and try again. Choosing the second option is difficult and is what separates the good from the great in most industries. I've never been a quitter so learning from my mistakes has been very important in my growth as a sales leader. Here are 8 steps that help me when I fail to learn, adapt, and keep moving forward.

  1. Identify the cause of your failure: History has shown me the cause of failure is usually attributed to one or more of the following: inadequate planning, lack of knowledge, lack of experience, poor execution, and/or unmet expectations. Identifying the true cause of failure can be difficult, sometimes it's helpful to have a coach or peer help you nail down the true cause to make sure the next steps are most beneficial.
  2. Identify how the failure effected the situation: How were you perceived by your client during the process of failing? Sounds like a strange question, but what I'm getting at is that the end result of you losing the sale/listing or chance to work with a client was just the final result. What else occurred during the process? Were you perceived as inexperienced, uninformed, or unprofessional? What did your client feel or not feel as a result of your interaction with them?
  3. Fully understand the result of your failure: Did your failure lead to a just a lost sale, a lost client, or a lost listing? Actually no, it led to much more. You lost money, time, experience, and a chance at a satisfied referring customer relationship. It may have also affected your confidence and attitude towards your career. Write down the words that describe how failing made you feel about yourself, your prospects, and your future in sales. You will not want to feel this way again. Remembering these feelings will drive you through the next few steps.
  4. Determine your desired end result: So you failed! Anyone can get a new client, sign a listing, or close a sale. What was your desired end result for all of your hard work? Why were you trying so hard? Why does failure hurt you so badly? If you are just out to "turn and burn" from one transaction to the next, than failure is just a small bump ever once in a while and something to not look back on as you plow ahead. If you are someone that has a vision for your business and desires to have a high trust relationship with your clients, than failure must be something that you learn from and grow from so that you become better with each sales opportunity.
  5. Identify areas of change or training that are needed: When you know what you wish would happen (step 4) and you fully understand the result of your failure (step 3) you can begin to look at where improvement is needed. Do you need to listen to your clients more and understand their needs instead of doing all the talking in your services presentation? Do you need to have more knowledge of the market and sales process? Perhaps your presentation is always disorganized and unprofessional compared to your competition, if so, change is needed. Where do you need to improve in order to win next time?
  6. Identify systems and tools to help you succeed: Once you know where training is needed, it's time to ask what systems and tools are needed. I learned quickly that most of my failures could have been avoided if I had implemented a system or developed a tool to help me engage my clients and prospects better. Some examples of systems and tools for a sales leader would be a buyer and listing presentation, a monthly stay in touch system for your past clients and sphere of influence, prequalification questions for prospects, transaction checklists, and a business plan. You get the idea. These are all systems and tools that can help you in your career. Try completing the following sentences, "I need a way to understand _______________ about my clients", "I need a system/tool to help me present __________________ to my clients", "I need a system for developing _____(#) of leads each week for my business". Filling in the blanks on statements like these when you know why you failed and what you want to achieve moving forward really helps to identify the action steps for learning from your failure.
  7. Set a timeline for implementing these changes: One of my coach's favorite questions is, "When will that be completed Dan?" I love the question and know it's coming whenever I state something that I need to get done or improve on. Layout a timeline for the training and system development that needs to take place in your business. Each year when I do business planning with my team we identify 3-5 improvement projects for each quarter or for the year that will lead to greater success in their business or personal development. There will be some areas of improvement that need to be addressed right away and others that can be pushed to next quarter. Put a plan in place and every time you say you are going to do something, ask yourself, "by when?" And make sure you write it down!
  8. Take action – Keep moving forward: The last step is the toughest one. The easy part is steps 1 through 7. In step 8, you have to put it all into action. Read books, attend workshops and webinars, practice role playing situations that caused you to fail in the past. Work at the objections that you could not handle in the past. You may have to spend money to develop systems and tools. Hopefully the company you work with is dedicated to reinvesting revenue back into the company for this type of development of its sales leaders. Regardless, the onus is on you to take action for your future success and for you to learn from your failure.

Make it a great day!

Coach Dan