Turn setbacks into starting points

Let’s talk about selling smarter!
Setbacks happen to all of us, even to the best of us. Winston Churchill lost elections. So did Abraham Lincoln. Walt Disney's first animation studio went bankrupt. Steve Jobs got fired from the company he founded. And the list goes on and on.

If you’re in sales, you’re no stranger to setbacks. Even highly capable salespeople have tasted far more rejection than success. But the really good ones understand something about failure that others don’t.

Setbacks are really just starting points.
Behind every failed sales call, every unreturned phone message, every dead lead to a prospective client…is an opportunity for learning.

Failure can be a great teacher, but only if you make yourself its student.
Some people see failure as an exercise in futility. They adopt a fixed mindset about their abilities, believing that their shortcomings are simply a part of who they are. They adopt a defeatist attitude and blame themselves for their mistakes. They refuse to learn from setbacks because they just don’t see the point in trying.

If that sounds like you, then you’re failing…at failing. Because if you stopped for a moment, you’d realize that failure is really just a first stop on the way to success. Your shortcomings are not permanent. Your mistakes are not destined to be repeated.  Setbacks do not define you – they are meant to refine you, to position you for another shot, for another day.

Every setback is an opportunity for a comeback – if you’re willing to learn.
Here’s a three-step process to turn your setbacks into starting points so you can begin again, better than before:

#1 – Challenge your feelings with facts
When you experience a setback, it’s natural to become overwhelmed by fear, insecurity and doubt. You begin to play a soundtrack in your mind of all the reasons why you aren’t cut out for this job, why you’ll never be as successful as another sales rep on your team, why you’ll never measure up to your sales leader’s expectations. Challenge those feelings with facts. Come up with counter arguments that separate fiction from reality. What do the numbers tell you? Is your average close rate better than it is now? Historically, what’s your typical take-home in commissions? Prove to yourself that a setback isn’t some defining moment, but just a moment in time.

#2 – Reframe failure as learning
Instead of wallowing in defeat, look for the win. Every setback offers an opportunity to learn and improve. Review sales calls. Pull together as much customer feedback as possible. Schedule a retrospective with your sales leader. Don’t just stare at a setback – look for the lessons. You can’t find what you aren’t searching for.

#3 – Plan for failure – then plan around it
The key beating adversity is resilience. But resilience isn’t the same thing as hope. Hope is the belief that things will get better. Resilience is the choice to make things better, by taking matters into your own hands. The best way to become more resilient in the face of adversity is to have a plan for when things go sideways. Decide for yourself: If X happens, then I’ll do Y. Identify potential failures and strategize around them. Have contingencies. Know your options. You might not be able to control what happens, but you can always determine what happens next.

Above all, remember this: When you fail – and you will – don’t get bitter, get better. Recognize that lots of successful people fail, many of them often, before they achieve success. You’ll never really know yourself, the scope your capabilities or the strength of your character, until you fail. Failure is a requirement for success. And when you make failure your teacher, you’ll become its student…and you’ll learn one of life’s great lessons: Setbacks are just starting points.