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Why It’s Important to Make Mistakes in Sales

Why It’s Important to Make Mistakes in Sales - Janic

Why It’s Important to Make Mistakes in Sales - Janice Mars, SalesLatitudeFrom time to time, many of us take stock in our past and present experiences in life and in our profession, and know that one truth emerges: we all make mistakes. It’s our failures that we tend to learn more from than our successes. The key is to know it and rectify things as quickly as possible.

I have managed many sales reps and sales managers in my career, and continue to be a successful entrepreneur helping sales teams be the best they can be. But I have not always done everything right. Of course, I can say that about both my personal life and sales life. Somehow, though, throughout my sales and sales leadership career, I achieved more than I thought possible, much of which is due to my desire to learn from my mistakes and be the best I can be.

Even Sales Experts Make Mistakes

I’ve written a lot about the mistakes I’ve made in my own career to try to show both sides of the coin. Here are some of the many mistakes I’ve made in sales – working diligently not to repeat them. But, inevitably, I’m quite sure that I have over my sales career. Here are a few things I’ve done that I’m not terribly proud of:

  • Sent a proposal too early
  • Did a demo of our products and services too early
  • Not talked to all of the right executives
  • Presented more about our company versus the customer’s needs, goals and priorities
  • Not closing a deal when promised to management
  • Only talking to people who liked me
  • Not understanding customer executive priorities early enough
  • Sold features and functions and not a business outcome
  • Sandbagged and brought in a deal no one much knew about
  • Forecasted deals that cascaded quarter to quarter until I was finally forced to remove them from my pipeline.

    We all make mistakes. And my “shame” list above is precisely why I’m a big believer in sales process.

The True Value of a Sales Process

A good sales process has always kept me out of the weeds and above the fray. It ensured that I did not rush a deal to fit my timeline, but rather, kept me aligned with the buyer’s buying process and timelines every step of the way. It also helped me to adhere to key sales activities and understand that certain activities must come before others.

A sales process eliminated the pitfalls of doing certain sales activities out of order. I was able to take back control of the sales cycle by aligning my sales process with the buyer’s buying process. If activities and actions were out of sync, I could stop and assess things at that point in time to better understand if this is a good use of my and my company’s time, money and resources.

Recognize the Warning Signs

As someone who has spent her entire career in sales, I know how easy it is to fall into bad habits and just do what the customer asks. You send the proposal, do that demo – all to prove to yourself and your management that you’ve got momentum and you’re making progress. But, in many cases, you’re just wasting everyone’s time. This is especially true if there’s never any confirmation on executive business outcomes, priorities, timelines, executive sponsors, budget, etc.

I soon learned to recognize the inability for a buyer to follow their own buying process. It was a warning bell (a siren, really) that they had other fish to fry, but still willing to hear me out since it cost them nothing to ask for proposals, demos, etc.

So, know that we all make mistakes – every one of us. It’s what we do about it that makes us successful.

Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter


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