Handling Failure

AA018455I recently sent this article about handling failure out to students for whom I have email addresses. It’s something I teach at nearly every seminar. I feel it’s a good one to revisit regularly.

A strong positive attitude is one of the most important traits a sales professional can have. Most people who fail in business fail because they don’t know how to keep their attitudes positive on a daily basis. They start their careers learning and practicing the basics, honing their skills, and end up making lots of money. Then, they go into a slump. They will stay in their slump until they go back to the fundamentals, until they return to doing what they get paid for — accepting failure and rejection without letting it stop them.

The key to success is handling failure.

Handling success does not come naturally to most people. It is an acquired skill. Some of your emotions tell you to sulk and avoid any situations in the future that are likely to put you in line to feel the pain of rejection again. Other emotions tell you to get more out of life for yourself and your loved ones. Concentrate on what you have to gain, and learn how to change your attitude toward rejection.

There are five concepts that have helped me move forward in all areas of my life. Memorize them and recall them when you’re rejected or have failed to achieve what you wanted.

1. I never see failure as failure, but only as a learning experience. Every sale that doesn’t close is a learning experience; every challenge you face is a learning experience. Look at failure and rejection in a different light — as a learning experience.

2. I never see failure as failure, but only as the negative feedback I need to change course in my direction. Outside a restaurant, I once saw a gentleman who’d had too much to drink to try to unlock his car with the wrong key. No matter how many times he tried, the key didn’t work. After I’d talked to him into taking a taxi home, it occurred to me that sometimes we keep trying to make the wrong key unlock the door to success; keep using techniques that don’t work in our selling endeavors.

It takes some stick-to-it stamina to keep calling the hundred potential clients you have to go through to get your next sale. And, while you’re doing it, you’ll have plenty of learning experiences, plenty of chances to change course in your direction to make your technique more effective.

3. I never see failure as failure, but only as the opportunity to develop my sense of humor. Have you ever had a traumatic experience involving a selling opportunity? Three weeks later, you finally tell someone about it and suddenly that same event is hilarious. The longer you wait to laugh, the more that failure will hold you back. Make a determined effort to laugh sooner, and learn the trick of telling a good story on yourself.

4. I never see failure as failure, but only as an opportunity to practice my techniques and perfect my performance. Every time you present your service to others and they don’t make a decision to “own,” at least they’ve given you a chance to practice. Many people don’t realize the importance of this. Appreciate the opportunity to improve.

5. I never see failure as failure, but only as the game I must play to win. Selling is a game. Life is a game. Both have their rules. Over the years, I’ve discovered that a single rule dominates every situation: Those who risk failure by working with more people, make more money; those who risk less failure, make less.

If you risk failure, sometimes you will fail. But every time you fail, you’re that much closer to success. Success demands its percentage of failure.

Work with the five attitudes toward failure and rejection. What counts isn’t how many transactions fall out, how many people hang up on you, how many things don’t work out, how many people go back on their word. What counts is how many times you pick yourself up, shrug off the failure, learn from it, and keep trying to make things come together.

There are challenges and obstacles in business, but they are all temporary if you take control of your thoughts and develop the right attitude. I believe that winners are winners because they’ve learned to fuel their success drives by overcoming failure.

There’s more: One of my longtime students, Rick Frayne, sent the following reply to this article and I told him I just had to share it. What a great way to help the next generation be prepared to face the world!

Just thought you should know your five points on the attitudes of failure and rejection is also now very much at work with my two kids in the world of dating, auditions for music and acting, and even job searching.  I taught it to them with images much like you teach with the steps to handling objections

1.  An image of a school house for the learning experience  

2.  A weather vane on top of the school house to indicate change in direction

3.  The teacher is laughing inside to indicate a sense of humor

4.  The football team is outside on the field doing daily PDR to practice their performance and perfect their technique

5.  And it’s all for  the game they must play to win.

I have to say it’s right up there with ” Look both ways before you cross the street”  and “The grass isn’t always greener.”

Thanks, Rick, for your creativity in investing wisely in the future of your children!

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.



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  1. Great post Tom. Absolutely. I’m finding it takes time to develop this state of mind. Overtime though it becomes easier to fail. And that’s the road to success.

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