Sales Time Waster #15: Failure Can Produce Longer-Lasting Lessons than Success


Ken Krogue has been a force in the sales and sales management industries his entire career, having been president of inside sales at Franklin-Covey, founder of inbound call center service provider inContact (formerly UCN), and now President and CMO of XANT.

His “15 Time wasters of Inside Sales and Marketing” whitepaper presents outstanding advice for planning strategic sales initiatives, and today I wanted to focus some attention specifically on Time Waster #15—Not Knowing Your Wins and Losses.

We preach heavily to sales and marketing teams that understanding why a sale is lost can be just as valuable as knowing why you won—and a research study released August 24th by the Academy of Management Journal backs this up.

Quoting from the study, Science Daily states,

“While success is surely sweeter than failure, it seems failure is a far better teacher, and organizations that fail spectacularly often flourish more in the long run.”

[University of Colorado-Denver business professor Vinit Desai] states, “We found that the knowledge gained from success was often fleeting while knowledge from failure stuck around for years . . . But there is a tendency in organizations to ignore failure or try not to focus on it. Managers may fire people or turn over the entire workforce while they should be treating the failure as a learning opportunity.”

“Whenever you have a failure it causes a company to search for solutions and when you search for solutions it puts you as an executive in a different mindset, a more open mindset.”

The lesson here, obviously, isn’t that that reps should go out the door looking to regularly fail. It just means that failure can present real opportunities to review processes, pitches, and market directions—as long as they’re using the right sales tools to give them the actionable data they need.

And while it doesn’t say it directly, the research conclusions also emphasize the need to better align sales and marketing. If there are gaps in the sales process from lead creation to close, it makes discovering and improving failing performance areas that much harder to evaluate.

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