In my book, Accelerate the Sale, I detailed research by Tel Aviv University professor Shmuel Ellis, who conducted a revealing study of after-action reviews with two companies of soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces.
He demonstrated that soldiers performing successive navigation exercises learned at a significantly higher rate — and improved their future performance — when they were debriefed on their failures and successes following each day of training. Soldiers who reviewed only their failed attempts did not perform as effectively.
In a second study, Ellis similarly found that individuals who have experienced success also are more comfortable discussing their mistakes.
Learning from mistakes after a successful experience is much more effective than learning from mistakes after a failed experience. People learn more from their mistakes if they feel psychologically safe. And that means focusing on success. They are able to dig deeper and be more open to trying new approaches.
Three Questions to Consider
1. What if you concentrated your energies on those times when you were successful? After all, that is the type of sales behavior that you’re trying to understand and replicate.
2. What if you reviewed both what you did well and what you could improve upon?
3. And what if you did all that in the context of your biggest successes?
Which brings me to…
Your Greatest Sale Ever
Think back to your greatest sales success. Maybe it was your first sale, or maybe it was your biggest. Perhaps it was the one for which you had to work the hardest or were forced to overcome the most daunting obstacles. Or maybe it even required a bit of serendipity. Regardless of the circumstances, take a minute or two to jot down the following:
- What strategies and tactics did you employ?
- What were you feeling at the time you made the sale?
- What did you learn from the process?
- How did that sale compare to your other sales experiences?
- If there had been more money on the line, would you have handled the interaction in the same manner?
- What if there had been less money involved?
Whatever your specific sales success, chances are you’re smiling right now, recalling that triumph.
And you should be grinning. It’s important to celebrate your achievements. The problem is that most sales professionals — in an honest attempt to improve their own skills and their organizations’ performance — focus almost exclusively on those sales situations in which they weren’t successful.
This follows conventional wisdom: When you make a mistake, scrutinize it and fix it. But now you know better.
Want to sell more, faster? Concentrate on learning from your sales successes.