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I’m writing this with some trepidation, I worry that my message will be misunderstood or used by poor sales people as an excuse. With that as a disclaimer, there’s real value in losing—but we have to take the time and extract the value that losing provides us.

We never want to enter any sales situation to lose it. We have to compete vigorously, doing everything we possibly can to win! It’s our job, it’s what makes us successful, and it’s what professional sales people live for.

However, recently, I was engaged in a conversation with someone claiming his organization’s win rate was in excess of 99% (let’s put aside definitional issues, under virtually every definition, 99+% is very high). My immediate reaction was, “That’s too bad, it must mean you are missing lots of opportunities.”

Winning is great, but we really don’t learn much from winning. We don’t learn where we can do better. We don’t learn what we are missing, We don’t learn how to stretch ourselves to achieve more. Winning too much means we are playing it safe–we aren’t taking risks.

There’s a danger in winning too much, we become arrogant, we become blind, we stop listening, we stop improving, we start believing we are unbeatable, we get comfortable and complacent. Ultimately, we set ourselves up not just for losing, but for massive failure.

Losing is tremendously powerful. The problem is too often we don’t take advantage this power. It’s through losing that we really learn. If we’ve lost because we have stretched ourselves, if we have tried something new, if we have pushed ourselves outside our comfort zone–either trying something new with our customers, going after new markets and new customers.

Losing is the most powerful way of learning something new–but we have to take the time to understand and learn. We have to apply what we have learned to winning the next time. Losing shows us where we can improve, how we can grow. Winning can never teach us those lessons.

Wasting the opportunity to learn and grow through losing is just wasteful–it’s a failure in your personal professionalism or of management.

Losing isn’t something we try to do. We shouldn’t make excuses when we lose, but we take the opportunity to learn, grow and move forward.

As the new year approaches, take some time to re-assess your selling process. Make sure it’s updated and aligned with your customers’ buying processes. For a free eBook and self assessment, email me with your full name and email address, I’ll be glad to send you a copy. Just send the request to: [email protected], ask for the Sales Process eBook

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Great post, and a reminder that “nothing ventured, nothing gained” has a corollary: “the only way to not lose is to not try.” Or something like that.

    Steve Jobs had some unbelievable setbacks. He lost the company he started, had to start another (Pixar), then came back to save the day at Apple. What would have happened if he had just given up?

    Even on much smaller scale, with run-of-the-mill sales opportunities, trying something new (strategy, process, technology, …) and learning what works and doesn’t is better than striving for perfection before doing anything.

    Jack Welch late in his career, after touting being “1, 2 or 3” in every industry GE chose to compete in, realized that this winning mindset meant they ignored some opportunities — perhaps some strategically critical — because market dominance wasn’t assured.

    All that said, I wonder how many reps these days are arrogant from winning too much. In today’s competitive marketplace, losing (and hopefully learning) should be the new normal.

  2. Great observations Bob. If you look back through business history and great business people (also people in other professions), what comes through is how failure has motivated and inspired them.

    No one ever sets out to fail—all the great performers are super competitive, but they are able to learn from failure and extract greatness.


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