Sales success – a different take on winners and losers


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Whether in sports, politics, business or sales, this question is always on the table – What is the difference between winners and losers?  Many people spend lots of time and effort trying to determine what the difference is between those people who win and those who lose.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter addressed just this topic in Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Being and End.  She  argues:  “the difference between winners and losers is how they handle losing and the key to handling losing is resilience.” 

Dr. Kanter goes on to define resilience as “the ability to recover from stumbles, mistakes and failures and then bounce back.” Although Dr. Kanter was writing for a wide business audience, we could think of no profession for which her message was more relevant than Sales.

Every day thousands and thousands of salespeople must recover from some type of fumble or failure.  Some stumbles are brought about by the salesperson themselves because of complacency or lack of skill. Others are due to circumstances outside their control.  Regardless it is the salesperson that has to deal with it.  They have to get up the next morning and correct the mistake in question and press on to other accounts without missing a beat.  That we would say is a pretty good example of resilience in action.

Now, there are numerous factors that can contribute to understanding the difference between winners and losers.  We would suggest that resilience is one of these factors and more importantly it is one that has been traditionally overlooked and underemphasized.

With that thought in mind, let’s explore what it would take to get a salesperson better at this capability we are calling resilience.  Suppose you are a sales manager – what could you do

  • Define resilience as a skill.   A good first step is to stop considering resilience as some nebulous attribute that one either has or they don’t.  Instead consider resilience as a skill that can be defined and for which best practices can be codified and shared.
  • Coach it.  If resilience is a skill, then it can and should be learned and coached like any other sales skill.  In most sales forces it is the rare sales manager that would raise their hand if the question were asked about whether they had help a member of their team to get better at resilience.
  • Reward and celebrate.  Sales managers are particularly good at rewarding and celebrating winning and the factors that drive it.  So why not include resilience in the mix? If someone bounces back after a bad stumble, give a “tip of the hat” just like one might for any other success.
  • Consider in selection.  If you believe the resilience story, ask yourself the question as to whether it should be explored when hiring members of your sales team.  To answer the question, take a fresh look at the records of recently hired Millennials – who made it, who didn’t and why – who’s off to quick start – who bounced back quickly after initial stumbles?
  • Lobby to incorporate in sales training.  If resilience is part of the key to success and it can be defined as a skill, then why not incorporate improving it into the organization’s sales training curriculum.

Dr. Kanter notes, “resilience draws from strength of character, from a core set of values that motivate efforts to overcome the setback and resume walking the path to success. It involves self-control and willingness to acknowledge one’s own role in defeat.”

Today’s market is more competitive than ever.  Winning requires a highly skilled sales team.  Market leading companies are constantly examining what skills can make a difference – perhaps resilience is an underemphasized piece of the puzzle.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Richard Ruff
For more than 30 years Richard Ruff has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Dick has learned that today's great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. So, Sales Momentum offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Dick is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers, and the Sales Training Connection.


  1. Winning vs losing certainly isn’t always completely black and white– the indicator of a good winner tends to be their track record of handling losses.


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