The Value of Learning from Other’s Mistakes

If you look at people who produce excellent results and lead their field, if you pay attention and look closely, you will notice that they do the hard things that others seek to avoid. If you look a bit longer and quite a bit deeper, you may catch a glimpse of why they choose to do hard things. What you will notice is that doing hard things prevents them from suffering the adverse outcomes most others experience. There is no requirement that you must learn everything by making every mistake yourself. You can avoid many of them and accelerate your results by recognizing the high value of learning from other people’s mistakes.

Prospecting Mistakes

You want to make prospecting for new business easy. To accomplish this unaccomplishable feat, you decide it is better to send emails than to pick up the telephone and call your prospective clients. By doing so, you believe you are making it easier for you to contact more prospects faster, and without having to speak to your potential clients, some of whom will reject your request for a meeting. Many have tried to supplant the phone with a medium that provides an easy and frictionless way to say no by simply pressing delete. The mistake here has been made, and you are not required to repeat it. You can avoid wasting your time and move towards your goal by doing what is necessary, not what is easy.

You want a meeting so you can share with your dream client what makes your company and your product or service so much better than what they are using now. You want to tell them all about your experience working for this exceptional company, and about all the big companies you are already serving. Mostly, you want to ask them about the problems they’re having with their existing partner. The value proposition that you offer isn’t likely to cause your dream client to immediately open their calendar to find space for such a unique and compelling conversation. This mistake has been made long enough and with such high frequency that solutions exist, should you decide to do better. Developing a theory as to why your dream client needs to do something different in the future and providing your insights, your views, and how you are helping other people produce better results is to trade enough value to gain a meeting, even if it means you have to work harder to develop the critical sales competency necessary to win business.

Process Mistakes

Treating a complex sale as if it is a transactional sales is to make an enormous and unnecessary mistake. First, because you act like a commodity, you ensure that your dream client treats you like one. As much as you want to blame that outcome on your prospective client, it may be your sales approach. When you have an hour-long discovery meeting followed by an emailed proposal and pricing, you are guilty of the new one-call close, a strategy that doesn’t perform well in a complex sale—and is often equally detrimental in some transactional sales. Every salesperson wants to win deals faster (or should), but the best performers invest the time necessary to win, discovering they waste efforts and opportunities by trying to cheat the process.

You may want to avoid difficult conversations and tricky issues through the sales conversation, believing that engaging in them will repel your dream client. You are uncomfortable having these conversations, and more than anything, you want to avoid any conflict in the hope of creating a preference to buy from you. Maybe you don’t want to talk about what your client is going to need to do on their side if they want better results, something that may not make them happy. Maybe you don’t want to be the one to tell them they are going to have to spend more money than they are presently spending. You are afraid that when you tell them their RFP misses the mark entirely and that they would be better off shredding it and starting over, it is going to cause them to buy from someone else (and it just may, if you say it using the words in this sentence, combative diplomat).

Many a salesperson has skipped gaining the commitment they need through the sales conversation only to lose deals they should have won. Many more have recognized the elephant in the room and pretended there was no elephant, only to suffer the repercussions of not addressing their client’s real challenge. You can avoid these mistakes.

Looking for Clues

Some will stubbornly stick what they want to do even when reality provides them with the painful lesson that its laws aren’t flexible, nor does it consider one’s feelings. If you are going to improve your results, you are going to have to change the things that prevent you from producing better outcomes.

Whenever you see someone doing hard things with great care, what you are likely witnessing is an approach that has been informed by prior mistakes and errors, many unforced. Rather than making costly mistakes, the person producing exceptional results refined their approach, eliminating the errors by doing whatever is necessary to ensure their success, a strategy that may have taken years to develop.

The value in learning from the mistakes others have already made is that you can avoid those mistakes. If that were all you gained from the exercise, that would be enough, but there is more. By adopting the practice of avoiding the mistakes by doing what may be more difficult but necessary, you accelerate your speed to results, cutting time off your learning curve.

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