Sales People Need A New Definition of Failure – A Management Perspective

Based on an interview I saw with Sara Bakely, the founder of Spanx and America’s youngest female billionaire, I wrote a blog post recently stating that I thought sales people need a new definition of failure. The article received such positive feedback that I thought I would take it one step further into sales management.

In the interview, Sara said that her father taught her a different definition of failure growing up. She was taught that instead of defining failure as the outcome, define it as not trying. In my opinion, the same definition of failure should be applied to sales. Think about it. How many more sales people on your team would be successful if they concentrated on the efforts required to make a sale, as opposed to just whether or not they closed a sale?

From a management perspective, instead of not reaching quota as the definition of failure for our sales representatives, we should define failure as them not completing the daily activities required to achieve it. If they didn’t make a sale today so be it, but they can still leave the office and consider themselves successful if they did everything they were supposed to have done to open one.

This new definition of failure could change the way we coach our teams. For example, instead of weekly reports talking only about sales closed during the past week, we could talk about how many sales appointments are booked for the upcoming week. As opposed to sales contests being based solely on final sales results, we could also have a component based on sales activities such as the number of fact finds completed or presentations made. We ourselves could judge our own success by the number of joint field work calls completed with our representatives in addition to our team’s results.

For more information and detailed instructions on how to redefine your definition of failure and better manage the daily activities of your sales team, check out my book Action Plan for Sales Management Success.

Remember, your sales representatives have to start a sale in order to close a sale. If we manage their inputs, we will receive better outputs.

Aim Higher!

Susan A. Enns, The B2B Sales Coach B2B Sales Connections,, or

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