It's Your Lucky Day: New Research Shows Luck in Sales Isn't So Random After All

Emma Brudner
Emma Brudner




Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?

Luck has long been a contentious topic in sales. There's always one rep on a team who everything just seems to magically fall into place for, regardless how many calls they make or appointments they book. 

With no other salient explanation to point to, what can it be besides luck? Too bad luck isn't a controllable sales lever.

Or is it? According to research from Joël Le Bon, a marketing professor at the University of Houston C.T. Bauer College of Business, luck in sales is more governable than salespeople might think. 

"My research shows that luck should be viewed as a controllable determinant of salespeople’s achievement," Le Bon wrote in a Harvard Business Review article. "Success derives not from effort alone but from a combination of effort and luck. An understanding of luck’s synergistic role in success can improve performance and increase young salespeople’s confidence in the face of uncertainty and failure."

A set of interviews with sales professionals and students revealed that salespeople can actively increase their luck. How? By effectively executing their jobs.

"I found that experienced salespeople tend to say that an important factor in their jobs is provoked luck: unexpected events that come about because their strategic behavior has maximized the opportunities," Le Bon explained. So it turns out that hard work and luck don't exist independently of one another.

And provoked luck results in revenue. Le Bon found that 58% of sponsorships sold for a golf tournament could be attributed to provoked luck, as opposed to 34% from standard sales processes, and 8% from plain old unprovoked luck. 

Besides working hard and smart, Le Bon named one additional luck-increasing factor: mindset. So I'll ask you once more -- do you feel lucky? Your answer has concrete bearing on your sales success. 

In Le Bon's opinion, there's a clear, logical link between a luck mindset and performance.

"The greater a salesperson’s belief that success is a combination of luck and effort and that good luck will come along sooner or later, the greater his or her sales activities. The greater the sales activities, the greater the opportunities for luck and the greater the person’s provoked luck. The greater the provoked luck, the higher the performance," he wrote.

So while luck has an impact on sales, simply plucking a four leaf clover or hanging a horseshoe in your cube won't magically make you successful. Every day can be your lucky day -- if your work ethic sets you up for it, that is. 

What's your take on the role of luck in sales? Share your thoughts on this study in the comments.

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