Bad months can be debilitating when feelings of inadequacy take root. I have a mentor who reminds me, “Sales is a game that’s played between your ears.” Negative thinking makes it difficult to succeed, and your insecurity can turn one bad month into bad months. Many times, you’re on track to hit your goal, doing everything right -- and then several deals you were certain would close just don’t.
Other times, you’re running the same plays you’ve used to exceed your number for months when, for some reason, nobody buys.
The only time failure’s a bad thing is when you don’t learn from it. By changing a failure into a learning opportunity, you can get right back on that horse and come out swinging next month. Here are three ways I learn from my mistakes and turn bad months into over-performance and personal growth.
1) Make a mental shift
It’s important to understand that a bad month doesn’t make us bad individuals, or bad sales reps. Tell yourself, “I missed my quota this month, but I’m still a talented person, and I’m going to use this opportunity to get better.” When I’m hitting my number, I’m not actively looking for ways to improve. It’s the tough months that force me to be introspective and get better at what I do.
To shift my mentality, I use positive thinking exercises. I start by pulling up a note saved on my iPhone. I read it to myself before I go to bed and first thing in the morning. It says, “I am a world-class sales professional. I work harder than anyone else. I will be the best salesperson on my team by the end of 2017.” I state this mantra out loud and it instantly boosts my self-esteem and calms my mind. I also turn to positive thinking books like "Think and Grow Rich" and "The Secret."
Then I recite actionable steps towards making the improvements I need to achieve my goals. They are: “I will work out two times a week. I will be in bed by 10:00 p.m. every weeknight. I will meditate five times a week.”
Instead of staying up late worrying or skipping the gym in favor of an extra 45 minutes of work, I take care of myself first. Because my mind and body are healthy and rested, I excel at my job. The mental shift defeats negative thinking and helps me reprioritize my workflow and personal well-being.
It’s important to clearly outline the steps that will make you happier, healthier, and more productive. For me, these steps improve my mindset, which is what often holds me back. For you, these steps might be attending a selling workshop or meeting with a mentor.
2) Let go of what you can’t control
Look past what you can’t control. There are always ways to improve how you sell, but there are also circumstances completely out of your control which can rule our sales brain and cause us to fail. Sometimes it’s seasonality. Other times it’s a shift in the market. And some months it's your quality of leads.
Assess deals that went wrong, and be honest about what you could and could not have influenced. Could you have prepared ahead of time to beat a seasonal lull? Did you know a product shift was coming? And are you sure lead quality is the problem, not your outreach? Decide whether you can mitigate or solve these issues moving forward -- but if you can’t, accept that and move on.
3) Focus on what you can control
I have a colleague who created a spreadsheet and documented every deal he hadn’t closed. Next to every deal, he wrote down what had gone wrong and how he planned to handle those situations differently next time.
For example, if he allowed a prospect to push a follow-up meeting out two weeks after a demo -- causing the deal to go cold -- he noted next time he would be firm about scheduling a follow-up meeting within two days of the demo. This type of self-reflection and personal improvement is critical to becoming a world-class sales professional.
I missed quota earlier this year. I had a couple great months and was getting comfortable with my performance. Then, all the sudden, I was hitting 70% of goal without doing anything differently.
I analyzed the month and realized there was one prospect I couldn’t get out of my head. He was a difficult person to deal with, but I really needed him to close. When he hadn’t, it left me short of my goal and shaken.
I realized he’d had gotten in my head because I needed him to meet my number. My success hinged upon getting this one difficult prospect to close. I looked in the mirror and knew my monthly success couldn’t be reliant on just one or two deals closing. Once I had reframed the situation, I needed to create a plan for fixing it.
First, I had to figure out how to find new leads. I spoke to teammates who were generating a lot of volume, and I learned from what they were doing right.
For example, one colleague would send out email blasts and review the activity log after each one. If someone opened two of his blasts, he followed up with them immediately. This email-heavy approach yielded my colleague up to 15 new opportunities each month.
I also set a goal for the minimum number of calls and email outreach I had to do every day to increase my volume -- and I wouldn’t leave the office until I hit those numbers. I solved for my gaps, increased my deal volume, and stopped putting all my monthly eggs in one basket. The following month, I closed more deals than expected and finished well over goal.
A word of warning with this step: It’s easy to want to fix everything you’re doing wrong immediately. Don’t do it. You’ll get overwhelmed and fix nothing. Instead, pick two areas of improvement that will yield the biggest returns. Improve in those two areas before patching other holes in your sales process.
All salespeople miss their quota at some point. What’s important is that you don’t dwell on it. Resist the urge to have a pity party. Instead, shift your mentality, identify what you can’t change, and improve upon what you can. You’ll turn a bad month into a lesson that makes you a better sales professional.