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The selling profession is not generally considered a high-risk profession, yet salespeople face big risks every time they speak to customers and prospects. What do they risk? They risk uncovering the truth. They risk finding out their best customer has just changed the rules of doing business. They risk discovering the prospect with whom they have invested so much time doesn't really qualify as a prospect at all. They risk wasting time with prospects who purposely mislead them about their intentions or ability to do business. They risk finding out that even their best presentation won't make a difference to the prospect who has already decided to give the business to someone else.

Every time salespeople ask a prospect or customer to make a decision or commitment, they risk hearing the most dreaded word in sales - NO! This appears to be such a risky situation that salespeople will often go to great lengths, wasting both time and energy, to avoid hearing the word.

Why do salespeople run from the truth or try to avoid the word "no"? The truth is the truth. Avoiding it isn't going to change it. Also, a "no" today is still a "no" tomorrow. It, too, is not going to change by avoiding it another day. Logic would dictate that salespeople uncover the truth as soon as possible, especially if the truth reveals the opportunity they are pursuing is not really an opportunity at all. Likewise, if the prospect is going to say "no," wouldn't salespeople want to know as soon as possible so they could invest their time identifying and developing an opportunity with someone who could say "yes"?

Like prospects, salespeople don't function on a purely logical or intellectual level, however. They often let their emotions cloud their judgment and influence their actions. Discovering that an opportunity they are pursuing is not an opportunity for them, they internalise the experience as personal failure. They believe that they failed to get their point across in a persuasive or convincing manner. They failed to convert the prospect to a customer.

When a prospect says "no," many salespeople process it as personal rejection. They fail to make the distinction between the prospect rejecting the product or service and being rejected personally by the prospect.

While salespeople might fail to skillfully execute some aspects of the development process and close the sale, the real failure is not recognising the failures for what they are - role deficiencies. In their role as salespeople, they likely missed some critical element and/or failed to uncover some information that would have changed the presentation - content, timing, pricing, etc. - and the outcome. When viewed from that perspective, they have the opportunity to learn from their experiences. They can identify what could have, or should have, been asked, said, or done, and adapt their strategy so as not to make the mistake again with subsequent opportunities.

If you learn from your mistakes, then each failure gets you one step closer to success. Is it worth the risk?


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