Step One on the Path to Success: Overcome the Fear of Failure

BY: Daniel M. Savage


Webster's Dictionary defines failure as “a lack of success.” It’s something we don’t like to discuss, let alone experience, yet it’s an inescapable part of our everyday lives, personal and professional.

Failure assumes added significance for sales and business professionals, because we tend to interpret ‘no’ in personal terms as rejection when, in reality, ‘no’ is normally driven by a prospect’s circumstances and needs at that time. Here are five ways to reconsider failure.

  1. Reframe your perception. You’re not alone. Every sales and business professional fails, experiences rejection, and hears ‘no’. It’s normal. To quote Andrea Waltz, author of Go for No!, “When you reach the sign marked Failure, when people start telling you no…success is almost always straight ahead.”

  2. Clarify your mission. Are you determined to sell a particular product or service, or are you laser-focused on identifying and understanding your prospect’s problems? These approaches are vastly different. The second approach is the better path.

  3. Act! Your business development goals (e.g., contacting fifty people over the next three months) may seem intimidating, but as the old saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” With that in mind, one might start by making one call every day for two weeks. By making that one call a day, your confidence will increase. The next step? Gradually increase your activity over time.

  4. Focus on your activity. Culturally, we love to celebrate results – so much so, we often forget the true source of success: sustained application of effort over time. So, after you’ve made one call a day for two weeks, even if you heard ‘no’ every time, celebrate your effort! This will reprogram your feelings about failure and rejection. By engaging in the right activities, sales and business opportunities are a natural consequence.

  5. Persist. Giving up too soon is a primary reason for not closing business. Author Andrea Waltz also wrote, “Most things take longer than we expect. People are busy, and they don’t usually respond to our timetable. Be patient. Stay on the path. Follow up consistently with those who are undecided, as well as those who said no. Unless someone gives you an absolute “no, not ever”, he or she may eventually be ready to say yes. Make sure you are there when it happens.”

Though failure is normal, it’s not inevitable. Reframe your relationship with failure by adhering to the five principles outlined above. You’ll experience more success and, importantly, have more fun in the process.

To discuss how we can help you overcome the fear of failure on your business or investment journey, reach out to me, our Business Banking team, or our Wealth Management department today.

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