It’s Not Failure. It’s Failure to do Your Best

As business owners, we need to know what we are selling and we need to know how to sell it. Do you find the last part – how to sell – to be the bigger challenge?

In the article below, Jeffrey Gitomer offers symptoms of sales failures to keep an eye out for. They may show up in a variety of ways – perhaps as bad habits, poor strategies, or a lack of action – but what they all have in common is a missed opportunity that you can still reclaim!

Ready to make more sales? Read on …

“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.” – Og Mandino

It’s Not Failure. It’s Failure to do Your Best

By Jeffrey Gitomer

I’m often asked, “Why do salespeople fail?”

The answer is: They don’t fail.

They fail to be their best. They fail to do their best. They fail to think their best. And they fail to take the best actions to help them succeed.

There are symptoms that allow either a sales leader or the salesperson to recognize that failure is on its way. Most salespeople blame circumstances rather than take responsibility. Blame is its own form of failure. But that’s a story for another day.

I want to talk about the salesperson who’s out there every day, who’s trying to make his or her quota, who’s trying to achieve their sales plan or hit the numbers that were arbitrarily given to him or her by the boss.

Add to that, that most salespeople are both inadequately trained and inadequately supported. Add to that, that the salesperson is generally half-prepared. They prepare in terms of themselves, but very little in terms of the customer.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Jeffrey this does not apply to me. I prepare, and I hit my quota, and I’m doing pretty well for myself, if I must say so.” My response to that thought is a challenge to you. After reading this list, self-evaluate your present circumstance related to each symptom – it might give you some insight that can lead to additional income.

Even if you’re hitting your numbers, even if you believe you’re well prepared, here are 11.5 symptoms of why most salespeople hit a wall, and can’t climb above it:

Symptom 1. Your inability to set an initial appointment with the real decision maker.

Symptom 2. Beyond price, your inability to uncover the real buying motive of the customer.

Symptom 3. Believing that competition forces price reduction.

Symptom 4. Shallow relationships that force both proposals and bidding.

Symptom 5. Poor social media participation that results in low or no personal branding and low or no personal reputation.

Symptom 6. Poor follow-up after the initial meeting or initial sales meeting.

Symptom 7. Long sales cycle based on presentations to low-level decision makers.

Symptom 8. Prospects going dark or disappearing after the first sales presentation.

Symptom 9. Prospects not returning your phone calls.

Symptom 10. Blaming inside circumstances for the loss of a customer.

Symptom 11. Blaming customers and prospects for the loss of a sale.

Symptom 11.5 Failure to take responsibility for the circumstances you create.

I find it most interesting that when salespeople face one of these 11.5 situations, they rarely (if ever) take responsibility for creating them. If customers are not returning your calls, there has to be a pretty good reason. Rather than blame the customer, why not find out “why” the customer isn’t returning your call. The answer to that “why” will get all your calls returned.

If you are continually fighting price, it’s obvious you haven’t proven value. It’s obvious that the customer perceives little or no difference between you and a competitive product.

Salespeople in general, probably including you, need to take more control of the selling situation, by creating definitive next steps. If you give a proposal, and you don’t have a firm appointment at a given time to reconnect, then you will chase that prospect and almost seem desperate to get a next meeting.

Here are a few things you can do that will help your prospective customers decide to buy:

1. Prepare in terms of them, not just you. The customer must perceive that there is a value in doing business with you, rather than your competition. Customers only want to know how they win. Focus on ownership, and focus on outcome after purchase as you’re making your presentation. Too many salespeople focus on what it “is” rather than what it “does” after the customer takes possession.

2. Prove it, don’t just say it. It amazes me how many salespeople do not use testimonials. Video proof of everything you claim so that a prospective customer can feel comfort can eliminate the feeling of risk and justify value over price – all based on the words of other customers.

2.5 Be there after the sale to prove your worth and earn a referral. The biggest lost opportunity in any relationship is the absence of the salesperson after the sale has taken place. Help the customer install. Help the customer get started. Help the customer understand and take advantage of “best use.” Transfer your wisdom, transfer your experience, transfer all your help, and the result will be an earned referral (not an “asked for” one).

Stop worrying about failing, and start offering value …

• At your highest and best level

• With your highest and best effort

• With your highest and best preparation

• With the emotional passion that becomes transferable to a point where the customer will buy from you.

This represents harder work than you’re used to, but it sure beats losing the sale.


Jeffrey Gitomer offers an intriguing list of symptoms to look out for and, even better, what to do about them. Which symptom do you see in your own experiences, and what will you do this week to address it? Please share your commitment below.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Little Red Book of Selling. President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on selling and customer service at He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to