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Sales Success Begins in Your Mind

Feeling inadequate lately? Here are five mottos to live by when faced with sales failure.

A good attitude is one of the most important traits a sales professional can have. Most people who fail in business fail because they don't know how to keep their attitudes positive on a daily basis. They start their careers learning and practicing the basics, applying these ideas, and end up making lots of money. Then they go into a slump. They'll stay in their slump until they go back to the fundamentals, until they return to doing what they get paid for--accepting failure and rejection without letting it stop them.

The key to success is in how you handle failure. Handling failure does not come naturally to most people. It's an acquired skill. Some of your emotions tell you to sulk and avoid any situations in the future that are likely to put you in line to feel the pain of rejection again. Other emotions tell you to get more out of life for yourself and your loved ones. Those are the ones you should listen to: Concentrate on what you have to gain, and learn how to change your attitude toward rejection.

I'm going to present five mottos that have helped me move forward in all areas of my life. Memorize them and recall them when you're rejected or have failed to achieve what you wanted. They'll help you learn to get past the fear of sales rejection.

1. I never see failure as failure, but only as a learning experience. Every sale that doesn't go through is a learning experience for you; every challenge you have is also a learning experience. So learn from your failures. Thomas Edison, who conducted more than a thousand experiments on filaments before he produced a practical light bulb, was once asked, "How did you keep going after you had failed more than a thousand times?" Edison replied, "I did not fail a thousand times; I learned a thousand ways that didn't work." Like Edison, try to look at failure and rejection in a different light--as a learning experience.

2. I never see failure as failure, but only as the negative feedback I need to change course in my direction. Outside a restaurant with a lively bar, I once saw a gentleman who'd had too much to drink try to unlock his car with the wrong key. No matter how many times he tried, the wrong key still didn't work. After I'd talked him into taking a taxi home, it occurred to me that sometimes we all keep trying to make the wrong key unlock the door, keep using techniques that don't work in our selling endeavors, keep applying the wrong solution to the problem long after we've tried it and failed.

3. I never see failure as failure, but only as the opportunity to develop my sense of humor. Have you ever had a traumatic experience involving a sales presentation? Three weeks later, you finally tell someone about it and suddenly that same event is hilarious. But let me tell you this: The longer you wait to laugh, the more that failure will hold you back. Make a determined effort to laugh sooner by learning the trick of telling a good story on yourself.

4. I never see failure as failure, but only as an opportunity to practice my techniques and perfect my performance. Every time you present your service to others and they don't buy, at least they gave you a chance to practice your presentation and sales skills. Many people don't realize the importance of this. Learn to appreciate the opportunity to become better.

5. I never see failure as failure, but only as the game I must play to win. Selling is a game. Life is a game. Both have their rules. Luck plays a small part, but the winners play ball. Over the years, I've discovered that a single rule dominates every situation: Those who risk failure by working with more people make more money; those who risk less failure earn less.

If you risk failure, sometimes you'll fail. But every time you fail, you're that much closer to success. Success demands its percentage of failure.

Here's a philosophy that I teach my students to live by: I am not judged by the number of times I fail but by the number of times I succeed, and the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep trying.

Work with this creed and the five attitudes toward rejection I outlined above. What counts isn't how many transactions fall out, how many doors slam, how many things don't work out, how many people go back on their word. What counts is how many times you pick yourself up, shrug and keep on trying to make things come together. There are challenges, obstacles and troubles in every kind of business, but they are all temporary if you take control of your thoughts and develop the right attitude. I believe that winners are winners because they've learned to fuel their success drives by overcoming failure.


Tom Hopkins is world-renowned as "the builder of sales champions." For the past 30 years, he's provided superior sales training through his company, Tom Hopkins International.

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