Get Disciplined! How to Learn from Your Successes – and Your Failures

If I were asked to pick one essential skill that the majority of today’s sales professionals lack, it would have to be discipline.

Discipline impacts almost every aspect of our jobs, from making calls to practicing presentations and incorporating new ideas into our daily routines. For underachievers, a lack of discipline can affect the way they prospect for new business, how they handle their existing customers – and especially their mediocre sales results.

Now, no one is saying that getting disciplined is easy. In fact, discipline can be one of the most challenging skills to master. Then again, maybe that’s why only one in 10 sales people consistently perform above their quota.

So ask yourself – is the extra effort it takes to get disciplined worth it, if the reward is earning a place among the Top 10% in your field?

Step 1: Learn from your mistakes

There are two key turning points in every sales person’s career when discipline can make the difference between becoming a star and getting stuck in the middle of the pack: when we succeed and when we fail.

If handled correctly, both success and failure can drive your career to new heights. Handled poorly, they can seriously impede your ability to achieve the results you want and deserve.

When you’re just starting out, it can sometimes feel like no one wants you to succeed. As a result, it can be tempting to just stop asking for help. Then when you do arrive, offers for all the help you no longer really need suddenly start pouring in whether you asked for them or not!

This irony reflects the nature of reciprocity, in which like attracts like – success brings more success, while failure earns more failure. Put another way, whatever you accept from life, good or bad, will become part of you.

Mediocre sales people resist seeking assistance from those who can actually help them realize their goals. The best sales people, on the other hand, know that the pictures we form in our imagination become our reality. As Napoleon Hill said: "Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe the mind of man can achieve." Top sales people use this as the inspiration to keep on trying until they succeed.

Most highly successful people I’ve met even go so far as to refuse to accept anything from life that they don’t want. Sure, they experience their fair share of defeats. After all, no one can close 100% of the deals 100% of the time. What sets top performers apart is persistence and a mental attitude that accepts those losses as temporary stepping stones on the way towards improving their situation and growing their sales.

With the right attitude and a little discipline, every failure can be converted into a success. If you want to achieve success faster, reach out to mentors and clients who are already ahead of the game.

In my experience, "help" is one of the most influential words in the English language. Most people love to help and will respond generously if they are approached. Be frank, and ask them for advice, referrals or business ideas.

Their willingness to respond might just surprise you.

Step 2: Build on your triumphs


It is amazing to me how many sales people can be successful in the short term and yet suffer from a serious case of long-term failure. I believe this happens because very few people learn how to be truly gracious about their success. Their ego takes over, and they are unable to "get over themselves" and appreciate what their clients and partners did to contribute to their success in the first place.

It’s fair to say that we all fear ending up living under a bridge. Yet every self-made millionaire I’ve ever met has been broke at least once in their lives. Personally, I’m hoping to be the exception that proves that particular rule. Still, there’s no denying that, for many successful people, failure can be much more effective than short-term success as a driver towards real wealth.

Don’t believe me? Just consider the following colossal failures, each of whom clearly never went on to make anything of their lives afterwards:

  • Colonel Sanders had 1,005 rejections.
  • Thomas Edison went broke four times.
  • Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
  • Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for having no good ideas.
  • Einstein’s parents and teacher urged him to quit school because they felt he would never amount to anything.
  • Steven Spielberg dropped out of high school in his sophomore year. When he was persuaded to come back, he was placed in a class for students with learning disabilities. He lasted a month before dropping out of school forever.

Step 3: Make just one more call

In my experience studying scores of both mediocre and successful sales people, I have discovered that the most reliable key to enduring success is discipline.

Discipline to provide just a little bit better service than your competitors offer or your clients expect.

Discipline to make one more call, attend one more networking event or block an extra hour in your calendar every day to do business development.

Discipline to document the objections you receive and create responses to deal with them consistently and effectively.

And discipline to practice your sales presentation one more time, every time you head out the door to meet a prospect or close a deal.

Discipline is the one sure way by which poverty may be converted into riches, failure into success – and short-term success into a winning track record that will last throughout your entire career.