Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Success Secrets

Instead of looking at numbers and metrics, change your hiring process to be more comprehensive and discursive.

Like any skill, certain aspects are innate. While most would argue vociferously that their skills are developed through nothing but hard work and dedication, some others might beg to differ. We found an article in Inc. Magazine, called “The Secret to Their Success,” that suggests that the very psychology of successful sales people may not only enable them with persuasive abilities but also a set of personality traits that forces them to bite at the heels of every sales opportunity. These personality traits include not only greed and competition, as many believe are necessary qualities of successful sales people, but also masochism and the prospect of rejection, says the article’s author, G. Clotaire Rapaille.

Rapaille has coined the term “happy losers” to describe the personality mantras of successful sales people, indicating their innate desire to chase even the most unpromising of sales ventures. Rapaille describes the “happy loser” as someone who sees “rejection as a challenge.” They don’t see a small winning margin as a problem, but see their failures not as such, but as paving the way to success.

The philosophy with this mindset is not so much to embrace failure, but embrace the risks and possibilities that can lead to success. Rapaille has consulted with multiple corporations that gave positive points to “no” sales calls — a perceivably disastrous strategy that appears to reward failure — those with the most points actually had the most sales.

So, while the perception of failure as a motivational tool is innate in some, using failure to motivate beyond and learn from hearing “no” can also be taught. Rapaille called the results from experimenting with rewarding failure to lead to more sales, “almost Pavlovian.” 

You can implement this type of sales philosophy into your department in a number of ways. The first is to hold, what Rapaille calls, “Happy Losers Anonymous.” This group, allows sales people to reflect on their mistakes in an open and honest forum with levity, not fear. Doing so, will help them see their mistakes as learning experiences, not failures.

Secondly, your hiring process should be altered. Instead of looking at numbers and metrics, change your hiring process to be more comprehensive and discursive. Rapaille says to change your interview questions to reflect motivation, not results. Ask questions like “How many things have you tried that you failed at? Not only in business. Did you try skiing? Did you try snowboarding? Did you try fencing? How about during your education?”

Lastly, your in-house motivating strategies should reflect your overall goal for your sales people. Do you want life-long sales people with great relationships in the community? Or sales people who are only fired up for the reward? According to Rapaille, a company that offers a cruise for the top sales person at the end of the year will have less success in the long run because their motivation tactics are not geared for the long term. Motivation tactics that are cumulative, like badges or pins, often help sales people see their successes as a life-long credit to their careers, and will likely have better long-term relationships in the community, which is also a credit to you.