10 Reasons You’ll Fail at Selling Whatever You’re Selling

I hate failing. I've failed so many times at so many different things I don't even know where to begin. I failed at playing collegiate hockey. I failed at graduating from college in four years. I’ve failed relationships, friendships, and yes, customers.

One time, I had a customer jump over the counter and chase me out of his hardware store. Another time, I failed at building an “app” I thought was going to change the world. My judgment has failed me more times than I can possibly share with you here.

In one of my favorite books, Mindset, Carol Dweck, Ph.D, proves that the key to success is possessing a growth mindset. A mindset where you believe in change. More importantly, you believe you can change. Understanding that failures are merely growth points on the natural learning curve of life.

Here’s the thing: growth stems from discomfort. And discomfort stems from failure. People don’t grow to get more comfortable, they grow to get out of being uncomfortable. The former is just a lie we tell ourselves to continue to live in our comfort zone. So fail, and fail fast.

Whether you’re sixteen or sixty, your brain doesn’t really know the difference. It has the ability to change, adapt, and rewire itself to learn new skills. Don’t believe me? Check out this documentary written by Norman Doidge, M.D. Your brain is more powerful than you realize.

For me, failure has been an essential piece in that rewiring. Yes, I still hate it. I guess you can say my life changed when I started to see failure as a learning opportunity. I wish I could remember the exact process, or how it all happened. But, that’s not really how life works. It’s often hard to codify.

Below is a list of 10 more failures I’ve learned from (I told you I’ve failed a lot.) Failures that have kept me from selling whatever I was selling at the time. Now my hope is that you can learn from these failures, so you can sell more of whatever you’re selling today.


1.) You worry about things you cannot control.

If it’s raining, then grab an umbrella; sunny, wear shades; cold, put on a jacket. There are too many things we can control to worry about things which we cannot. Worrying about what you cannot control like customer reactions, what your boss is going to say you, or industry changes does two major things: it saps your energy and sucks your time. Two things you’ll wish you had more of (if you don’t already.) Time and energy are the two most valuable resources in creating new revenue. Don’t let anybody tell you different. Worry about what you can control, the solutions you provide, the questions you ask, and the actions you take.

2.) You're convinced selling comes down to lowest price.

Have you ever heard “I just don’t have the money” or “Seems a little expensive”? I have, thousands of times. Really what this means is your customer doesn’t think your product or service is that valuable. Which means you really have a value issue, not a price issue. One of the most critical pieces of advice Warren Buffett said he received long ago was, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” So remember, value must be greater than price in the eyes of your customer.

3.) You assume people understand your intentions.

Trying to figure out “intention” is the constant battle of human-to-human interaction. We even use intent as a benchmark to send people to prison. No, you’re not going to jail, but here’s the crux. Just like in law, you’ve got to prove your intent. Your customers are going to assume you’re solely out for their money. This is just reality. You can’t assume your customers think any differently. Salespeople have been battling a bad rap for decades. It’s a skill set that's assumed to hinge on lying, deceit, and quick-wit. Which is why if you’re business owner, you probably don’t want to be considered a salesperson, but you are. It's your responsibility to understand this very real societal assumption exists. And, make sure your customer knows your real intent.

4.) You don't believe in what you're selling.

We’ve all been selling our entire lives—parents to kids, teachers to students, friends to other friends. The list is endless. Think back to your biggest “sells” in life, and you’ll quickly recognize you unequivocally believed in them. You believed your friend, child, or parent was better off with it than without it. You’re losing one of your biggest points of leverage when you don’t unequivocally believe in what you’re providing. This is an absolute game changer.  

5.) You’ve commoditized your product, service, or solution.

This is the wingman of lacking unequivocal belief. It’s tragic. Yes, sad. You’re not giving your customers good enough reason to buy from you. You’re allowing your customers to lump you in with all the other people in your industry - you’ve commoditized what you offer. Plain and simple, you need a unique selling proposition. You must be different. Or, at least be perceived as different. That differentiating factor will serve as your promise to the customer. That promise (nobody else can make) will be a key leverage point to selling more of whatever you’re selling. So ask yourself, “Why would customers do business with me?” Or better stated, what can you promise that nobody else can? Please, please do not overlook this.

6.) You think nobody else is going through what you're going through.

This is a version of victim thinking. It’s a false belief that people use as a crutch. In reality, 1 out of every 9 Americans lists sales as their profession, and there are over 28 million businesses in America. This means A LOT of people are going through what you’re going through. Things happen because of you, not to you. I’m a realist, I get it, business and life gets hard. Real hard. But, people want to help you. People will help you. You just have to give them a reason.

7.) You don’t think it’s possible to learn more about selling.

Everyone seems to be an expert at selling. Mainly because we’re forced to do it every day, whether we’re good at it or not. Most people either assume sales is an innate ability, they believe they don’t need to improve, or since they own business that somehow prequalifies them as an expert. I hate to say it, but those thoughts mean you’ve already begun the dying process. On average, 15% of new information that comes into your industry each year which means within 5 years your knowledge has the potential to be obsolete. More obviously, you don’t know what you don’t know, don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself.

8.) You put off until tomorrow what can be done today.

Time can be either our biggest advocate or adversary. I often hear people say, “She’s so lucky” or  “Why can’t that happen to me?” It can, and it will, if you harness time. Speed of action is one of the biggest contributors in getting “luckier.” Jocko Willink, former US Navy Seal concludes the result of a Seal snipers shot comes down to how quick they take it once they see it. Your vision will get more blurry over time, significantly decreasing accuracy.

9.) You act for today with disregard for tomorrow.

At some point throughout your life, you’ve likely been cajoled by short-term financial gain. Temptation can be very seductive. The effects of short-term decision-making will run days, months, and years later. Fundamentally this is the issue. Which is why it often stunts growth, hinders progress, and crushes relationships. Richard Branson once tweeted, “There are no quick wins in business—it takes years to become an overnight success.” Relying on quick wins is more like trying to run a marathon in quicksand. Effective selling is about planting seeds, harvesting over time, and watching them grow in fields that can feed you year after year. The true value of a business relationship is in its potential upside not how much you can suck out of one deal.

10.) You think you don’t have the resources.

Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Well, he was right. Show me one person who says they can’t, and I’ll show you another person who can.  Better yet, I’ll show you someone who has. It’s not about resources, it’s about resourcefulness. If you lack hunger, you’ll never eat. I mean that both figuratively and literally. We live in the age of access. Access at our fingertips to everything.

Okay, so there you have it. I hope this list will help you save time, energy, and pain. It’s helped me.

This is I know; failure is not fatal. You will survive, and most likely be much stronger. Perhaps, I missed a BIG one on this list. People who fail at sales tend to view failure as fatal. It's not, I'm a living testament.

But, don't take my word for it. Go fail, you'll see it's not that bad.