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The Fine Art of Losing

“I hate to lose, more than I love to win.” This statement is attributed to a number of top athletes including Larry Bird. It personifies the internal drive of top competitors.

The distain for losing at anything pushes superstars to work harder and stay later, become singularly focused, do whatever it takes to outwit their competitors, and give 100% of themselves, sacrificing all else for the endeavor. In sports, sales, and all areas of life, this drive separates perennial winners from also-rans.

Sometimes though, no matter how much effort you give, no matter how hard you work, no matter how concrete your resolve, you will lose.

In sales losing is a fact of life. Over the span of your career you’ll likely lose more deals than you will win. Competitive people hate to lose. So much so they will do just about anything to make sure they win. But it is how you handle losing that makes you a true champions.

This spring, while watching my son’s baseball team, I had the opportunity to witness defeat in its rawest form. When they were on the field I could hear the Bad News Bears theme song playing in my head.

It was a tough year for our team. They were rebuilding after losing a huge senior class, so there was no depth and no others to turn to when the chips were down.

For the team it was a learning year – an opportunity to develop young players and build for the future. There were bright spots – heroic catches, great hits, and at moments solid pitching. But for the players this was little consolation. It is no fun to get beaten so badly in every game and it wore on them. In defeat they became defeated: Heads down, shoulders slumped, poor attitudes and a sad frowns on their faces.

There is just no way around it. Losing stinks. It hurts and, like a punch to the gut, can knock the wind right out of you. Even more so, when you are losing again and again and hope is fading that you will ever taste victory. After a particularly bad game my son said he was ready to quit.  He was “sick of losing and wished he’d never joined the team.”

My wife turned to him and looked him dead in the eye. “Enough!” she said. “I’m not listening to anymore of this. You are not quitting. You are going to go out there, do your best, and learn how to lose enthusiastically.” It was an important and poignant message that our son needed to hear.

In life, losing is a moment of truth. It is the thin line that separates the great from the mediocre. The great competitors use defeat to learn, adjust, and drive their determination to win. Even in the face of certain defeat, they never give up. They never quit – enthusiastically hustling with all of their might until the very last pitch has been thrown. Winners use losing as fuel to look up, get up, and fight harder.

The mediocre wallow in defeat, quit and, in doing so, go from losing to losers.

Of course, remaining enthusiastic and driven in the face of certain defeat is easier said than done. When you’ve just lost, when you feel your worst – beat down, trampled on, and disgusted – it is hard to find the will to enthusiastically jump up and throw yourself back into the game. It is certainly a lot to ask of a 14 year-old.

As a parent and a spectator it is hard not to be sympathetic. However, life is filled with defeat and adversity. He may not recognize it now, but this losing season was a gift. Learning the art of losing is critical to his development and growth and there is no greater lesson than sticking it out under the toughest of circumstances.

Perhaps, though, there is a lesson in my son’s losing season for all of us. When you are lying on your back defeated (trust me you will be), remind yourself that no matter how bleak things may seem in the moment, if you can look up you can get up.

Bear Bryant once said that “I hate to lose worse than anyone, but if you never lose you won’t know how to act. If you lose with humility, then you can come back.”

The mark of a champion is not how often you win, not how often you stand on the podium, arms raised in victory. The true mark of a champion is how often you pull yourself back up, dust off and enthusiastically run headlong, right back into the game.


Sales EQ: The New Psychology of Selling

Sales EQ Book Cover - by Jeb Blount Sales Specific Emotional IntelligenceLegions of salespeople and their leaders are coming face to face with a cold hard truth: what once gave salespeople a competitive edge—controlling the sales process, command of product knowledge, an arsenal of technology, and a great pitch—are no longer guarantees of success. Yet this is where the vast majority of the roughly $20 billion spent each year on sales training goes.  It’s no wonder many companies are seeing 50 percent or more of their salespeople miss quota.

Yet, in this new paradigm, an elite group of sales professionals are crushing it. In our age of technology where information is ubiquitous and buyer attention spans are fleeting, these superstars have learned how to leverage a new psychology of selling—Sales EQ—to keep prospects engaged, create true competitive differentiation, as well as shape and influence buying decisions. These top earners are acutely aware that the experience of buying from them is far more important than products, prices, features, and solutions.

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