Victory or Defeat – Which one is the most powerful?

It’s the championship game. One team will win and the other will lose. The winning team will stay on the field and get the most publicity. The losing team will head to the locker room. As players, one team will witness the thrill of victory and the other the agony of defeat. Which of these two emotions – thrill or agony – is more powerful? Which emotion will drive that team even harder towards success? Most would say thrill. They know what it feels like to be at the top – to be the best. However, I believe agony is a more powerful emotion.

Regardless of who is interviewed, the player on the losing team cannot wait until the next season so they can have another run at victory. They cannot wait for the two-a-day three to four hour practices. They cannot wait to feel the everyday aches and pains that come with the job of being a professional athlete. More importantly, they cannot wait to rid the taste of agony in their mouth. No matter how many victories you have, you never lose that bitter taste of defeat – the one you let get away.

As professional salespeople, we too often forget the bitter taste of defeat. When a prospect walks out our doors and into the doors of our competitors, it hurts. But, it only hurts for a short period of time. Unlike professional athletes, we do not have to wait several months to “get back into the game.” Another prospect walks through our doors that same day or a couple days later, and the last prospect is soon forgotten. The agony of defeat is gone and we then refocus towards the thrill of victory.


As salespeople, we need to be held accountable – by ourselves and our company. When I ask a client how a salesperson is doing, all I hear is the number of deals they are closing. I NEVER hear about the deals they are LOSING. Have you ever noticed the difference between the two words closing and losing is the letter “C”? If we want a true analysis of our company, maybe we should start focusing on “C-losing” or as I like to say, “see – losing”. Sure it’s painful. However, just like we often remind our prospects of the pin they are feeling, we need to remind ourselves of the same pain. As a company, our biggest mistake is that we focus on the gains and not the losses. We look at the number of deals we have closed as opposed to the ones we lost. We are constantly looking for the thrill when it is the agony that will drive us to greater heights. You are probably thinking to yourself, “Mike has finally lost his mind.” Well, let’s talk about it.

Paying the Price

Suppose each prospect that walks through your door is worth about $200,000 (on average) to your company. Let’s say you closed four deals this month bringing the company $800,000. Over the course of a year, that is $9.6 million! WOW! That is awesome. Can you feel the thrill of victory? Everyone is giving you high-fives and kudos for closing so many deals.

Now, let’s take a look at the number of inquiries you had this month. Let’s say you had 40 inquiries. I know it’s a low number, but I am just making a point. As it currently stands, you have a 10% closing ratio. Just for giggles, let’s say the average closing ratio in the industry is 15%, and believe me that is a below average salesperson. The average salesperson is closing six prospects – two more than you. They are actually bringing in $1.2 million a month. That equates to $14.4 million a year! More high fives and kudos! OH, the thrill of victory!

Now, let’s talk about the agony of defeat. Let’s say that out of those 40 inquiries, 10 of them were going to move into a community – yours or a competitor. You closed four of them, but you lost six of them. Those six equate to $1.2 million on average. So, while you made the company $800k, you lost the company $1.2 million. If you start looking at it in terms of losses, you get a complete different perspective. As salespeople, we get paid commissions on the number of deals we close. What if we had to pay our company commissions based on the number of deals we lost? OUCH! Well, most of us would not work for that company. Why? Because when it was payday, instead of getting paid, most of us would owe the company.

Fortunately, that is not the case. However, as leaders in the organization, we need to stop focusing on the number of deals we are closing and focus on the deals we are losing. It’s inevitable that some people will not move into any community this month. However, many will and we are losing them to our competitors. We have to ask ourselves, “Are we really doing that good of a job based on the number of deals we closed?” As salespeople, we need to hold ourselves accountable. We need to constantly learn from our mistakes, and remind ourselves of the ones who got away.

Success is in the Bitter Taste of Defeat

The thrill of victory is exhilarating. It’s an emotion we thrive to live in every day. However, it is the agony of defeat that drives us to higher achievements. Just as we try to find our prospect’s pain, we need to constantly remind ourselves of that bitter taste of defeat. Most salespeople and organization will rid their taste buds of defeat and will remain content with mediocrity. Those who sip form that bitter cup will excel and raise the bar to unparalleled heights.

Which cup will you drink from?

If you have team members who roll around in the sheets of victory and forget about the ashes of defeat, trade them for a professional. If they are so wrapped around the axle about “what they have achieved” as opposed to “what they could have achieved”, they are doing more harm than good. If you have team members who say, “I know it is a team effort, but give me the credit for…,” replace them. You need team members at every level who are not ok with the deals they lost. This may be harsh and ruthless, but it is the ingredient that breeds winners. It’s ok to sip from the cup of victory, but gulp from the cup of defeat.

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