Learning from Experience

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

sales-autopsy.jpgOn a recent airplane ride, I passed the time by reading “Sales Autopsy: 50 Postmortems Reveal What Killed the Sale,” by Dan Seidman. A very humorous book. And instructive. Humorous, because some of these tales of botched sales are truly “over the top” Instructive because we learn more from our mistakes that we can from our successes. And Seidman does a good job of deconstructing the tale of each lost sale and turning it into a “lessons learned” opportunity.

However… our natural tendency is to look at the mistakes that others make and to say either, “that could never happen to me,” or “there, but for the grace of God, go I.”

We can learn by studying the mistakes that others make. But we only advance when we candidly study our own behavior with the intention of seeking continuous improvement. Self-assessment leads to self-improvement. The key questions to ask ourselves are:

“What worked – and why did it work?”

“What didn’t work so well – and why not?”

“What can I do to prevent this from recurring?”

“What have I learned- and how can I incorporate this knowledge?”

Project managers are taught to conduct “post-mortem” meetings at the conclusion of each project. “What lessons did we learn during this project?” Project managers are trained to document these lessons learned so that future projects will benefit from this body of knowledge.

Within the first five minutes of each CSI: Las Vegas, New York or Miami episode we are inside the autopsy room. Most of the evidence that drives the investigation comes from an examination of the corpse. The clues are there. But we have to be trained to know what to look for. And skilled in how we apply that information.

The CSI team is trained not to jump to conclusions but rather to follow the evidence. Follow the same routine when you perform your sales autopsy. Examine the evidence. Follow it to the root. Find the real reason why you lost the sale.

You made the sale? Great! But, before you go off for a well-deserved celebration, stop…! Do a sales autopsy. Look for the clues. What steps did you land the sale? What questions did you ask? How well did you listen to the answers? What questions did you use to follow-up? How did you demonstrate the use of the product? What approach did you use in closing the sale?

What did you learn as a result? How will you ensure that you utilize these lessons learned in the future?

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

– Leo Tolstoy 

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