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Robert Bell

Celebrate Failure, Just like Deacon Blues

Because you can’t have success without failure.

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THEY GOT A NAME for the winners in the world.

I … I want a name when I lose

They call Alabama the Crimson Tide

Call me Deacon Blues”

— Deacon Blues by Steely Dan

I love that lyric. It’s clever. It expresses so much, so powerfully and concisely. “I want a name when I lose.” Brilliant.

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Why do I think it’s brilliant? Because no one, to my knowledge, has ever captured that sentiment before on something as common as losing. It’s as though it’s a celebration of failure.

Hey, and why not?

In the movie, National Treasure, Nicolas Cage’s character, says “You know, Thomas Edison failed nearly 2,000 times to develop the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb … And when asked about it, he said “I didn’t fail; I found 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb,” but he only needed one way to make it work.”

The point is that no one, can be successful at anything without failing first … or 2,000 times. Yes, there are instances of success on the first try but those often can’t be sustained.

Failure makes us stronger! Smarter! And, in most cases, more determined.

Want to know my first failure selling?

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I was 21 and starting up a contact lens distributorship with a partner. He was going to run the business end of things and I was responsible for selling. After all, I was the son of an optical sales legend. But, to be honest, I’d never sold anything before. How hard could it be?

It took us about two weeks to set up the business. Every day during those two weeks, I’d pass this optometrist’s office thinking they’re going to be my first call and, hopefully, my first sale. Every day, as I passed by that office, I thought: “You’re mine. I’m gonna get you!”

Finally, the day arrived. It was time to make sales calls. This should have been the easiest call ever. All I had to do was walk in and say, “Hi, I’m a contact lens distributor. We have the lowest prices on brands you probably already buy. Here’s my price list. If you’d like to order, please give us a call.”

Doesn’t get simpler than that.

So, I walked into that OD’s office.

“Hi, may we help you?” the very nice receptionist said.

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“Yes. I, uhhh … ummm …” I started to hyperventilate. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was so nervous, my system shut down and … well, I threw up on their waiting room floor. Bent over, I started crying from embarrassment. Thank goodness, the receptionist and doctor — who ran out at the commotion — were the nicest people. They helped calm me down and clean me up.

I drove home, went straight to my room, hit the bed in fetal position (probably sucked my thumb, too) and stayed there feeling like a complete loser. The ultimate failure. Call me Deacon Blues!

Fast forward to today. Here I am, a sales trainer and sales strategist who’s successfully trained thousands of salespeople and has been writing for INVISION Magazine for the past five years. Success borne of failure!

So, don’t get down on yourself when a customer says, “No.” Think, “Well, at least I didn’t throw up like Robert did.” But, also, think about how you might be better next time. What does a successful sale look like and how do you get there?

Robert Bell is the founder of EyeCoach, a Sales & Marketing Practice. He is one of the most inspirational, innovative and effective speakers/trainers in the eyecare industry. His workshop “Don’t Be Afraid, It’s Only Selling” is highly coveted. Email him at [email protected]

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