Hey readers, this is our one hundredth issue of MarketPulse! To celebrate we wanted to do something special, so we decided to focus on excellence, flawlessness, impeccability, and getting things 100% right.
Everyone strives for perfection – at least some of the time. But that drive to be perfect can be a huge trap, an alluring phantom of mind that drains energy, siphons off time and lowers morale.
From sports to business, performing to parenting, investing to inventing — since time immemorial, humans have been setting new records and breaking old ones. Yet no one has ever run the perfect mile or played the perfect chess game, or raised the perfect human being.
Like evolution itself, we’re continually learning and adapting but never actually arriving at a final perfect place or product.
The maxim Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good reminds us to relax our obsessions with perfection and value outcomes that might be less than ideal. We take success for granted, but our failures teach us what we need to know.
THE GIFTS OF FAILURE
A chance to learn – We can’t learn to ride a bike, play golf, or make a soufflé by simply reading a book or watching a video. We need the direct experience. Falling off the bike teaches us about balance – what to do and what not to do to stay upright and in control.
Every botched attempt, every flop or failure gives us a chance to discover better ways of doing things.
Building resilience and confidence – Resilience, the ability to bounce back from disappointment and recover from setbacks, grows stronger when we fail and recover, and realize that defeats are only temporary.
If we’re weight training at the gym, we actually work towards failure. Completing a perfect set of any exercise isn’t how we achieve the most gains. Instead, it’s pushing beyond what we’re able to do – striving and failing to squeeze out that last repetition is what actually breaks down muscles, which grow back stronger and bigger as they repair and reform.
We build resilience and improve our sales skills when we experience the pain of failure, regroup, and continue ahead. Just as seeing what doesn’t work shows us how to adjust and improve, recovering from emotional setbacks teaches us resilience.
The bond of imperfection – Failing also teaches us humility. Making friends with our own imperfections and failures, we feel a deeper connection with everyone else in this fallible world.
This natural empathy attunes us with others — our prospects, our team, and the rest of humanity.
That feeling of relationship lies at the heart of success in selling. Without a sense of shared experience, there’s no attunement with others. Without attunement, real communication isn’t possible.
The tyranny of perfection – Fixating on perfect outcomes can be paralyzing. Fear of failure keeps us trapped in our comfort zone. Thoughts of being less than perfect stop us from engaging with challenges. When the risk of imperfection is too much for us, we procrastinate endlessly. We’re stuck in place, clinging to the security of the status quo.
Pema Chodron, the American Buddhist teacher, tells us to “Start Where You Are.” If we wait until the conditions are perfect (whatever that means) before engaging with challenges, we’ll be waiting for a very, very long time.
The 80/20 rule – The Pareto principle or 80/20 Rule applies across a wide range of situations. Its basic premise is that roughly 80% of results come from 20% of the efforts.
In sales, 80% of a company’s revenue typically comes from 20% of their customers. And 80% of those sales are usually made by 20% of the sales force.
For many tasks it’s often the case that the last 20% of effort we invest to achieve perfection fails to do so and could be applied more productively in other ways. In sales prospecting, for example, the odds of connecting with a decision maker by phone fall off dramatically after 6 or 7 attempts. Investing time and effort beyond that point simply wastes our resources.
Another example of the 80/20 principle is highlighted by a large sample study of customer service efforts cited in the Harvard Business Review. The results showed that beyond solving customers immediate problems, extreme exertions to deliver customer “delight” made virtually no difference in either retention or brand loyalty.
“Be Prepared” – The Boy Scouts’ motto echoes down the ages. If you’re camping, take along the proper gear. If you’re making a sales presentation, be sure your PowerPoint slides are in order.
But much of the time we encounter challenges we just weren’t expecting, and the only real way to be prepared for anything is to have no fixed expectations. Unburdened by ideals of perfection, we respond more fluidly to challenges and tap into creative solutions for whatever the situation demands.
In the realm of sales, every seasoned pro has stories about their letdowns and disappointments. Those big and small failures — simple disappointments and huge catastrophes — are all grist for the mill. They’re opportunities to learn and grow, to build confidence and resilience. They’re stepping-stones to real success.
Does this mean nothing is worth striving for? Hardly. But do we really want “perfection” to be our tyrannical taskmaster?
Why not appreciate the imperfections of our efforts and build resilience, skills, and confidence every time we miss the mark?