Lowering the Odds on Higher Sales

Some folks see success as no more than a matter of luck. To a certain extent, they're right -- but consistent winners make sure to load the dice

By Alex Rovira and Fernando Trias de Bes

You probably have a friend who has had great luck in sales. In fact, you cannot believe how many new sales meetings she has gone on -- or how many of those she has converted to actual deals. So why is that person's luck so much better than yours? Is it all about random chance, or do some people create the conditions for their own good luck in their sales effort?

Yes, there are some instances of plan old good luck: winning the lottery, getting a huge inheritance. But those who appear to have good luck leave very little of their own fortune to chance. Woody Allen put it best when he said, "Most of luck is just plain insisting…" -- a sentiment Napoleon put even more bluntly: "What conditions? I am the conditions!" (See BW Online, 7/26/04, "Winners Make Their Own Good Luck").

So how are these conditions created? And what is bad luck? It depends on how you look at it. Each stage of the hunt can be a tragedy or an opportunity to reconsider what you are doing. Bad luck, with time, can turn into good luck -- if you set the stage. Here are 10 ways to create your own luck in sales. If you can follow these rules, you'll be on the road to making good luck your ally.

1. Don't wait for a sales lead to fall in your lap. Create the opportunities for sales leads and networking.

Moaning about the lack of new sales coming in? Griping that no one is paying attention to you? No one really understands you? No one wants to buy? In our studies, good luck springs from taking responsibility...for your own sales effort, for your success, and, ultimately, for the course of your sales career. Own the responsibility for creating the conditions for good luck in your sales effort, networking, and because you create it yourself, it will always last.

2. Go out and look for it.

Hmmm. Sitting in the office? Surfing the Net? Not doing much? A lot of people want to have good luck finding new sales leads and networking contacts, but very few decide to go out and look for it. There are always more people willing to invest in games of chance (the waiting game) rather than committing themselves to work in order to put forward an idea and, through effort, successfully develop it.

Come up with six new ways that you can proactively enhance your search, and then go out and do one a day for the next six days. By the seventh, you'll be amazed at the results. Take a day off, and then do the same again for the next six days. Repeat the pattern until you have as many sales leads that you could want. Sounds like a lot of work -- but then again, it's your mission right now -- so go out and create opportunity. Don't wait for it.

3. Pay attention to and learn from mistakes.

So you're not having good luck at the moment. Perhaps it's because the conditions have not changed. If what you are doing is not working, you have to create new conditions. Enhance the arrival of good luck. Focus on mistakes. Don't just check off what you did right . . . or you'll be in the same situation over and over again. Mistakes are the groundwork of change, and this is fundamental. Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory, always carried a notebook to write down anything that wasn't reasonable or logical. Darwin understood that he could achieve his goal as long as he analyzed his mistakes.

4. Be generous.

Preparing the conditions for good luck does not mean you look exclusively for your own benefit! Create the conditions so that others can gain benefits of good luck. This is one of the most important principles, because the more you give, the more you receive in return; it is like a boomerang effect. You'll be surprised at the benefits.

5. Do not leave anything for another day.

If you put off the preparations to create the conditions for good luck, good luck may never arrive. In order to create these conditions to find the right job, take a first step…and take it today! The opposite of opportunity is the incapacity to take advantage of what you have in front of you right now.By Alex Rovira and Fernando Trias de Bes

6. Luck is in the tiny details. Analyze the small details, what may seem inconsequential can turn out to be indispensable.

Be alert to the small details of your search. There is always a small detail that announces the essence of change; what brings you good luck can be right there. That is precisely what happened to Alexander Fleming. All his colleagues had seen mold, but he was the only one who put it under a microscope. Shortly before his death, he said that he had done nothing and that his only merit was not having ignored that suspicious layer of mold.

The real geniuses have been those who have been able to do something new from what, in retrospect, was so evident. They have revealed obvious things that other people had not been capable of noticing for themselves. Quite often, details go unnoticed because we do not have the appropriate attitude. If you believe things happen just because they happen, then you cannot see beyond that. Small details have the capacity for great change, just as mistakes do.

7. Don't worry about chance.

People who only believe in chance think creating the conditions to get new sales leads and networking contacts is senseless. People who create conditions do not worry about chance.

8. Do not trust people who sell luck.

Nobody can sell good luck to you. The truth is, we sometimes have such an urge to make our dreams come true that we yield to anybody who walks by and tells us what they do will work for us. No one can hand you a miracle -- but you can create miracles.

9. Imagination X Willingness = Reality

Once you have created all the conditions, be patient, do not abandon your efforts. You must have confidence for good luck to arrive. You have to have faith in your ability and a belief that you can find the right job for you. The magic formula is the following: imagination times willingness equals reality. Your unconscious cannot distinguish between what is real and what is not. Imagination is immediate. You get a lot of energy when you use your imagination and this activates the mechanisms of selective perception that make it easier for you to achieve your objectives. Confidence has a lot to do with the ability to anticipate results.

10. Good Luck is all around you: the opportunity is always there.

Well, it's just a terrible market. No one can find new sales leads! Everyone is out of work. If you have this attitude, you'll be sitting around looking for new sales leads for quite a long time.

Opportunity has nothing to do with luck or chance: it's always there! The world is full of opportunities, but you have to look for them. If you aren't ready, the conditions are neutral. Yet, if you are ready and you dare to take a step forward you'll start to see that there are many more opportunities than threats. You have to take the step and break the barrier, most frequently the barrier is your own fear of failure.

Alex Rovira and Fernando Trias de Bes are professors at Spanish B-school ESADE. Their book, Good Luck: Create the Conditions for Success in Life & Business is published by Jossey-Bass ($22.95).