It sounds a bit derogatory. The term “happy loser” suggests a fool or stumblebum who stands content in his or her own failure. But in reality, happy losers are often the most effective members of any sales team.
In short, a happy loser is someone who relishes rejection and views it as a faster path to getting to “yes.” First coined by psychologist G. Clotaire Rapaille and reported in a Harvard Business Review article, the term happy loser refers to people who see rejection as a challenge, a barrier to be overcome.
Whether happy losers are born or nurtured is still open to debate. But Rapaille suggests the trait can be learned. In an article in Inc. magazine, he tells of training a corporate sales team. Originally, the sales manager would ask how many sales the team made each week. Rapaille realized that the approach focused on winning instead of losing.
As an experiment, he reversed the process. The sales manager opened each meeting by asking his team, “How many nos did you get this week?” Rapaille learned that sales people with the most nos also had the most sales. He contended it was because these sales people were willing to assume more risk, happy in losing, as long as winning was a byproduct of the process. Sales increased as the team realized that more rejection resulted in greater rewards. In the end, they had become happy losers.
While that might make sense from a psychological perspective, in practice, it’s much more difficult to manage and achieve. That’s because most sales organizations simply do not have the time or resources to cultivate a culture of happy losers. Most happy losers seek to work in environments where there is an understanding of the difficulty of sales. One that doesn’t take success for granted. That requires a special kind of sales manager, indeed. One who understands the psyche of salespeople and focuses on both data and the psychology to shepherd the flock.
That’s why it is crucial to create a high-performance sales culture. Since salespeople face a lot of rejection, they really need to be recognized and rewarded for progress as it occurs to keep them fully engaged and motivated. According to Gallup Business Journal, engaged salespeople deliver better sales results, stay with their companies longer, and create more customer loyalty.
What are the hallmarks of a high-performance sales culture? Here are four:
- An enterprise that has the ability to define the actual tasks that power sales performance so that rewards can be aligned with success.
- A workplace that celebrates progress and success. A salesperson facing a lot of nos really needs an “attaboy” when good things happen. Recognition goes a long way.
- An environment that fosters friendly competition. Salespeople are naturally competitive and enjoy seeing if they can do better than their peers and get to the top of the organization.
- A workplace that values resilience over short-termism. One that glorifies the long, inevitable journey of nos, fully aware that they set the stage for getting to yes.