Running the Risk of Defeat on Your Way to Victory

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
November 2, 2010

“No man ought to win a victory who is not willing to run the risk of defeat.”

Ulysses S. Grant

It is easy to get trapped by your fears.

It’s easy to conjure up all kinds of negative beliefs about how your dream client is going to respond to your request for whatever it is you need to win and to succeed. The “too small” voice that only you can hear speaks convincingly that your solution is inadequate, that your competitors are in another weight class, and that you have much to fear.

It’s hard to make the choice to act, when the risk of losing is a very real possibility.

The Right Risk Is Right

The risks that occur as a result of your taking the actions that you know you need to take to understand your dream client’s needs, to develop the right vision of the solution, to gain access to the stakeholders that will ultimately be affected by your solutions, and to gain access to the buying committee members whose blessing you will need to start your change initiative, are the right risks for you to take.

You worry that asking for a do-over to collect the information that you need to both bolster your knowledge and understanding and build the right solution will somehow be bothersome to your dream client. The risk is far greater in making the decision not to obtain the information.

You believe you risk alienating your power sponsor by asking for access to the stakeholders who, while having no formal authority, are the real source of power and influence in your change effort. If you don’t believe this to be true, try implementing your solution with a group of stakeholders whose wishes you ignored and who have decided to punish you with their obstinacy.

Your power sponsor has a lot of authority; she can help you win the deal. You don’t want to risk making her feel like her needs and visions aren’t what you are working to bring to life. But if the decision is being made by a committee, the risk of ignoring the other members of the committee greatly exceed the risk of working to collect the votes you need before you ever step foot in the boardroom.

Necessary Risks and Unnecessary Risks

The necessary risks that you take are the risks that enable you to win your dream client opportunity. While you are consumed with the idea of avoiding the risks that are necessary, you are instead taking unnecessary risks. Each of ideas above is an example of swapping a necessary risk for an unnecessary risk, but there are more, like going without an effective sales process.

Taking the risks necessary to win—and later succeed—for your dream client is what earns you your victory. If you aren’t willing to do what is right, even at the high cost of your deal, if you’re not willing “to run the risk of defeat,” then you don’t deserve to win.


    1. What are the risks that you fear taking? Are these risks necessary risks, risks that, if successfully taken, will greatly improve your odds of winning and succeeding for your dream client?

    1. What are the risks of not taking the actions that you fear? Aren’t the risks of losing your opportunity greater by not facing your fear and taking the risks that you know you need to take?

  1. What are the unnecessary risks that you take by violating the iron laws of sales and by avoiding what is necessary to win and to succeed?

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Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on November 2, 2010
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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