The Stoic Salesperson: You Lost! Why it’s Not Your Fault

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You didn’t win President’s Club!

In your place onstage stands someone else shaking the hands of senior leadership claiming to be better than you.  In this moment you want nothing more than for it to not be true. No, you can’t change the numbers from the past and you don’t have to fall back on excuses or bitterness. Instead the key to your come back may lie in Stoic Philosophy.

First, ask yourself, was it your name etched onto the sales trophy at the beginning of the year?  Was winning this year’s sales contest a simple matter of obtaining what’s rightfully yours? Obviously not. So how then can you lose something you never owned?  

Every sale requires a choice, one made only by one person, the customer.  If you don’t believe me call your biggest account and ask if you can make buying decisions for them.  As you can see we in sales exert influence, not control, over our customers.  

A core tenant in Stoic philosophy is knowing what we do and don’t control. In the end your sales results are the output of many decisions for and against your product.  How many of these choices do we control? Zero. Come to think of it, how many customer decisions did our higher-performing co-worker control this year? Zero.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t evaluated directly on our influence, but on our sales results.  One of these data points is easy to measure; the other is not. And again, if customer influence and sales results were one in the same, we’d sign the sales contracts ourselves. Is it unfair to be judged based on decisions of out our control? Maybe, but Stoicism teaches that feeling upset by this fact is also, our choice. 

Therefore, instead of personal wins and losses, you now have permission to focus on customer wants and needs. After all, isn’t that what we’re here for?


For a free and inspiring lessons on Stoicism, check out Ryan Holiday’s podcast, The Daily Stoic.