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  • Brett Zalaski

My Top 3 Sales Fails


The other week it hit me that I've been a professional now for almost 16 years, sales for almost 14 years, and in #sportsbiz for 12 of those. I've made a lot of sales in my career. I've also not made a CRAP-TON of sales, too. I'm a big believer that you can learn more from the successes you've had...but you can also learn quite a bit from the failures. I've had a few of those failures stay with me over time...and I'm oddly excited to share them with you all now.

  1. Director of Marketing, COTY (at CEB): For the life of me, I can't remember her name. I was at CEB, I was told she handled marketing, and I caught her on the phone. I was unprepared for the conversation. I didn't know what COTY did, I didn't know what her background was...and I got ROASTED for it. I was taken to task for all the shortcomings mentioned above in a call that lasted less than 3 minutes and ended with her hanging up on me. It was sobering. It sucked. And I learned very early on in my career that I needed to have prepared for every call, have a goal for every call, and I needed to care about my client more than I cared about what I needed to say.

  2. Law Firm, Gaithersburg, MD (at Washington Freedom): The Washington Freedom is still absolutely one of my favorite years in sales & sports. One of my favorite parts about it was creating and establishing field side suites...and then promptly selling them out. It was so cool, that early on in my career, to have my hands all over the brainstorming, executing, and selling of a really cool premium seat product. One of our season ticket holders, on the announcement of the project, put me in touch with her law firm to buy one. I've always been a diligent seller...but I took this one completely for granted. Without doing my traditional sales approach, because I just assumed they were going to buy, I did not find and sell to all the people who were responsible for the decision. Very quickly, because I was not detailed in my approach, the account went ghost on me. In my efforts to re-connect with the client, I said that our season ticket holder said they would do it...which she did not. Because of that, I had to do CPR on her relationship with the club to get her and her family to renew their season tickets. Because of my lack of diligence and my casual approach to the sale, I not only did not get the sale...I almost cost us a season ticket holder in the process. While the success of the field side suite is something I'm forever proud of, I have not forgotten not selling that law firm.

  3. Pro Soccer Team for Sales Training (at Get After It Sales): Early on in my tenure as a trainer, I got an inbound lead through my website from someone I knew who wanted to discuss training. It was early enough that I was still struggling to find success on the training side...so I was pseudo-desperate for the sale. That desperation led to a call where I just completely kitchen-sinked my friend about my training...instead of listening to them to see how my training could fit with the challenges they were having. After the call, there was still a chance that I would be able to get the training based on our prior relationship, so I set a follow-up for a week later and said I'd work on an agenda in the process. I did not have a CRM or pipeline management document at the time. Something came up personally that needed my attention for a few days. All of a sudden my phone rang...and it was the team. I had completely forgotten about the phone call. As you can imagine, I did not get that training. There were so many lessons in this one sales process that I vowed not to do again. I vowed to never sell from a point of desperation. I vowed to put the client's needs over mine. And I vowed to sell with a CRM and pipeline management document with Get After It. This all happened at about the turn of my first year (6 months in). Over the next two full years I grew 330% by reminding myself of the principles of organization and a client first approach that I had clearly forgot with this team.

I'm sure I had some worse technical sales fails over time, these were just the ones that have left a lasting impression on me, and helped me change for the better. In sales we are told to be 'ok' with failing. I'm not totally into that idea. I think if we put ourselves into each opportunity and client, it should sting a little if the sale doesn't happen. But just like getting stung by a bee, we should use that pain to figure out how to not get stung again. I love the quote on the right here. Failure sucks if you just keep bouncing from failure to failure without learning from it. If you learn from it, you'll learn to embrace it as part of your path to finding consistent sales success.