Failure is not an option, but it is a reality

This is a truth rarely acknowledged in the world of sales and business development, where the only conversation you will ever hear is the one about winning and success.

Yet the prospect of loss is the ugly spectre that hangs over everything we do, and past losses we haven’t grieved for and learned from can actually prevent us from doing our best work with the customers we have today.

In my line of work I have spent years up close and personal with people while they grapple with the anxiety-inducing task of re-competing for business that they already have.

This anxiety presents in many ways that mask what it really is: fear that derives from a sense of powerlessness, in this case because the customer is going to market whether we like it or not.

In boardrooms and in bid team ‘war rooms’, I've seen anxiety show up as arrogance, bullying, lying, dissembling, blind faith, or bluster. While understandable, none are helpful when it comes to winning again.

There is no doubt about it – losses hurt. I have worked in this game a long time and see many people struggling with unacknowledged grief for past business losses. None of us are robots. We are people with feelings. Losing a customer or contract creates hurt and fear, both of which are huge drags on our creativity, energy and enthusiasm — the very things that we need the most when we need to compete again.

If you’ve ever lost a piece of business that was important to you, please give yourself the opportunity to grieve for it. Really feel what happened and then let it go with gratitude.

There are lessons in loss, and one of the most important is to be thankful for and work hard to retain the business that we have today.