Nobody likes to fail. Yet despite our attempts to avoid it, from time to time we all do. Whether it’s losing prospects to competitors or being unable to agree to final terms, everyone in this industry has at least a couple failures under their belt.
But in the quest to fail less, treat every failure as a valuable learning opportunity.
That’s admittedly easier said than done, but you can simplify the process by asking the right questions. From accurately identifying what went wrong to finding the best way to move forward, ask yourself these four questions after every failed deal to learn from your mistakes and forge ahead.
1. What went wrong?
Did you lose a deal because you approached it from the wrong direction? Perhaps you didn’t do enough research and ended up misunderstanding your contact’s true interest? There are plenty of times when a deal simply falls through and it’s out of your control, but you should always stop to think and analyze what went wrong.
Be honest with yourself and acknowledge any mistakes on your part—failures are only really failures when we don’t learn from them, and the learning process starts with understanding what went wrong.
2. What should I have done differently?
After figuring out what went wrong, think about what you could have done differently to have reached a successful outcome. The goal isn’t to beat yourself up—remember that hindsight is always 20-20. The goal is to take the insights you’ve gained after analyzing the failed deal and incorporate them into future endeavors.
Since most of us end up making the same mistakes time and time again, make a plan to help yourself stick with your new strategy. Whether it’s spending more time looking at data or using visual tools to help prospect, it can help to have specific tactics to help you follow through.
Don’t worry about making your plan overly detailed. Just focus on covering key aspects of your strategy and think about how you’ll overcome any predictable setbacks.
3. What skills do I need to develop?
It’s likely your plan will force you to act in ways you’re not used to, or sometimes in ways you’re uncomfortable with. Instead of shying away from change, understand which skills you need to develop and embrace the challenge. For example, if you want to get better at networking to reach stronger prospects, push yourself to attend conventions and work on building your social media presence.
Working with a mentor can also help you rapidly develop your skillset. Find someone you trust and admire in your industry and do what brokers do best: pick up the phone and give them a call. Even if someone doesn’t have the time or inclination to mentor you, they may pass you along to someone who does.
4. How do I extend the conversation?
This question isn’t about finding ways to recover a lost deal. It’s about propelling into future negotiations.
Did you meet anyone during the dealmaking process you should follow up with? Think about how you can benefit from the time you spent working on what become a failed deal. Perhaps during your research you stumbled across possible prospects in the same market? Before you go back to the drawing board, see if there are creative ways to use the foundational work you put into the last deal.
Failure is a great teacher. But like all great teachers, there’s no such thing as passive learning. So rather than trying to forget your failures, use them to make you stronger by examining them openly and honestly. Failure is just one part of a longer series of conversations, and the more we learn from our mistakes, the stronger we are moving forward.