Josh Seibert is a long-time Sandler Trainer and our latest author. He joins us to talk about the lessons from his new book, Winning From Failing. He shares why failure is a critical part of success, not the opposite of success. Learn how to set the stage for failure and use it to grow faster and expand your comfort zone.
Learn how to succeed through Failure!
Mike Montague:Welcome to the How to Succeed podcast, the show that helps you get to the top and stay there. This is How to Succeed Through Failure. The show is brought to you by Sandler Training, the worldwide leader in sales management and customer service training. For more information on Sandler Training including white papers, webinars, and more, visit www.sandler.com. I’m your host, Mike Montague, and my guest this week is Josh Seibert. He is a Sandler trainer from Central North Carolina, and he is the author of the brand new Sandler book Winning From Failing. We’re going to talk to him about how to succeed through failure. Josh, welcome to the show. Tell me a little bit about failure and the book, and how you came up with all of this.
Josh Seibert: Thanks, Mike. Thanks for having me on. The reason I came up with this book, as you know we train sales organizations, salespeople every day, and we see things that come to us that cause us to believe that as salespeople, as managers of sales organizations, that failure is not an option. It’s unacceptable. I take issue with that in that we’ve learned much more failure over our lifetimes than we’ve ever learned from success. We tend to celebrate success; we have a good time with it. Certainly all of us, we want to succeed at the end of the day. That’s what we’re pursuing in our life goals. Everything that we do, we’re pursuing success in our own definition.
How do we get there? The path to success is through failure. Without question, it’s through failure. I decided to write a book with that understanding that we need to change our paradigm, our thinking about failure, as opposed to an avoidance behavior. How do we embrace it, and how do we use it in our pursuit of success?
Mike Montague: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. A lot of people want to be successful, and they don’t want to fail. Life just doesn’t work that way. When we think about learning anything, especially when you see a toddler or something, they learn how to do everything by just failing at it tons of times, right?
Josh Seibert: Correct, and you’re absolutely right. As we look at children as they grow up, they learn so much more when we allow them to experience both success and failure. It sets boundaries, and it helps them determine what the best way is, what is the right way, what is the most efficient way and the most effective way of getting done what they intend to do, i.e., success.
Mike Montague: I know you’ve done a lot of training programs not only in business and sales training that we do here at Sandler but also in the military and how they train people to be successful when failure could be a very bad and even life-ending event. Let’s dive into it and talk about attitude first. If you’re trying to train someone or train yourself to be successful, what are the ideal attitudes?
Josh Seibert: I grew up, and many of us did, I had a father who was very determined to help me succeed, and failure was not an option. His definition of failure was not that you cannot fail, but you cannot quit. Failure for me was don’t ever quit. I think that’s very, very important. Failure is quitting. It’s not attempting something and not effectively achieving that the first time or achieving it as efficiently as I might want to achieve it, but failure in my mind as I grew up was defined for me as quitting. Failure is a quitter.
Parlay that moving forward, in the United States Submarine Navy I had the honor and privilege of serving, I learned not only that failure was quitting, but there’s also value in learning from failure in that environment, just like any other training environment. As I was being trained to operate on a United States Navy submarine, they were not going to put me on that submarine and risk catastrophic failure in sinking a submarine by my inadequacies. The inadequacies were not only the technical competence that I needed to develop to be able to operate effectively and be a member of a crew on a submarine, but also my behavior, and also to be able to act, react, and perform under stress, under highly stressful situations. They had to and expected me to fail. They caused me to fail such that I could experience that feeling, which tends to attitude. How do I deal with the emotion when I fail? The only way that I can deal with that or control those emotions as it were is to have been there first.
Just like in sales, when we first see or feel rejection, we have an emotional reaction to that. How we respond to that emotion is likely to be different from the first time we experience it to the 400th time that we’ve experienced that. The earlier that I can experience that emotion, such that I know what it feels like to get a rejection, for example. If I know what it feels like, and I’ve been there before, then I can intellectually craft a system, structure, and competence to be able to deal with it appropriately in the way that I need to because I’ve been there before. Failure is one of those things that I know in the pursuit of success not only must be accepted, but it must be experienced. It’s our belief that in a controlled environment so that the submarine doesn’t sink as it were, in a simulated environment, in a training room as opposed to with our best customer, failure is something not only to be embraced and learned from, but it must be experienced. I believe it’s a requisite.
Mike Montague: It’s interesting that there is both, there’s a deadening of those emotions, but there’s also a hardening of your skill that happens when you fail and sometimes even fail spectacularly. I always think of public speaking when I’ve done this. I’ve done so many public speaking events now that I’ve had horrible ones, just embarrassingly awkward situations in front of one person, or forgetting what I was going to say in front of thousands. Once those happen, then the next time you’re not worried about it. You go, “Well, it can’t be as bad as that,” right?
Josh Seibert: The attitudinal piece, you’re absolutely right, Mike. You feel better now because the house didn’t burn down. You didn’t experience the catastrophe that you might have thought you would have. Your experience when something like that happened wasn’t as you envisioned it, so it’s not so bad. The second thing that happened I believe in those experiences that you had, when you did fail, the next time it was going to happen, you were prepared for it. Not only did you have the attitude as if it happens again, it won’t be so bad, you’ve experienced it enough times to where now you know how to prevent it as opposed to deal with it after the fact. That’s the key. If you’ve experienced failure enough to know how to prevent it and not step in that bucket of goo to get on your foot, the experience was beneficial in a behavioral way and a technical way.
Mike Montague: Yeah, I think that does move over to behavior next because I did adjust. You bring extra microphone batteries or whatever it is the next time. You learn, “Well, maybe I don’t want to use that outlet,” or things that will improve your performance for the next time. I guess we should get back to a sales analogy, too. You’re like, “Hey, that line didn’t work,” or, “I definitely don’t want to say that again.” You put that in your bag of tricks, and you keep the stuff that did work. These behaviors of doing it over and over again help you build on what you should be doing, right?
Josh Seibert: Yes, we tend to build our behaviors and the strategies that are more successful based more upon the failures that we have experienced than we do on the successes. We’re so busy. You can use this as an analogy as well. Some of those things that you experienced in your lifetime in sales or maybe in radio, when you have a success, we tend to celebrate. We smile, we feel good. Attitudinally, we know we’re good. Unfortunately, we don’t learn as much from that success. We’re so busy on the celebration side that we don’t peel the onion back as much as we would like to or hope to say, “This is what really worked, and I want to implement that.” Although it’s nice to have, it’s much more impactful when we fail.
When we fail, without a doubt we either decide to not do those things again on a sales call, or we decide to correct those behaviors that we’ve done. We choose, and we make choices, and we implement 80% more from failure and that experience than we do from success. Studies tell us that failure is much more impactful, and therefore we should not only embrace failure but we should expect failure and cause it in a controlled environment so we can take those experiences, we’ve felt those experiences, and change our behavior, and thereby improve our technique.
Mike Montague: Yeah, and I’d like to move right over to technique because I know in your book you shared a lot of really good techniques for how you build a training or learning program for yourself or your organization. Why is technique important when you’re trying to learn something, and what are some of the best things we can do to improve and learn faster?
Josh Seibert: Technique to me is not only knowing what to do and how it is done but getting it from knowing those things to owning those things. What I mean by that is when we first learn something new, we’re technically knowledgeable, but that knowledge that we have has yet to be implemented. We don’t know just how to manipulate it, or work it, or adjust it, or adapt it until we use it. The next stage in that technique in moving it from knowing it to absolutely owning it and being able to call upon it when we need it, executing it precisely, is a process of going from that knowing it to owning it. The next stage is if I know something, I have to apply it. I have to apply it in the world that I’m in. I have to apply it maybe in a controlled environment.
In that application, we need to not only apply it where we can see success, but we need to apply it in the safe zones where we can experience failure. What I mean by that is, if we learn a new sales technique and that technique needs to be applied, and we’re not polished, we’re not skilled, and we don’t own that skill just yet, the expectation is to take it from knowing to owning to apply it in a safe area in those experiences where we don’t risk the entire business. We don’t put at risk an extremely important account at the last moment. We experience it maybe early on in the early stages, maybe in a safe environment like a classroom, a role play environment, so that we can work out the kinks.
The more that we apply that and allow ourselves to experience all the failure necessary there, the more skilled we become. That knowledge and application repetitiveness cause us to be skilled. We get good at it. When we get good at something, when we get skilled at it, we gain attitudinal confidence. As we become more confident, it now becomes the habit that we’ve replaced the old habit with. Thus we now own it. The technique makes us more effective, makes us more efficient. To get the technique is to move it from knowing what the technique should be to absolutely owning the technique, thus we’re not thinking about it, and it gains confidence.
Mike Montague: What I heard there is a lot of practice, a lot of reps, but also moving from the safest environment to more challenging and difficult. In your book, you talked even moving to the point of failure in practice. We’ve talked about that a little bit here. Do you really go from completely safe, no judgments, no risk at all, to a higher risk or more difficult situations? Do you want to push past that breaking point, or do you want to continue to build confidence? I think that’s always a tough mark.
Josh Seibert: It’s always a tough mark, and we always fear that confidence will be broken at some point with failure. I would disagree. At some point, we all feel like we’ve hit that plateau. It’s called a comfort zone, and it’s an attitudinal barrier, that ceiling we place upon ourselves to say, “When we’re in here, we’re good.” You know what? To risk being great, I would have to experience failure, and that’s scary for me. When you think about it, the very first time you experienced failure when you entered the role of sales, it was pretty scary, too. That controlled environment and that controlled failure, yes, the risk gets higher.
What David Sandler said early on, he said, “No one has ever accomplished anything great by playing it safe.” I think that applies here. The moment that you play it safe, the moment that you do, that doesn’t mean go crazy, but the moment that you said, “I’m playing I safe,” is the moment you’re failing. You’re failing to succeed because success is a journey, it’s not a destination. In the world of sales, you are either growing, or you’re stalling. There is no status quo. At some point, Mike, I would challenge your thinking. If you’ve reached that plateau to where you’re not willing to take that next step, I think you’ve arrived. When you’ve arrived, everyone else is growing on top of you, and someday you’re going to be below the mark.
Mike Montague: I have one more difficult question for you which is, I think the hardest thing to do as a manager or a leader is watch your people fail, especially if they’re in front of one of your clients. Do you have any recommendations if you’re the manager that has to sit there and watch your people fail?
Josh Seibert: Yes, planning. Failure is acceptable if it’s preplanned. We all remember those days when we were maybe coached in a sport or, of course, joined the military. The instructors, the coaches, they knew how that failure was going to be set up. They knew where the boundaries were. They weren’t going to allow me to kill myself. They weren’t going to allow me to sink the ship. They weren’t going to allow me to devastate the team because they had a strategy, and they had a plan. They expected failure, not just prepared for it. They set things up such that I could experience that failure and they were there to allow me to do that such that they can coach on the backend.
The important role of the manager is to become the coach, not the savior. The coach allows for failure to happen, actually plans failure to happen. Sometimes it happens without a plan; I get it. The best way for a coach to prepare for that, for a manager to prepare for the role, is to ensure that failure happens in a controlled environment, and they develop their coaching skills on the backend such that confidence can be developed within that salesperson by experiencing that failure. Preparation is the key to not allowing disaster, catastrophe to occur.
Mike Montague: We are talking with Josh Seibert. He is the author of the new book Winning from Failing, a Sandler offering. You can find it at shop.sandler.com, or of course, you can find it on Amazon, and the Kindle version as well. Josh, how do you define success?
Josh Seibert: Success is a journey, it’s not a destination. I believe that in my heart of hearts. Success for me and how I define success is my vision and my journey. Little milestones along the way are the milestone of the plan to achieve success. Success is a life journey whether it’s through my work goals as a salesperson, as a trainer, as a developer, or my family aspirations, my spiritual aspirations. We all have life goals, and specifically, if we get into the content of what we train and develop, there are eight areas that I believe must be explored. Success to me is the journey through that path. It’s redefined every single day.
Mike Montague: What was your biggest lesson learned in your career or hurdle you had to get over to be successful?
Josh Seibert: There’s two that I sew together. One of them I learned very early on, as I said before, is don’t every quit, never. Never quit. I also learned that failure is defined as quitting, not experiencing and not accomplishing the intended goal, but it’s defined as quitting. Never give up.
Mike Montague: What is your go-to move or superpower when you need to be successful? How did you land on that one?
Josh Seibert: I think we’re all instilled with values at a young age, and they’re reinforced with our experiences over a lifetime. Honor is one of those that was given to me by my father, demonstrated and instilled in me as a young man and certainly throughout my military career, and has been with me throughout a lifetime. I go back to honor. I go back to a hard work ethic because I control 100% of my behavior. I may not be able to control what happened to me or at me from external forces. We don’t control those. If I keep my honor and I control my behavior, I can get through anything.
Mike Montague: I like that. That’s one we haven’t had before, so I appreciate you sharing. What is our favorite Sandler rule?
Josh Seibert: You have to learn to fail to win.
Mike Montague: That one’s pretty easy for your book, Winning from Failing. Based on what we talked about today, how to succeed through failure, what’s one key attitude you would like people to have leaving the podcast?
Josh Seibert: The attitude is a paradigm shift. Embrace, expect and cause controlled failure, and you’re on a much quicker path to success.
Mike Montague: One key behavior you would like people to do.
Josh Seibert: It would be negative, and the negative is don’t ever quit. Keep pursuing. Keep doing it. Never plateau. Never quit.
Mike Montague: The best technique to use.
Josh Seibert: Negative reserve selling. Learn to go for no. It’ll help you on two ends. One, if you go for no and it is a no, you’re going to find out early, and you’re going to move on. Also attitudinally when you control that no, you learn how to go for no by controlling the no, you become in control of your behavior in the sales world. Learn to go for no.
Mike Montague: Yeah, it’s interesting. If you want to learn more about negative reverse selling, we have other podcasts completely on that topic, but negative reverse selling is really about not being afraid of failure, that if the failure is already there, you might as well find out. If you go there to the edge unafraid of the failure, good things happen to you most of the time. That’s really cool. Anything else you want to share on this topic or anything we missed along the way, why people should buy your book?
Josh Seibert: Obviously, if you want to learn more about winning through experiential failure, that book is a good start for you. Without a doubt, it’s a good start. Here’s what I would tell you. For everyone listening, if you don’t have a good coach, you’re going to need a good coach throughout the way. One of the key elements of learning through failure is having someone to help you experience that learning. A coach and a trainer are two different things, a coach, and a teacher. Coaching is not taught, it’s caught. You need a good coach. Everybody who has achieved great things sustainably, if they look back in their lifetime, they had a coach along the way. Pursue a coach. You need one.
Mike Montague: Josh, thanks for being on the show. For more on this topic, find his book Winning from Failing at shop.sandler.com. You can find more resources at www.sandler.com, or you can follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, @sandlertraining. As always, you can subscribe or leave us a review on iTunes and Google Play. Thank you for listening. Remember, whatever you are, be a good one. The How to Succeed podcast is brought to you by Sandler Training, the worldwide leader in sales management and customer service training for individuals all the way up to Fortune 500 companies, with over 250 locations. For more information on Sandler Training, visit www.sandler.com.
Get Josh’s book, Winning from Failing, on sale now at: https://shop.sandler.com/category/books