Here is a short essay by blogger Max Kalehoff, backed by some serious psychology and anthropology, dealing with the sales mentality. It's relevant to anyone whose job entails selling a cause or organization. I had mixed reactions.

What I liked was the author's fundamental nudge to “celebrate struggle” and risk-taking. In his words:

From a marketing standpoint, winning increasingly requires experimentation, risk-taking, and frequent failure. Rigid organizations that dont build higher levels of unpredictability and periodic loss into their models will lose in the long run. They simply will fail to adapt and build new competencies necessary to stay competitive.

What I didn't like was the notion that salespeople — the “happy losers” in the piece — are doomed to fail 90% of the time. I'm thinking about major gift fundraising here. If your development team is coming home penniless 9 out of 10 times, or even worse, your Prez or Executive Director is returning empty-handed that often, somebody's head should roll!

There's simply too ample data available with which to identify, vet and target major prospects and, hopefully, too much sophistication about the art of cultivation, to accept results like that. By the time your top fundraiser goes out the door to meet a prospect face-to-face, you should be looking at closing the deal. Is that what happens in your fundraising? If not, why not?

    • How thorough was your research?
    • How much sifting of the wheat from the chaff did you do — did you set priorities in terms of likelihood to give?
    • How well did you prep your prospect, both in terms of tailored material and references from within the prospect's own network?
    • Was there a specific reason or cultivation scheme behind a face-to-face meeting that wasn't intended to win closure?
    • Did you send the right messenger, and was he or she well-prepared?

Lose because of informed risk-taking? Be a happy loser.

Lose because you didn't take time to do your homework? No excuses!

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