Experimenting to fail or failing to experiment?

I’m reading a book at the moment, Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed, in it, Matthew offers up the term Cognitive Dissonance. The more I read, the more I felt myself reflecting;

  • Have I experienced it?
  • What does this mean for me?
  • What can I learn?

One definition of cognitive dissonance is;

In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.

The occurrence of cognitive dissonance is a consequence of a person performing an action that contradicts personal beliefs, ideals, and values; and also occurs when confronted with new information that contradicts said beliefs, ideals, and values”.

Have I experienced it, YES.

In sales, the line is blurred between being persistent and knowing when to move on. We’ve measured persistence as a good trait in sales people, and it is.

So is it persistence or is it cognitive dissonance?

I’ve witnessed on a number of occasions in meetings, this focus on persistence. It impacts on forecasting, manufacturing & revenue budgets, by keeping “possible” deals in play for too long. Remove them and panic sets in as to how do we fill the “hole?”

The bigger questions for me are;

  • What does it mean?
  • What can I learn?

Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to understand the market’s perception of sales. It’s been a frustrating, fascinating and deeply emotional roller-coaster ride.

My findings have amazed, disappointed, frustrated and surprised me!

I’ve talked to lots of business leaders, recruitment organisations, educational institutes, investor groups, etc. The perception is sales hasn’t evolved quickly enough. It’s been overtaken by the digital era.

When the market was offered a sales workshop, in most cases, it wasn’t fully subscribed. Change sales to business, for example, fully subscribed.

On a personal note, changing my title from sales coach to business coach, within days landed me new clients and more exposure through social media & business platforms.


I feel, sales as an industry is a “closed loop”, to quote Matthew Syed. We seem to be doing the same things, over and over again. Instead of experimenting and learning from our mistakes, we play safe, changing the jargon to suit.

The Challenger Sale by Brett Adamson and Matthew Dixon goes some way to altering our approach. We need more, in order to make mistakes, learn and grow.

Sales is all about failure.

Sales involves trust.

No Experimenting = No Failure = No Trust

I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

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