Does Luck Play a Role In Your Sales Success? New Research Suggests it Does

When was the last time you had the feeling it wasn’t your lucky day? If someone else is performing much better than you, do you ever wonder if it’s because they’re luckier than you? People often tend to attribute the reasons behind others’ or even their own success to luck when they cannot adequately link the outcome to specific actions or processes. Attributing success to luck is very common in sales, as if it is a card game that doesn’t involve bluffing. However, before saying that top performing salespeople are just blessed by some inexplicable supernatural forces, one must think whether that same blessing can also apply to them if they changed their mindset, and accordingly, actions.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article titled “Why the Best Salespeople Get So Lucky”, author Joël Le Bon, a Clinical Professor of Marketing and Director of Executive Education for the Sales Excellence Institute at the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, found that when it comes to sales, luck is something beyond a random outside factor. Rather, it is something that could be managed to improve performance and competitiveness. According to his research and studies, how luck is controlled to create an advantage actually depends a lot on the actions taken by the salesperson, and this results in a factor Le Bon calls ‘provoked luck’. Even though the outcome (e.g., closing a sale) still feels unexpected, it is a fruit of the salesperson’s behavior that creates the opportunities resulting in favorable circumstances. When Le Bon researched the work of 70 students selling sponsorships for a golf tournament and recruiting booths for a career fair, provoked luck proved to be the most important source of sales generation with almost 60 percent of sales success attributed to it.

So what does Le Bon suggest for those looking to provoke luck? He actually sees belief in luck as a motivating factor. This of course does not mean attributing consequences to pure luck as the introduction paragraph stressed. Le Bon’s argument is that when a salesperson believes luck combined with effort will help them succeed, they are more dedicated to their tasks and consequently create that element of provoked luck, which in turn boosts their performance. Although completely fictional, an example from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince illustrates this very concept. Only by thinking that he just drank ‘Felix Felicis’ (a potion that makes a person extremely lucky for a period of time), the character Ron Weasley became more confident. This allowed him to focus on his task (a Quidditch game) without any fears of uncertainty or failure. Similarly, Le Bon also states that young salespeople should tackle these same concerns by confidence developed through utilizing luck. He suggests some key actions to improve luck, including constantly collecting information and being mindful of the customer’s needs through staying alert and being a good listener. The key takeaways from his studies on luck are that salespeople should intrinsically motivate themselves and believe their dedication and efforts will generate positive results through provoked luck.

Another point of view to the role of luck in sales also points out the significance of effort. In an article on his website, sales expert, trainer, and motivational speaker Andy Preston introduces a concept called ‘R.O.P.E.’, which stands for Return-On-Previous-Efforts. Preston sees it as a good substitute for the word ‘luck’. The logic behind R.O.P.E. is that favorable outcomes are generally a result of the salesperson’s past activities. He urges salespeople to stay committed to their tasks even though they may not be creating results right away, emphasizing that there are usually gaps between efforts and results in sales. Utilizing this knowledge by reminding themselves their tasks are still an important part of the sales process, salespeople can see the difference in having a R.O.P.E. mindset and reap the long-term rewards. According to Preston, staying organized and committed, especially when working on activities to develop ‘new business,’ is key to success in sales.

Overall, it’s how you define and approach luck that actually matters. Do you superstitiously see it as just a supernatural element? Or do you believe you can ‘provoke your luck’ by believing it goes hand in hand with effort? And are you putting enough continuous effort into sales tasks to utilize R.O.P.E. like an adept cowboy with a lasso? Your answers to these questions might impact your sales success more than you think.

Written by Furkan Ozunal

Furkan is an undergraduate marketing and finance student at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. He loves skiing, the Turkish rock band Duman and the sports club Fenerbahce.

Published May 6, 2015 by Luke Severn.
Categories: Sales