To Win Big In Sales…Think Small

When some salespeople pursue new opportunities, they focus on everything that needs to happen to win the business and become overwhelmed. Here, Paul Reilly discusses how salespeople should view their effort in terms of small wins.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”       ~Lao Tzu

Have you ever pursued an opportunity so huge it seemed impossible? You don’t even know where or how to start. You focus on the distance you must travel versus the next step in front of you. How you view opportunities impacts performance.

When some salespeople pursue new opportunities, they focus on everything that needs to happen to win the business. These salespeople become overwhelmed with the opportunity. They view a single failure as total failure and move on to the next  opportunity. They give up before they start. Rather than viewing your effort in terms of failure or success, view it in terms of positive momentum. View your effort in terms of small wins

How we set goals creates another challenge. Sales organizations fail to hit the motivational “sweet spot” for salespeople. Some goals are too hard and salespeople become frustrated. Other goals are easy and salespeople lose interest. Set behavioral goals that are attainable and have visible results. Set goals that reinforce the behavior, not just results. Set small-win goals.

To win big opportunities, focus on small wins.

Karl Weick, psychology professor at Cornell University, defines small wins as a concrete, complete, implemented outcome of moderate importance. By itself, one small win may seem unimportant. A series of small wins reveals a pattern that may attract allies, deter opponents, and lower resistance to subsequent proposals. Small wins are controllable opportunities that produce visible results.

Here is why small wins are so important in sales.

Small wins attract allies

The depth and breadth of your customer relationships is one way to achieve small wins. Gaining internal buy-in across multiple departments leads to success. Every time you meet a person who influences the decision, you achieve a small win. Their buy-in progresses the sale forward.

Small wins generate momentum

Achieving one small win makes the next small win easier to achieve. Consider the analogy of a puzzle. The first few puzzle pieces are challenging. As you place more pieces, it becomes easier to place the next piece. The second half of the puzzle is easier to complete than the first half.

In sales, you reach a level of certainty. Everything falls into place and each small win is easier to achieve. It takes less effort to achieve the next small win. The key is staying focused on the next immediate best step.

Small wins build a foundation

Small wins build a foundation. You never have to start over, you start at the most recent small win. For example, you have achieved the following small wins: gained the initial meeting, gathered customer data, met with multiple decision makers, scheduled a product demonstration, and gained verbal commitment. If the customer decides to wait until the next quarter to buy, you don’t have to start back at the first small win. You have built a base of small wins. Your success is built on a foundation of small wins.

To win big opportunities, think small and act small. Small wins generate momentum, keep you motivated, and keep you engaged. Analyze your largest opportunity and ask yourself, “What is the next small win I can focus on?” Then dedicate your time, energy, and effort to that small win. Once you achieve that small win, ask the question again. Remember, every big win starts with a small win.

More from Paul Reilly:

Don't Let Sales Growth Fool You
Answer These 6 Questions Before Every Sales Call
How To Differentiate In Distribution
How To Sell Value In Today's Oil & Gas Market


Going to be at STAFDA 2015 in Phoenix? Check out Paul and Tom Reilly's presentation on Inside Sales/Sales Service Pro on Sunday, Nov. 8  from 9-11 a.m. Paul will also have an expo booth at C10.

Paul Reilly is president of Reilly Sales Training. Reilly Sales Training is a St. Louis-based, privately owned company that specializes in training sales professionals, sales managers, and service professionals. Reilly Sales Training offers public seminars, in-house sales training programs, and hiring and training assessments. For additional information on our training programs call or e-mail Paul at 636-778-0175 or [email protected]. You can also visit and signup for his free newsletter.

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