What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

Published on March 19, 2018

Joel Le Bon

Among sales teams, there’s always that guy or gal who seems to get all the breaks.

Is there some lucky charm attached to their persona? Does fortune seem to smile on them regardless of the circumstances?

Research from Joel Le Bon, Marketing & Entrepreneurship professor and director of professional development for the Stephen Stagner Sales Excellence Institute at Bauer College, suggests luck does play a role in sales success.

“My research shows that luck should be viewed as a controllable determinant of salespeople’s achievement,” Le Bon wrote in a Harvard Business Review Online article. “Success derives not from effort alone but from a combination of effort and luck. An understanding of luck’s synergistic role in success can improve performance and increase young salespeople’s confidence in the face of uncertainty and failure.”

Le Bon explains that while many sales managers may downplay the impact of luck, “I found that the greater a salesperson’s belief that success is a combination of luck and effort and that good luck will come along sooner or later, the greater his or her sales activities, such as making phone calls, meeting prospects, qualifying prospects, and gathering intelligence about prospects and competitors. The greater the sales activities, the greater the opportunities for luck and the greater the person’s provoked luck. The greater the provoked luck, the higher the performance.”

He defines “provoked luck” as “unexpected events that come about because strategic behavior has maximized the opportunities,” such as a sales team member who loses an account, but wins it back after doing good work for a mutual client.

“The nature of sales is that reps face endless uncontrollable sources of potential failure, ranging from competitors’ better deals to budget cuts to customers’ unwillingness to make quick decisions. The setbacks can be so demoralizing that young sales professionals too often give up before they begin to see positive results. A young salesperson’s best tool for getting through this valley of despair is a firm belief in luck — not the luck of the random windfall, but the kind of provoked luck that truly helps increase the odds of success.”

By Julie Bonnin