The Secret To Getting Lucky In Sales

Sales is so exciting because you control your own destiny. However, most salespeople would agree that luck still plays a role.

feeling lucky in sales

Believing in luck is a double-edged sword: sometimes feeling lucky is motivating, whereas other times feeling like your success or failure is outside of your control can be demoralizing. So how can you leverage the positive effects of feeling lucky?

New research by Professor Le Bon featured in the Harvard Business Review reveals the secret that smart salespeople know about the power of luck: hard work.

How luck motivates you

Researchers Day and Maltby found that people’s belief in good luck is correlated with their beliefs about their abilities and motivations. These “lucky” individuals are more likely to say that they would:

  • achieve their goals
  • need to work to achieve their goals
  • persevere when faced with obstacles

the role of luck in completing a goal

These researchers conclude that believing in good luck is adaptive because it makes people feel hopeful.

How luck increases your sales

In a series of studies, Professor Le Bon examined the role of luck in selling success. What he found that made a big difference in salespeople’s success was their provoked luck: unplanned events that occur due to behaving in strategic ways that maximize opportunities.

He found that students selling golf tournament sponsorships attributed 66% of their revenue to luck (vs. 34% to the sales process). In analyzing the data, Professor Le Bon found that 58% of this “lucky” revenue was due to provoked luck. What were these strategic behaviors that provoked these lucky circumstances?

why luck trumps effort in sales

Salespeople’s belief in good luck motivated them to work harder: they made more phone calls, qualified more prospects, and gathered more competitive intelligence about prospects and competitors. This increase in sales activities resulted in more opportunities for luck to happen (i.e., provoked luck), which led to higher revenue.

How hard work makes you lucky

In a survey of entrepreneurs, author Beth Goldstein asked them about their belief in luck. Compared to people who believed luck played no role in their success, people who considered themselves to be lucky were more likely to pursue business growth activities such as: having a clear value proposition, expanding their sales effort, and conducting market research. They were also more likely to persevere in their efforts.

believing in good luck makes you work harder

How to make yourself lucky

Professor Le Bon argues that you should perceive the role of luck in your success as controllable. He suggests controlling – and optimizing – your luck in sales through:

  • Gathering information because the more competitive intelligence you have, the smarter and luckier you become.
  • Reframing failure such as viewing failure as learning opportunities and setting failure goals so that you can celebrate both your successes and failures.
  • Switching it up by disrupting your habits and shaking yourself out of your comfort zone because in sales, opportunities lie not just among the people you know but among those you don’t.

Believing in good luck is important in sales because it helps you overcome the fear of failure and remain optimistic. The research shows that viewing luck as controllable rather than random boils down to maximizing the “lucky” opportunities that happen because of your previous hard work.

How do you leverage luck in your sales process? Let me know in the comments or tweet @recruit_smarter.


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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices in data-based recruitment. She writes about research and trends in talent acquisition, recruitment tech, and people analytics.
Ji-A Min