Avoiding blunders

If you've ever played chess you'll know that one of the best ways to improve is to simply cut down on the number of blunders that you make. A blunder is simply a bad mistake that changes the direction of the game. You can go from complete control in a winning position to an instant loss with one blunder. 

If you analyse games afterwards, many times it's the player who makes the fewest mistakes that wins. 

We all make many more blunders than we'd care to admit. Without reflective analysis we lose the learning opportunity to fix our mistakes and grow by avoiding making the same mistakes again. 

It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent
— Charlie Munger

What sort of advantages and what sort of blunders are we talking about? 

Here's a quick and unfortunately true example. 

Imagine that you've just completed a sales meeting with a new client. This has been one of those occasions that everyone in sales enjoys where a mutual friend of you and the client has recommended you and your company as being the best person to go to. One of your competitors won a previous contract with this client but handled it badly. Both you and the client know that you can deliver everything that they want and you'll do it with excellent service. Everyone is happy, you've been given a verbal assurance that you've got the deal and you've not even had to offer a discount. All that you have to do is to complete a formal proposal that the client is going to send to you shortly, return it and you'll have the contract. 

In sales it really doesn't get much easier than that.

Unfortunately you don't read the email with the proposal when it arrives because it instantly gets buried amongst 739 other emails in your inbox. When you do finally read it you realise that the deadline for submitting your proposal was yesterday. 

You've just lost a £70,000 sale and that sale was the first part of a contract worth £250,000. 

Just to repeat: this is a true story. I was the mutual friend who arranged the meeting. 

So how could the blunders have been avoided?

1. Process your email inbox every day.

2. If you're in a position where you're waiting for someone else to do something before you can move forward (such as sending you the paperwork so that you can complete a formal proposal) make a note somewhere that you'll see in time so that you can follow up if you don't get what you need when you need it. In this case you could just add a note to your diary to send a reminder. 

3. Create a project for completing the proposal on a project list that you review every week to make sure that you're on track. 

Any one of these actions would have meant that the sale wasn't lost and at most any of these actions would take moments to do. Adding a reminder to your calendar might take you a minute at the most. There are very few people whose time is worth so much that it's just not in their interest to take one minute to create a reminder in their diary to ensure that they won a contract worth £250,000. 

How many emails do you have sat in your inbox right now? How many of those are sales opportunities, leads, quote requests, follow ups or new enquiries? 

How many opportunities have you missed out on because you just didn't respond in time?

It's easy to think that you need a clever marketing campaign or a new product that's going to revolutionise your industry to boost your sales. Why not start by making sure that you have a comprehensive productivity system in place kept up-to-date with some daily best practices to ensure that you're consistently avoiding these sort of blunders.

Or as Homer J. Simpson somewhat eloquently put it:

If you’re gonna get mad at me every time I do something stupid, then I guess I’ll just have to stop doing stupid things.
— Homer J. Simpson

Well said Homer.

Chris Beaumont