Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks

“Pragmatic Sales Psychology” short episode series, writing #18”

Where would the world be without calculated risks? In business, on the battlefield, in relationships, in science…not where we are today, that’s for sure!

JK Rowling, a jobless, single mother on welfare who had been diagnosed with clinical depression, poured hours and hours of her time, with no publisher connection or guarantee, into writing the Harry Potter series. 

Elon Musk dropped out of his energy and physics program at Stanford to pursue business ventures such as X.com and Paypal. In 2002 he established SpaceX and today is pioneering space expeditions with NASA.  

A young engineer named Henry Ford overcame failure after failure before inventing the horseless carriage that could be afforded by Americans called the model T. He is credited with building the first mass production plant.  

Possibly the largest risk-tasker was adventurer Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first person, after several attempts, to make it to the peak of the world’s tallest mountain, Mt. Everest. He later made it to both the North and South poles, becoming the only person to accomplish all three. 

Entrepreneurs and sales professionals live in an environment where risk is an environmental fact; it just comes with the territory. The most successful business risk takers know that risk is an inherent part of their world, and also know that being able to take them, and be successful at the best possible percentage of them, is what separates them from the rest of the pack. One thing they know is that risks don’t have to be reckless, therefore they do their due diligence and research before jumping into any situation. 

For the sales professional, there are different types of chances to consider depending on your position in an organization. You can hazard creative, outside of the box, selling ideas to the higher ups, you can change your approach and see how it affects your results, or you can change products. If you are a company owner, you can change your own product or service! The “nothing ventured, nothing gained” mentality it takes to build a history of business experiences from which to learn, is the basic difference between being a true sales person or simply a “clerk” or glorified “order taker.” If you believe, as I do, that sales is a creative process, then you agree that experiments are needed for more valuable data to be mined along your career path. 

One thing to bear in mind is that our level of fear and the level of risk in any given thing are often VERY different. In essence, feelings can be unreliable and many times are without science to balance them out with. Everyone knows that a car ride is more dangerous than flying in an airplane, yet many people feel much more safe in their much more dangerous vehicle. Research and preparation before you try a new pitch (like practicing in the mirror or to your spouse to see how you pull off) are a critical part of the calculation of anything before you try it out in the real world with real time or real dollars invested. 

Let me be very pragmatic – you take a risk every time you get up out of bed. My grandfather once quipped, ”If you go through the whole day without making a mistake it probably means you stayed in bed!” Risk in life is inescapable on an elementary level but in the world of sales, risk taking can be choked off with a lack of willingness to be creative, or to stay in a safe cocoon of a routine to avoid as many mistakes as possible. The tightrope that needs to be walked to avoid too many risks that cause too much loss is that word, “calculated.”  There are any number of cliches that could possibly be invoked; ”look before you leap!” would be a good one in this circumstance, but allow me to add one that calculated risk takers abide by. “If you measure the risk-reward and see that there is a good chance you can hit it outta the park, then by all means – swing for the fences!”   

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” –  Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Jack Klinefelter
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