Those pleasant surprises, whether in our personal lives or our careers, when life presents an opportunity, why do they happen and what role does luck play? A Roman philosopher once said “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Being prepared is the key.

In almost all the sales job interviews I have conducted, I always ask the candidate, “Are you a lucky person?” Not the most common question in an interviewer’s question bank, however, the answer will tell me a lot about the prospective candidate. Do they go into a tailspin or they are confident in their answer? Either way it is always interesting.

Thomas Jefferson must have had a salesperson in mind when he said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Work hard and the unexpected opportunities for success will find you.

Recent research carried out by Joël Le Bon, Why the Best Salespeople Get So Lucky , explores the notion of “provoked luck” and the unexpected events that come about when our behavior as sales people is maximized to react to potential opportunities.

Le Bon’s research found that the belief in luck seems to boost confidence and self-assurance, thereby helping experienced sales professionals remain optimistic in the face of setbacks.  Belief in luck also helps the inexperienced salesperson in overcoming uncertainty and fear of failure. These factors are critical in helping salespeople maintain motivation and job satisfaction. Confidence and assurance are also critical when starting your career in sales. For sales managers it can reduce attrition and therefore decrease recruitment costs.

For the young or new salesperson, who may be struggling, the best advice for getting through the initial wave of despair is to have 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.

If you apply the theory about hard work to your selling, the “lucky” sales opportunities will present themselves. The important question is, will you be prepared to capitalize on your luck and turn the opportunity into an order?

It would be inconceivable to think that you would have done all the hard work, invest the time and effort to create some luck and then be unable to take advantage of it. Do you know your products, have you the expertise and the business insight to help the unexpected prospect, the one whose requirements are likely to be slightly outside your comfort zone? If you do, it will quickly allow the prospect to gather the information they need to make a fast and favorable decision.

Unfortunately we can’t account for luck in our sales pipeline or sales plans, but you can count on doing your job to the best of your ability. Build your well-defined sales process and consistently deliver day after day. Follow up your leads, know your customers, add value and good things will happen. Then embrace your luck when it appears.

Oh, and by the way, the best answer to my interview question is, “You create your own luck.

Copyright 2015 John McGlinchey.  All Rights Reserved.