In today's business world, pithy, hard-hitting words like "grit" and "hustle" are often used as mantras for success. But sometimes the wiser choice may be to let up, slow down and reassess rather than push ahead. When setbacks occur, it doesn't mean you've failed. It can simply mean you have to course-correct.

No one knows this better than international speaker, best-selling author and world-renowned mountain climber, Alison Levine, who led the first female expedition team to Mount Everest. Alison has reached the highest peak on every continent and skied both North and South Poles. I recently had the good fortune of speaking with Alison about her amazing experiences and how to apply the lessons she's learned as an expert climber to the world of business.

Alison says that when climbing Everest, it's never a straight shot to the top. In fact, there are many twists and turns that feel may feel like detours but are ultimately preparing climbers to summit. "Even though you are going backwards, you are still making forward progress," she says.

In business, when progress seems slow, or even stalled, sometimes the best thing to do is take a step back in order to take two steps forward.

Here are three critical questions to ask yourself when you feel like you've hit a roadblock.

What's the goal?

In sales, I often meet with clients who are excited about the prospect of a new deal. Sometimes, however, they don't have enough information to know whether the deal will yield results. Sale professionals also fall into this trap. They're eager to work with new clients without knowing fully what their clients want. So the first question that needs to be answered is: What's the goal? What's the client trying to accomplish? What results are they looking for?

Often times I'll say to a client, "Can we spend just a few minutes discussing what you're trying to accomplish so I make sure I don't miss something?" What that question does is it puts the salesperson and the prospect on the same side. It ensures everyone is on the same page.

When inclement weather interrupted Alison's expedition to Mount Everest, just 200 feet from the summit, the decision to turn back was simple because the goal was clear: bring the team back alive and healthy. If she had pushed ahead, she and the others might have died, which clearly was not the goal.

Is it time to reassess?

When you've been working on a deal for a long time it's easy to want to push ahead, especially if it appears delays might sidetrack negotiations. At times like these, it's important to pause and reassess. Maybe the delay is a sign of larger problems.

It's perfectly natural to think: if I take a step back, I'm going to waste everything I've done. But if you go forward, it's probably going to be more devastating than if you take a step back. If you take that little step backward then you're in a better position to ensure it's not a failure.

When the deal is not right -- and the prospect knows it's not right -- if you keep pushing forward, you just look desperate. Worse, you run the risk of ruining your reputation. As Levine says, "Backing up is not that same as backing down."

Am I moving in the right direction?

When you take a step back, you are taking time to assess whether or not you're headed in the right direction -- whether you're still moving toward your goal. Don't just put your head down and keep plowing forward if the better option is to move in a different direction.

The same principle applies in business. If you can't look in the mirror and say you are definitely in the best position to help a client get the results they want and need, then you shouldn't be working with them anyhow. If you don't have the right information to achieve results, you either have to reassess or move on.


Accomplishing your sales goals, big or small, can feel a lot like climbing Mount Everest at times. Sometimes you have to take a few steps back before you can effectively move forward. How do you deal with setbacks? Do you push forward or take a moment to re-evaluate? Tell me in the comments.