This is the time that many business professionals review the results of the year gone by.

But what if looking back is a bummer? What if those lofty goals and resolutions you set months ago feel like distant and daunting dreams? How do you deal with the disappointment of a record year that wasn't, of sales numbers that didn't add up, of outstanding outcomes that didn't materialize?

How do you rationalize a lousy year? You don't.

Dwelling on disappointment never was, and never will be, a good idea for business professionals. What matters is not what you lost the past year, but what you learned. And chances are you learned a lot — about what doesn't work.

What you can do, as you look back, is follow the lead of many slumping professional athletes. They "review the game film" to identify and attempt to rectify the hitch in their swing, the glitch in their passing game, the flaw in their shot or other problems in their performance.

Now, chances are you don't have any videos to analyze as you review your results of the past year. But there are most certainly questions to ask yourself to help you figure out how, where and why you and your profits came up short.

Consider, for example, these questions:

  • Were you remiss about reaching out? You gain and maintain momentum when you make 5-10 sales call a day. You don't when you don't.
  • Did prospects get what you got? Did your sales and marketing materials create confusion rather than clarity about your products and services?
  • Did you attract the right caliber of customers? Could they afford to pay what you need to make to reach your financial goals? Or, might you have been "looking for love in all the wrong places"?
  • Was pricing a problem? Did you price yourself out of the market by charging too much? Or did your bottom line take a hit because you charged too little?
  • Did you fail to pinpoint the pain? Addressing the biggest challenges your prospects face is a shortcut to success. Did you fail to identify and help resolve "what hurts"?
  • Did you not capitalize on client connections? Peter Drucker said you have a seven times better chance of selling something new to a client than to a prospect. Could you have asked clients more upselling questions?
  • Did you fail the "MVP" test? Did you waste time, rather than make the "most valuable and productive" use of it?
  • Did you give up too soon and too often? Estimates are that it takes an average of eight contacts to move a prospect from total apathy to buyer readiness. The most successful professionals are too stubborn to quit. Should you — and could you — have been more persistent?

Coming up with honest answers to these tough questions will shed lots of light on past problems and help you avoid future ones. Finding out what doesn't work in your business can be nearly as valuable as finding out what does.