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How to Recover From an ‘OH SH*T’ Moment at Work.

By: Jeff Hoffman

We’ve all been there. You’re on your fourth meeting of the day, and you’re EXHAUSTED. And you accidentally call your prospect Fred, when his name is actually Bob. Your stomach drops. The deal was in a critical spot before, and now…

What do you do? How do you recover from a seemingly irreversible mistake?! Here are my top tips to overcoming those ‘oh sh*t’ moments in sales.

1. Cut Yourself Some Slack.

First thing to remember is that you’ve gotta give yourself a pass. You’re human! So relax and recognize that we all make mistakes.

The idea that what we do in sales is ‘life or death’ just isn’t true. We deal with a lot of people on a day to day basis. A lot of people, with a lot of different relationships and moving parts. We’re busy! We make mistakes! And that’s okay. No one got sick or died from a mistake made in sales. The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up to the point where you can’t recover. Acknowledge that you did in fact slip up, and MOVE ON. Staying in a negative mindset will only hinder any future successes, and doesn’t do you any good.

2. Own It Quickly, and FULLY.

The best thing you can do for yourself, and your job, is to own your mistake and OWN IT FULLY.

What do I mean by that?

When I say own it fully, I mean don’t run away from the moment. When a prospect says – “no big deal,” don’t move on in the meeting and run away from that interaction. Say to your prospect, “Thank you, but I did screw up and I want to take this moment to acknowledge my error and say I’m sorry.”

You want them to see you take on the awkwardness of the moment and take on full ownership of your mistake. Make them see that you are sorry. And that you are okay with taking on the responsibility of your error. You’ll earn their respect for owning up to it, instead of pretending it didn’t happen.  

3. Evaluate The Bigger Impact Your Mistake.

After you have given your apologies and moved on from feeling bad, try to figure out the greater impact your mistake might have had on your deal and/or relationship with the client or prospect. Was it something you said poorly to a customer, or on-site? Was it a miscommunicated comment toward your boss? What impact did it have on others? What impact did it have on what you’re trying to accomplish?

Take stock of the aftereffect any mistake might have had, and work to correct anything that might remain. Failure to take stock now, might result in an unexpected road bump in the future of your deal, or relationship with your boss.

The thing to remember with mistakes it that they happen. Trying to go through your career without ever making a mistake is impossible. We all make mistakes, but we don’t have to repeat them. Brief yourself after the incident, and learn from it. Be honest about what happened and why, and then make sure that you absorb the lessons from the incident.

There are definitely some mistakes that are unforgivable, sure, but in my opinion the most unforgivable mistake in sales, is not learning from them.

BONUS – Here’s a Checklist to Avoid Making Those ‘Unforgiveable’ Errors

Like I said earlier, there are definitely some mistakes that are harder, if not impossible to recover from. And these are things like, calling someone by the wrong name, or getting the name of the company incorrect.

For example, I know a rep who worked in the travel industry. Depending on which account he was visiting, he would make sure to rent the appropriate car. So, if he was meeting with Hertz, he’d be sure to get a Hertz rental car. And he was meticulous with this! … Until he wasn’t. He picked up his Hertz client in an Enterprise rental car. And he owned up to it – it was a simple and embarrassing mistake that they all laughed about it. But three months later, he ended up losing the Hertz account. Now, was it because of that one incident? Who knows! But, it happened.

Make sure you run through these checklist items before getting on the phone with a prospect, or heading into an on-site meeting.

These are the elements you should definitely go through on your checklist BEFORE you meet with clients to prevent mishaps like this.

– Do I have everyone’s name correct/written down?

– Do I have the right logos in place?

– If applicable – am I using the right partners? (ei, car rentals, airline, etc.)

Clients can forgive things like being ten minutes late to a meeting. Calling a customer or prospect by their wrong name? Could spell disaster. So make sure you run through these checklist items and you’ll be able to prevent some of these more unforgiveable errors we, humans, sometimes make.

Happy Selling!

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