June 11, 2022

#49 - SALES TIP: You’ve screwed up. Now what?

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Everyone makes mistakes. (And truthfully, if you're not making mistakes... you're not trying hard enough.) So, what do you do when your mistake affects a customer?

You need to act.

But a mistake can be an opportunity. In this 13 minute chat, Brendan and Bob discuss how you should think mistakes and how to respond when they happen. If you do it right, you might even have a better customer relationship.

To learn more about B2B sales and get regular updates, sales tips, templates and other resources, sign up for Brendan's newsletter here. And to purchase Sales Craft: Proven Tips, Practices and Ideas to Advance your Sales Success, click here.


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 📍 Okay. In this episode of Let's Chat Sales, we were talking about... screwing up. 

Making mistakes. But, uh, the, the upside of making a mistake in particular.

And from a sales standpoint, it can be really advantageous if you do it right...

if you make a mistake and then fix it. 

And that's what we talk about today. So let's get into it. And of course there's always like in subscribe and, uh, here we go.   

Hey Bob. And guess what? No, you know, it's another episode of Let's Chat Sales...

and this time...  There we go.   We're going to talk about screwing up.

This is going to be the longest episode ever. I mentioned in our other podcasts that that's a whole, like, I could do a whole nother podcast series on that. Like what Brendan did... don't do that. 

Can we 

have a women call in because that would really, 

oh, that would be, that would be.


 I was thinking more in terms of sales, uh, but, screwing up. 

No, but screwing up.... I think we're proving in this conversation that it's inevitable. You're going to do it.

Uh, I'm not perfect. There's the, uh, it's there's data. Some evidence that you're not perfect. 

We're gonna cover screwing up cause you're going to do it and, and there's a silver lining to it.

oh, come on, there's no silver lining. You have to put your tail between your legs and just pray that they don't realize you screwed up.

 No, I think that's entirely the wrong strategy. I think the thing that you do is when you screw up and then you fix it... 

the relationship with your customer, we're not talking about personal relationships, but relationships with the customers.

If you screw up in some way, and then you're able to fix it, the relationship is ultimately perhaps stronger. It's better. 

It's like a broken bone. You break your bone. And interestingly enough, where the bone heals, 

it tends to be stronger than the rest of the bone now. Right? I dunno if you knew that ...it's science.... That's science.

We're going to lose all of the way you made this all work. 

Yeah. It's pretty good.  But here's the thing. You have to look at everything... what is it Shakespeare says? 

Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Right? So an error.

 it's all on how you look at things. So you make a mistake. Okay. There's a mistake. 

Uh, it depends on what you did. It kills her. All right. That's going to be tough... to this show is not for you.

Yeah, I should have that in the, in the, what do you call it in the disclaimer. This show is not for felons. 

And there goes 

two thirds of  But seriously, if you, I've a number of instances where I've screwed up

with a customer and if I am responsive and  adequately contrite  and humble about it. 

They ultimately will come around. You know,  if you genuinely sorry that it happened or 

you're diligent about trying to fix it and the customer can recognize that. 

Not all the time, but most of the time you ended up having a stronger, better relationship with the customer. 

It's a learning experience. 

Most of the things I learn, I learn because I make a mistake the first time around, 

and then I, well, I see that... and then you don't make that mistake anymore. 

That's learning for me.  

And I suspect a lot of people the same way. You're going to make mistakes.

And so there are ultimately their learning opportunities... But one of the things I've come to find 

is that if you then work to fix it... it can be truly beneficial for you as a sales person, as a business person, as a human being.

What makes you human to the, to your client? Right? It shows your character. 

It's easy to say that we do great work. It's easy to say that we'll back you up.  That we're going to be there a thousand percent. 

It's a different animal when you show up. Yeah. And I think that's where deepens that relationship.

It's like now you're tested under fire. And if you can be honest and open, it really does deepen that relationship

because what I see is often the other, the other party will open up more about some of their issues. 

You know, I'm really bad at email. I'm really bad at checking my email. Could you do me a favor and text me instead?

Yeah, absolutely. 

Yeah. So on the positive side or that. Coming out and fixing something, being responsible, taking responsibility is,

I think that is the right strategy. Not only for the right reasons and the alternative is trying to avoid it ultimately is going to...

90% of the time, scientifically speaking, it's going to backfire on you. 

And that is it's going to work against you. Trying to deny it, try and avoid it, trying to pass the buck to somebody else. 

Those things generally don't pay off.  They don't play very well.

 It's where you're not a fan of... you know, there's a mistake and you just let go and hope they never see it. 

Right. Right. 

When do you tell them?

How far after you find out about.? 

Uh, and this is a little bit like that last episode where you, when you, when you respond to an email, you don't respond necessarily right away.

It depends on the urgency of the situation and the severity. 

 So you'd go through that in your head. Or you go through that with other people and you decide how important is this?

If it's a little tiny thing, you just tell them whenever. If it's a big thing, then the question becomes...

what's the best way to tell them? What's the best way for them to hear it? Right. Right. 

So you may not want to spring... Who needs to hear it? 

And, and when? What's the environment they need to hear that news in? I mean, you don't want to tell them necessarily... 

you know, they only have five minutes to process it and they've got another call coming up, for example.

Right. Right.  So how do you set the stage to do that? 

How do you, uh, let them down easy? So let's walk through that. How would that look? 

You learn something. Oh, here's a mistake. You discover it. 

You might talk internally. Like, how are we going to deal with this?

Two heads are better than one. It's why talk to you all the time about my stuff?

Like, Hey, you know, it's good. You know, it's good to bounce. Yeah. Well, it is. It's good to bounce it off someone else. 

So it's always nice to have another perspective or two. 

It's also important Brendan, at that point to gather as much information as possible.

Right. I have been guilty several times of finding out about a mistake internally

in a very high ... calling the client. And the client wants to talk in a granular level and I'm not prepared to do that. 

And that can be worse than telling them you made a mistake.

Because now it's like, so you're telling me you made a mistake, Bob, but you don't even understand it.

That's kind of where I was going. You're thinking about what's the problem. What's the scope of the problem,  

and then the next thing is... how much of this problem can you solve for them? 

If you introduce the problem, then the onus is upon you to try and figure out a way to solve it.

And if there are things you can immediately set into action to start to resolve it. That makes it easier for you to deliver the news to your customer. 

Again, every situation is going to be different. And so timing is a factor. 

How quickly do you have to tell them? Who do you tell?

And so forth. But at the same time, there's a certain amount of preparation. 

What can you do ahead of time that, you know, as soon as you discover it... how quickly can you put together a plan of action, 

both to tell them, and also to reconcile? It may be one of those situations where we've got an engineer in place.

We've started to brainstorm options. Uh, we've backed up data. Whatever the things are that you can do. And we're doing this

in parallel with telling you that we just discovered this 30 minutes ago... two hours ago.

And this is what we have in mind. And so then the questions becomes... how much preparation can you have in place. 

This is your point, right? When you get to them. Like, we've thought this through, here's what we think the issues are. 

 Here's what we're doing. This is what we need from you. And then the other thing is... 

you got to give them, this is a personal opinion now...

you have to give them the opportunity to get mad. Lash out. 

Yup. And, and you've got to take it. Yup. That's part of what salespeople get paid for... is getting beat on. 

Yes.  It's part of the, kind of a customer therapy program. Right? You, you take the bullets so that engineering doesn't have to. So that product people don't have to.

So the customer support people don't have to. Because in theory, as a salesperson, as the founder salesperson, you you're getting paid for that. 

You're right for your job. And so you can't shirk that responsibility. 

You get the accolades probably more than you deserve. And you get the beatings and the, and the criticism may be more than you deserve.

I was going to say, I once had a client and I got beaten up by them a lot. Rightfully so. 

But when I left the company, the guy said, you know, you're the only person I've ever dealt with in sales who just took his medicine. 

We never argued. You never debated, you never gotten mad. You just let me burn out for like five minutes or, and I said, we're 25 minutes.

He said, and then it was over. 

Oh no, that's absolutely right. You're absolutely right.

You got to give them the room and the opportunity to vent and to get angry and so forth. As long as it's not abusive and personal and so forth.

And they 

want to do it in front of other people. Yeah... 

so, so the weight of diffuse that a little bit, and it depends on who you're across from, I find it helps that if you start in on it before they do... . 


If you go to them and say, Hey, listen, I screwed up. You're going to be angry with me and I'm going to lay it out.

These, this is what I did, or this is what happened, or this is what we did. 


And ultimately I'm responsible and I screwed up  and you ought to be mad. And I completely understand why you are...

I'd rather, you didn't throw anything at me. 

Maybe you introduce a little humor. But you know, it may not be appropriate.

So you got to weigh that. Again, every one of these situation is different. But, if you can do something like 

that to diffuse it a little bit, that will take a little bit of the edge off. 

Because you recognize that that are going to get mad at this guy or gal. 

And. It's it's unnecessary.  Whereas arguing with them in that situation never 

helps. Yeah. And if it's a back and forth about... 

well, you didn't tell us this and you didn't tell us this. All it does is you run the risk of losing the client. 

There will be times later on to argue the specifics.

 After the  temperature has decreased and the intensity of everything has decreased. Because they'd gotten some of the stuff off their chest.

They've understood. Maybe they maybe even got a plan in place that will solve things well enough that  they feel comfortable.

 Then if there are some issues to be disputed... to pick those up at a later date when the temperatures lower.

Another thing that's really nice about this is... If you take that burden on...   hey, it's my fault.

Then for them... they can go to someone else and say... hey, these guys screwed up.

It wasn't me. It was somebody else. 

And you know what, that's why they hire consultants. That's why they hire outside people.

So that  the shit can roll downhill? I don't know if we can save that on a apple... 

now you have to put explicit. Nice, great, great. Now we have to invite the felons back 

so we can come back now.

So you were gonna say something...

What I was going to say, Brenda is often these situations, these mistakes seem a lot worse than the first hours... than in reality.

One of the things that has come to me as I've gotten older is... Everything seems like a five alarm fire out of the gate. 

But when you start to look at it's more like, okay, trash cans burning.

We can deal with it. And I think that's a mindset that I have to constantly remind myself. 

 like, you know what? This looks really bad. They're going to fire me. 

And then... you know what? They're probably not. They probably expected this. And I think the calm influence

I can have over a situation can often diffuse.

You know, you do it a couple of times.

It does get easier... because you get used to it. It's like an old dog. They've seen it all. Yeah. 

They just get... they I've seen that one before they don't get riled up.  So if it's your first one, just in the back of your head, say, oh, well I guess  I gotta get through a few.

That's it? 

Yup. Well, this was great. Brendan, can we do this again sometime? 

Uh, I think, yeah...,


Okay. So it's another episode of Let's Chat Sales. That was an easy one, I think. 

And, uh, hopefully it was helpful and I hope we didn't screw it up too much. 

So anyway, check this one out. And thanks for watching.