We may feel that apologizing puts us in a weak position during a sale. But the fact is, in sales, the power of apology is huge, if it’s done right.
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
It was so early in my career that the fax machine was still the business medium of choice.
We had pitched a potential partner on an exciting marketing platform, and they liked it. We were now negotiating deliverables and returns.
A cantankerous lawyer on the other side of the table fired a shot at our team. “You guys were supposed to fax us the payment schedule. We never received it!”
A thousand negative impulses went through my body and mind in a split second. I had drafted the fax for my boss, but due to travel schedules, a stressed-out personal assistant and plain ol’ high work loads, it never got sent.
Would this turn into finger-pointing?
Would this slow us down?
Before the next split second could start, my boss shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sorry. That was my fault. I saw it on my desk but didn’t act on it. Let me call the office right now and see if my assistant can dig it out.”
You could almost hear the pressure in the room drop.
My young head was telling me to shut up and play it safe, but my gut told me otherwise. So I leaned forward.
“I have it,” I said. “Sorry, I should have followed-up to see if it got sent.”
My boss smiled and said, “No, no. You left it with me and I dropped the ball. Shit happens.”
There were chuckles around the room as everyone focused on the payment schedule that I was passing out. The cantankerous jab was deflected and, in fact, now put us in a strong position.
The Future Is More Important Than The Past
It wasn’t about the payment schedule, really. It was about everyone moving forward, not staying stuck in the proverbial shit that had happened.
If we hadn’t apologized, if we would have made up some stupid excuse, the mud would most likely have risen above everybody’s knees and soon covered the meeting room table.
Our prospects would have been looking at us as though we were either incompetent, unreliable or both. Instead we seemingly formed a bond with them, that we’re all imperfectly human, and little shit happens every day. Onward and upward.
Indeed, to some.
But to many, sorry seems to be the hardest word, thank you, Elton John.
“Sorry” shouldn’t be the hardest word. It should be one of the easiest words, because you win when you use it genuinely.
“Sorry” doesn’t mean “I’m wrong, you’re right.” It doesn’t mean “I should be penalized, you should win the point.” If you’re stuck in that mindset, then you’ll aplogize too infrequently, especially in business, and especially in front of prospective customers.
You can tailor “Sorry” to mean what you want it to mean, because the spirit and tone in which you say it counts, too.
“Oops. Too bad this has happened. I’m BIG enough to admit I had a role in it; I’m excellent enough to focus on accomplishing something big here; Let’s move on.”
A Little Competitive Advantage Doesn’t Hurt Either
And here’s what I really (and a bit selfishly) love about apology: It often puts you in a stronger position.
When you deflect or over-explain, the tension usually rises in the room. Defenses go up. Bonds are broken. Trust is lost, and if you’e the seller, you’re the loser.
When you apologize, tension usually drops. Defenses go down. Bonds are built. Trust is gained, and you’re the winner.
Apologize quickly, and others not only let you off the hook, they often give you the benefit of the next doubt.
The Sooner The Easier
The sooner you apologize, the easier it is to do so. It’s that simple.
Think of any situation in your professional or personal life when it really was incumbent upon you to apologize, but you delayed. I’ll bet you my last buck that it would have been easier to do so shortly after the incident, or even immediately.
All that negative energy is a drain on your karma, and damaging to your relationship.
The sooner you say, “Oops, sorry,” the less collateral damage is done. Not only will you move on sooner, you will leave less wreckage in your wake. You’ll have good karma.
Go easy on yourself. Be secure in your imperfections.
Sure, customers want to deal with competent people, but they also want to deal with secure people. If you never admit to even the smallest mistakes, they will admit them for you.
If you apologize and move on, they’ll admire you, like you and trust you more. You’ll experience less pain in your sales cycle, and probably more sales, to boot.
If you don’t believe me, well, I’m happy to leave it and move on, sorry.
Now where were we?
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I help sales teams improve their performance by putting the “love” into the sales process. The tools and techniques vary, but the mindset is simply a heart-set.
Let’s talk about love… and your sales performance. Contact me here or sign up for my blog posts on the top-right. I only post about once or twice a month. So I hope you feel the value and that I leave you wanting more.
I also love the telephone. (And, if you’re in sales, so should you!) So feel free to call me at +41 76 43 43 043.
Photo by butupa:http://www.flickr.com/photos/25792994@N04/