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Turning the Tables on Mistakes

Turning the Tables on Mistakes

By: Mike Biggins

Have you ever had this happen to you? 

• You’re talking to a client and forget their name.

• You realize you’ve brought the wrong materials to the meeting.

• You told a joke that wasn’t well received by your client.

Embarrassment makes us uncomfortable and can result in loss of a sale, or ultimately the loss of a client. It can also be a good learning experience, and can sometimes be turned to your advantage.

If (when) you find yourself confronted with an embarrassing situation, there are some things you can do to recover.

What happened and why did it occur? Offer an explanation to help others understand why you made the mistake. For example, in the case where you forgot the client’s name, you might say: “I can’t believe I called you Dr. Smith, Dr. Jones. Actually, I was hoping to see Dr. Smith today also. Do you know if he is available today?”

Explain yourself. You are reminding others that you are human just like they are. In the case of bringing the wrong materials to the meeting: “I’m really embarrassed by this, but I’m prepared to discuss the cost-effectiveness and other benefits of our product.” You’re apologizing for the mistake and letting your client know you’re prepared to continue without wasting their time.

Respond with self-deprecating humor. Laugh and say, “I wonder what else I can do wrong today?” You’re demonstrating genuine humility by being able to laugh at yourself and building respect from the people around you. 

Offer a lighthearted confession. What if your mobile phone rings during a presentation? Pull a pen out of your pocket and hold it up: “Now I’m going to write 1,000 times, ‘I will always remember to turn off my phone when making a presentation.’” You’re clearing the air by admitting your faux pas and demonstrating grace under pressure.

From time-to-time we’re all faced with embarrassing situations. However, if you react quickly you may be able to turn embarrassment into an opportunity. Frequently, others will overlook and forget your embarrassment and remember you for the strengths and positive qualities you  brought to the moment.


For more information on training in this area or other sales training curriculum, visit: or contact Mike Biggins at

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