You Messed Up: How to Make Things Right


You aren’t always going to be right. That’s a tough pill to swallow, especially for salespeople, who typically have a lot of pride and confidence. But, it’s going to happen. So, how you handle the aftermath of your mistake will determine how others view you and your level of professionalism. “By actively approaching the topic and leaning into this awkward situation for both parties, you iterate your confidence and strength in your performance, even with an error,” writes Lindsay Tigar in a piece for Thrive Global. She has expert advice on how to admit you are wrong in a professional manner, which will only serve to strengthen your relationships. Read on for the first three tips:

Own it. As soon as you realize you’ve messed up, it’s time to take responsibility. Whether it’s a late start to a client meeting or a flare-​up at a team member, no matter your intentions, take ownership of what you said or did. Don’t try to pin the blame on someone else. As Tigar writes, “It’s time to swallow your ego and apologize, making you the stronger person.”

Don’t wait. Make an impact by immediately acknowledging what went wrong rather than hiding out and avoiding the issue. But, don’t let your emotions (like being defensive, sullen or flippant) ruin things. Stay in control emotionally when addressing the mistake and take it seriously. 

Don’t over-​apologize. There’s a bit of balance required when apologizing. “…the valuable part of apologizing is acknowledging what happened, understanding why it happened and then getting back to work.,” Tigar explains. Repeatedly returning to a mistake will only make it an even bigger deal than it already was, so keep it short and sweet. 

Tigar acknowledges that owning up to a mistake can be uncomfortable for everyone involved. But, it must be done, to preserve both the relationships and your reputation. Sales reps should heed your advice and step up each and every time they mess up, no matter how small the issue. No doubt, your maturity and emotional intelligence will far outshine the misstep. 

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel and Media Sales Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.