The other day my son spilled cereal all over the floor, he’s not even two — so we laughed it off. I brought the vacuum upstairs so I could clean it up. I turned around to plug the vacuum in and when I looked back he had already started vacuuming. Yes, he made a mistake.


What’s important: He took responsibility and tried to fix his mistake.

My 2 year old made me a happier customer than a sales rep I dealt with a few days earlier. Let me explain: I had recently bought a new car and I wish my son could have shared his tips with the salesperson.

I had researched which vehicle I wanted and even knew the dealership had the car in inventory because I looked on their website. The only reason I needed the sales guy was to put together the paperwork. I am what they call in the industry alay down,” except I, of course, did negotiate a better price.

How could anyone screw this sales up?

Well … he almost did.

Setting expectations

Just before we finalized the deal he told me the bumper needed a repair and that it would take 4 – 7 days (a big range for a bumper repair, but ok). On the 6th day I received an email, the car would be “ready to go” tomorrow. We were excited. Then we get a call the next morning letting us know the paint machine was broken and the car would not be ready.

Mistakes happen — Take responsibility

Mistakes happen. What frustrates a customer is when a sales rep doesn’t work hard to fix their mistakes. I lost count of how many times my sales person said “it’s out of my hands,” when we chatted on the phone.

  • Is it going to be ready Saturday? It’s out of my hands.
  • Is the body shop even open on Saturday? It’s really out of my hands.
  • Why did you tell me the car was ready when it was not? What can I say, it’s out of my hands.

I had no confidence that he had any clue what was going on, or if he even cared to help me. Even if it was out of his hands — give me the impression that you are working hard to rectify the situation — and there will be no issue.

Don’t be dishonest with your customer

The body shop was closed on Saturday, so we had to pick up the car on Monday. When we showed up he told us that (surprise, surprise) there was one more little thing that had to be fixed. He told us to simply drop off the car one day when we weren’t using it. He did NOT tell us this ahead of time because he didn’t want to delay the delivery of the vehicle any longer. He made a decision to not tell us about this new problem to avoid us being disappointed.

Interestingly, by making us bring the car back, it was a far greater inconvenience than asking us to wait one more day. Has he listened to my needs initially, up front, he would have been able to avoid this issue.

Similarly, he should have been upfront about the new problem.

Customers are much more informed than they used to be, and in turn, salespeople must also become informers. The role of a sales rep is slowly changing from selling a customer, to helping an informed buyer.

Don’t get me wrong, your job is still to push the process forward but helping your buyer achieve their end goal and being there when they need you can go a long way. When mistakes happen, own up and your customer will respect you a lot more.

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Shaun Ricci

COO at Ideal
Shaun Ricci is a Canadian entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of Ideal. Shaun served as Co-Founder and COO of Field ID until it was acquired in December 2012. Shaun’s accomplishments include spots on the Profit Hot 50 and Deloitte Fast 50 Companies-to-Watch lists as well as the 2012 Ontario Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Shaun is also an active writer, documenting his wins and losses while building his startup sales team.