What To Do When Your Mistake Stalls a Deal

Anonymous sent me an email. She believes she may have lost a deal. To protect her identity, I am not going to recount the mistakes that were made. It’s sufficient enough that we know that her dream client’s expectations weren’t met because she and her team didn’t keep the commitments they’d made.

Now, her dream client says they are too busy to meet with her. She’s been in touch weekly for three weeks, but she still cannot obtain an appointment. She wants to show them her presentation, and she’s even offered to cater lunch to fit into their busy schedule. She wants to know “What now?”

When You Make Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. Even your dream client makes mistakes when it comes to serving their clients. Even when you do everything you can to get it right, things go wrong. There is no better course of action when things go wrong than to immediately own up to the mistake and address it. How do you do this?

First, you apologize. If you have made a commitment and not kept it, you owe your client an apology. Say, “I’m sorry we didn’t meet the commitment we made to you.” Acknowledging that you made a mistake by owning up to it is what makes you a professional. Avoiding acknowledgement of your mistake and hoping it goes away is what makes you an amateur. We must tackle problems.

Second, you describe what you’re going to do about it. You explain to your dream client what you are going to do to meet that commitment at the earliest possible time, and what you can do to mitigate any damages you may have caused (in this case, probably no damage was done). As a professional salesperson, it’s your job to make things right.

But I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.

It’s Not About You

Sometimes your dream clients can be very interested and engaged in what you are selling. But they can be dragged away taking care of their own business, and they can go dark. Sometimes, it’s not about you at all.

I can’t tell you how many opportunities I have seen stall because the prospective client was overwhelmed. These opportunities were eventually won, but not without the salesperson spending months believing they somehow ruined the opportunity.

From what anonymous included in her letter, I believe that this is what is going on here. Namely, her client is busy. But if you must take action, here’s how you might do so. You say something that sounds like, “I know we made this mistake, and I’ve apologized for it, but I’m horrified that I may have lost your trust. Are you really too busy to meet, or did this mistake give you some real concern that I need to address? I want you to know that your relationship is important to me, and I will always act in your best interest.”

Panacea? No. Sometimes a tough conversation?  Yes.


What do you do when you miss keeping a commitment you made to your prospective client?

How do you recover from a mistake that violates your prospective client’s trust?

Have you ever worried that you lost an opportunity because your dream client went dark only to find out they were just busy?

How do you show vulnerability without appearing weak? How do you demonstrate good intentions?

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