How Not to Be Embarrassed by Your Company’s Execution Challenges

Your company is not always going to execute as well as you want, or as well as your clients expect. Some salespeople feel embarrassed by the challenges of execution, using those challenges as an excuse to not continue selling. More successful salespeople hold themselves accountable for these failures and keep selling.

Why Your Company Fails to Execute

Execution is not easy. Every industry has systemic challenges that make it challenging to produce the results their clients or customers need. No company is immune to the problems that plague their industry, and none is free of mistakes and errors.

As good as Apple is, they have a Genius Bar with a line of people who need help with their broken Apple products. Electronic hardware breaks and software crashes, even if you are Apple, and even if you have a market cap of one trillion dollars. There isn’t an airline that doesn’t have mechanical issues, oversold flights, and weather delays. While you may have better luck with one airline over another, you will not find one that doesn’t have these challenges. In every industry, there are universal challenges to executing, and none execute flawlessly.

Other challenges can cause more difficult execution problems, but no less universal. Businesses go through periods where they lack the leadership they need to execute. Without absolving the company from their responsibility to have the right leaders in place, good leaders leave without a second thought about who can step into their role. And, without meaning to, people make hiring mistakes.

Over time, the company you work for might have a period where it is resource-constrained, where it lacks the financial resources to execute well. The challenges of not having enough money may come from bad decisions, complacent leaders, poor sales results, or market forces. Over time, your company will go through a rough patch—and, given a long enough timeline, so will every one of your clients.

If every company on Earth has problems and challenges, and if they are universal, why should you be so embarrassed by the problems that occur in your company that you stop selling? The answer is because you sold your client an outcome they are not getting, and you feel that you are accountable–and you are.

How Not to Be Embarrassed

If you don’t want to be embarrassed, take responsibility for the execution challenge, the failure, the missed deadline, or whatever execution problems your company may have. You want to be on your front foot (i.e., on offense) not your back foot (i.e., on defense). You sold the outcome, so you own the result. That fact that you call your client to deal with bad news demonstrates you know that you are accountable, and unpleasant as the call might be, you will have proven what kind of partner you are.

The right way to deal with execution problems is to call your client, inform them of your failure, apologize for the harm it caused them, explain what your team is doing about it, and schedule to call them back to follow up and make sure you resolved their problem. Then you need to go back to doing the work of selling, without any loss of enthusiasm.

While you are on the phone with your client, know that someone, somewhere in their company, is calling one of their clients or customers to deal with an execution problem in their own business.

Good Times, Bad Times

I was once sitting in a meeting with a client who was praising my team and me for the excellent work we were doing for him. He was thrilled, and so were we. When he finished speaking, I thanked him for his business and told him how happy we were with their results. Then I promised our execution will not always be as good as it was during that time, and that the systemic issues in our business didn’t always allow for those results, but that we always do our best—even when things don’t go the way we wished.

Not being embarrassed by the things that happen in the ordinary course of business is a grown-up’s view. It’s the view of one who is a leader, one who can be trusted.

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