Dealing with Oops! Moments: Sales Lessons from Rick Perry


Share on LinkedIn

When Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the presidential race, he immediately soared to a front-runner status. But, it didn’t last long due to his performance during the Republican debates.

For those of you who don’t follow American politics, during the recent debates Perry stated that he’d eliminate three federal departments. When asked which ones, his mind went blank. He came up with two, but the third eluded him. For 55 seconds, he wracked his brain, babbled and even looked to his colleagues for a little help. (Check it out on YouTube.)

Finally, he sheepishly said, “Oops! I guess I blew that one.” Yes, he did. But it didn’t have to lead to his downfall. If I were coaching Rick Perry on his sales presentation, I’d offer him these two pieces of advice:

Prep for failure ahead of time.

When you have an Oops! moment – which you invariably will — own up to it right away. Don’t fumble around looking like an idiot. That was the real killer. Everyone’s had that same experience, so they all feel for you.

Quickly use your humor to engage their empathy, own up to your fallibility and get yourself off the hook. And, above all, don’t be sheepish.

So instead of bumbling around, Perry might have said, “As you can see, even the Governor of Texas is human – and forgets things now and then.” We’d have all laughed and let it go.

Avoid using numbers unless absolutely necessary.

It must be Murphy’s Law, but whenever you say you have three points to make, under pressure you tend to forget them. (Note: This is the voice of experience talking.) Instead, suggest that you’d make “several” changes or have a few ideas. That way, no one will know when you forget things.

About a week after the Oops! moment, Perry released a commercial in which he owned up to his humanity. I actually thought it was an excellent to address his major failure during the debate. But it was too late. And, combined with his other gaffes, it was just too much for the Iowa voters.

So what do you think? What other advice would you offer Rick Perry?

Please keep your personal politics out of this. We are analyzing the situation – not the candidate or his beliefs.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Jill: Similarly–been there, done that.

    You’ve given some excellent suggestions. I’d like to add:

    1. Tone down the swagger. That didn’t help Rick Perry.
    2. Style without substance looks painfully weak.
    3. Be open minded to coaching. (see #1)

    A related blog I wrote on this topic might be of interest to your readers: Oops Moments in Sales Usually Don’t Go Viral


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here