“Oops” Moments in Sales Usually Don’t Go Viral. Phew!


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If you’ve ever wondered how a benevolent god could have invented PowerPoint, watch Rick Perry say “oops!

I know it’s painful. But please–just one more time. And I’ll forgive your instinct to reach for your keyboard to press the PgDn key, fantasizing that “Department of Energy” will mercifully fly in, left-to-right onto a large screen in front of him. I had the exact same urge.

The same urge I had when I watched Herman Cain self-destruct in his discussion of America’s actions regarding Libya. He attempted to answer the question, “did you agree with President Obama’s handling of Libya?” without the benefit of a blinking cursor dutifully waiting for him to type “Libya policy” in a search window. Eeks! With just four hours of sleep, he had to answer the question straight from the gray-matter knowledge bank. Imagine!

To say “I feel your pain” to these candidates would be an understatement. Salespeople know too well what it’s like to be put on the spot, what it’s like to handle sometimes-hostile questions, and what it’s like to have a crushing desire to re-work the answer we just provided. We’re spared the agony that presidential candidates experience only because our sales meetings are rarely videoed, and typically don’t go viral. Yet. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

You can’t have twenty years in sales as I have without famous “oops!” moments. “The three advantages of Thermal Transfer print technology are label durability, high first-read rate, and . . . (darn!).” Or from answering the thousands of prospect questions that demanded straightforward, concise answers that were not straightforward enough or concise enough.

The difference between successful salespeople and Perry and Cain, though, is that we’ve gotten better. Here’s what I learned from watching their on-camera performances:

1. Hubris sucks. There’s nothing like bringing confidence to a meeting, but oh, does it backfire when it mutates into swagger!

2. Substance beats style. Learn your subject—cold–before you show up in front of your audience. But first, know what your subject is. Teach others that you are valuable.

3. Be open-minded to coaching. Could these disastrous outcomes be averted if the candidates had abided by the recommendations they undoubtedly received? (see #1.)

If you’re advising presidential candidates, try this: hire a salesperson to help out with debate preparation. You’ll have a valuable team player who has been there, done that. Salespeople think on their feet—it’s what we do! Some days are better than others, but we know that staying on top of our game requires nothing short of excellence in talking about it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Great post! And although it’s a good thing our “oops” moments don’t go viral, preparation should never be neglected or rushed!


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