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Experience Is the Best Teacher

How you handle mistakes from rookies can have a big impact on their development.

There I was, riding my road bike nowhere fast in my garage’s “cave of pain” when a phone call suddenly interrupted my sweaty agony. One of our salespeople’s caller ID (let’s call him “Steve” for the sake of the story) flashed up on my iPad. He’s a newer member of the team, but shiny with upside and potential for a long-haul career with Livewire. Steve is the kind of person you love immediately and want him to succeed. His trembling voice began hesitantly…

Photo: Thinkstock

“Henry, is this a bad time?” he said. “Of course not,” I replied back, panting heavily. He then related a tale that has been told by every rookie salesperson since time began. “We found out the Control4 remote needed upgrading during a TV upgrade and the client approved the purchase,” he said. “I then told him we’d get the remote installed as soon as he paid a deposit. Then the client flipped out.”

Also by Henry Clifford: Upsell FTW

I repeated back to Steve what I thought I heard. “Okay, so let me get this straight, Steve, our client, who just greenlit an $18,000 TV upgrade project, flipped out when we asked him for a deposit on a $500 remote?” I said. “Yes,” said Steve. “It was a separate scope of work.” I agreed with Steve that while it’s a separate scope of work for us, it’s all one project for the client. Here we were at the crossroads of hard rules and reading the room. I felt for Steve. He followed the rules and got yelled at.

I worked with Steve a little more to sound out possible solutions. We ended up agreeing that offering to tag the remote cost onto the balance due at the end of the project might be the wisest and that he would call the client back, fall on his sword, and move on.

I related to Steve that I’d been yelled at for the same kind of behavior early on in my career and there weren’t any rules for these situations. I also told him I had his back and that he should dust himself off and move on. Dealing with high-net-worth clientele demands high levels of emotional intelligence and you can’t get there with rules. There has to be wide latitude given to salespeople, empowering them to make things right for the client at all times.

Also by Henry Clifford: Getting Into A “Day 1” Mindset

In the words of my former flight instructor, John Doyon, “learning has occurred.” Steve will continue to make mistakes (just different ones, hopefully), learning from them along the way.

How do you handle dustups between your clients and junior employees? Do you throw them under the bus or build them up?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.