Hey, You're Human

Everyone makes mistakes. Here’s how to learn from them.

‘A Blizzard Botched My Order’

The Problem:

Snow. Lots of it. So much of it that a state of emergency was declared. The blizzard obviously wasn’t Phil Duym’s fault, but it certainly put his head on the chopping block. The heavy accumulation had trapped a train carrying a huge quantity of branded bags on tracks in Nebraska for more than a week. Simply put, there was no way the bags were going to get to the trade show locations around the U.S. on time for Duym’s Fortune 100 client. To this situation many reps can relate: Duym had done everything right to arrange for the bags to arrive on time and impeccably embellished, but nonetheless found himself in the predicament of potentially losing a client over a botched order. “Whether it’s the weather or all the middle men in our industry who touch an order, there’s a lot of potential for things to go wrong,” says Duym, PromoShop’s (asi/300446) executive vice president of sales for Detroit/Canada. “This time they did.”

The Solution:

Duym could have bemoaned his fate – thrown his hands up and called the client to explain the order was lost and hope the buyer would understand it wasn’t his fault. Instead, he did the opposite. He dug in and bucked up. Rather than cower, he strategized. The proactive approach led him on a hunt for partners that could produce comparable bags quickly and ship them posthaste for the trade shows. He connected with the resources he needed, and he paid to have the bags produced. The client, almost miraculously, received the bags on time. “I just told them, ‘We’ll get you your bags,’ and we delivered,” says Duym. “We lost quite a bit of money on the order, but I could sleep knowing we did everything we could have done to please the client given the situation.”

The Lesson:

Duym’s extra effort paid off. The client was massively impressed – a fact that set the stage for Duym to expand his sales with the company. “I got their next order, and the relationship is growing. They’re a multi-million dollar client,” says Duym. For him, the key lesson from the snow squall dilemma is that when things go wrong – whether they’re your fault or not – it’s essential to stay calm, keep a clear head and then try to find a solution. If you can weave magic in that situation, you stand a good chance of strengthening your relationship with the client, which in turn will build business over the long haul. “It’s a pivotal moment – those times when you can turn a bad situation good. You can win a client for life.”