Some twenty-plus years ago, my former boss taught me everything I needed to know to be successful in sales. John was from a small town in western Georgia, and with his slight southern drawl he was always bursting with catchphrases to tell a story, prove a point, and eventually bring it all around and educate me on his exceptional sales know-how. It was a special time for me, because I learned, in a very unique way, so much from a man who built his life around relationships.

I cannot recall the exact situation, but I can certainly remember the phraseology he used this one particular day: “Eat a big ‘ol piece of humble pie, Steve.” I was taken aback by the expression, but soon learned that it was John’s way of putting life and career opportunities in perspective.

Now, mind you, I said ‘opportunities,’ not ‘challenges.’ Challenges should never be called ‘challenges’… for they are indeed an opportunity for all of us to shine! And, when these ‘opportunistic’ times are too tough to handle, we need to take a step back and ponder a response before reacting.

Stopping for a moment, and looking at such situations from this viewpoint, allows us to serve up a big piece of humble pie and move forward.

Humility is never easy to swallow. But the rewards for doing so are much like whipped cream on our favorite dessert.

Saying “I’m sorry” may never be enough to those on the receiving end, but communicating, “I’m sorry…please let me make it right,” is a great way to begin.

A double scoop of whipped cream please.

“Not everyone is going to like you,” he’d say. “And, on days when there’s pain, your most cherished clients are definitely not going to like you.”

John would tell me to pause and think about my response. He’d insist on patience and modesty.

No matter if it’s you or your staff that instigated an opportunity such as this to arise, a sense of humility is a necessity in order to start the recovery process.

Understandably, we all communicate with our customers in different ways in the best of times, but it is how we communicate in the toughest of times that offers up a testament to our success. I have always stated that the hardest situations are the best times to sell and an even greater time to build relationships. We all build bonds with our empathy. We all strengthen our connections with our ability to feel our client’s pain. And, to understand our client’s needs and respond with a resounding “I am here for you” attitude will solidify your place in any market.

And, finally, we know in order to do our best to correct a bad situation we need to follow through on our promise of action.

“I apologize for our mistake. Let me make it right.”

Humble pie.

Opportunities. They allow us to build strong, long-lasting relationships. So next time you are faced with an apologetic situation, especially one that requires patience, try imagining yourself slicing up that large piece of pie. And, once you’ve communicated that ‘can-do, moving-forward’ attitude to your client, imagine putting two, three, or four extra-large scoops of whipped cream on top for good measure.

Taking the initiative, a deep breath and saying, “I am sorry,” necessitates willpower.

Perceiving challenges as opportunities requires a vision.

Recognizing that opportunities build relationships demands patience.

And, humble pie is an acquired taste.

You might just have to try a couple of slices before you understand the full meaning of humility and just how to appreciate its flavor!

Your clients will be glad you did.

Steve Shepherd

About Steve Shepherd


Steve’s entire career has been focused on helping companies to increase sales. He has sold, managed, trained and coached sales and sales management with noteworthy results. Steve’s results-oriented, highly interactive style has the ability to increase sales for many companies statewide. He makes sure the workshops are productive, interactive, and, above all, fun.