Today’s post is by Stu Heinecke, the best-selling author of How to Get a Meeting with Anyone and host of Contact Marketing Radio. He is also the co-creator of NASP’s “The Power of Contact Marketing” training program, a Wall Street Journal cartoonist, hall of fame-nominated marketer, and founder of Contact, a first-of-its-kind contact marketing agency dedicated to helping sales teams connect with their most important prospects and assigned accounts.
Everybody loves a good blooper story – that is, until they’re the subject of said blooper story.
Making mistakes is an important part of life and certainly being in business. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re also not taking chances. Still, it’s a lot more comfortable to learn from the mistakes of others – as long as the lesson sticks. Just telling someone, for example, “Don’t assume things that make sense in one culture will directly translate into another” probably won’t create much of an impression.
But, if you tell a few stories of botched naming schemes for cars, they immediately get the point – and that point will stick with them for years. A few of my favorites: Ford’s name for one of its new models introduced in Brazil, “Fiera,” which means “ugly old woman” in local Portuguese. Ford gave Brazilians another big laugh when it introduced its “Pinto” model. It seems that word in local parlance means, um, “small male appendage.”
My favorite of these is when Rolls Royce provisionally named its new model the Silver Mist. Makes sense if you’re in Britain, but not so much in Germany, where “Mist” is slang for manure. Since a good chunk of Rolls Royce’s production is sold in Germany, it made sense to make changes rather than introduce the new model as the “Rolls Royce Silver Sh*t.”
Humor is good for more than just a good belly laugh. If something is funny – if it resonates – it’s because there is some element of truth in it. Humor is truth. It’s instructive. And it can remain planted in your brain for life.
The blooper’s comedic cousin, the cartoon, illustrates the point further. Readership surveys often certify cartoons as the best read and remembered part of magazines and newspapers. I still have cartoons in my head from decades ago (here’s one: a receptionist in a hospital ward answering the phone, “Urology, can you hold?”)
While it can be a big career detour if you’re the unfortunate butt of a blooper, these stories are certainly some of the most valuable tools we have in our instructional toolbox.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of the world’s foremost experts on sales-related bloopers, Dan Seidman. He has collected more than 600 fables of failure. Each one is a gem we can all learn from or use to instruct others.
Like the time a sales rep visited the office of a particularly difficult prospect who’d avoided contact for nearly a year, then finally agreed to a meeting. As it unfolded, the rep was careful to study the prospect’s desk and office walls, looking for cues to engage in conversation. Finally, he spotted a picture of the fellow posing with who he thought was a famous football coach. “Wow,” he said, “how did you get that shot with John Madden?” The prospect froze, his face turning bright red. “That’s not John Madden; it’s my wife.”
Lesson learned: Never assume anything; never be afraid to ask obvious questions. But also, never be embarrassed to make a mistake. It only means you’re human and you’re working as hard as you can to learn all you can.