Excuses, Excuses!

May 05


Minutes divided by eight friends 

Having worked with sales people for almost two decades, I have heard virtually every excuse why they don’t or can’t reach their sales targets. Here are just a few:

Our prices are too high. This is one of the most common excuses that sales people use and even when companies reduce their price, those sales reps still often fail to reach their targets.

The competition is cheaper. While there will always be companies who sell the same or similar product as you, very seldom is the competition as cheap as you think. However, smart buyers will often try to get a better price by indicating that a competitor is cheaper.

We don’t have new products. Many sales people lament the fact that their company has not issued or released a new product. However, this is seldom a concern form a buyer’s perspective unless a competitor has a newer product that offers additional benefits that are important to the buyer.

People only care about getting the lowest price. This may be true in some cases, but price is seldom the primary or motivating factor behind someone’s final buying decision. However, price will become the major issue by default if you fail to demonstrate the value of your product, service or offering.

The economy is still bad. Yes, the economy is still challenging but companies are making buying decisions. They are purchasing products and implementing new systems. The goal is to identify those companies and target your efforts accordingly.

No one answers the telephone anymore. Yup. That’s often true. However, the telephone is just one method of connecting with your customers and prospects.

No one returns my calls. Most people don’t return phone calls they are too busy or you haven’t given them a compelling reason. I know one sales person who gets a high percentage of call backs because he does some pre-call research and uses that insight to effectively position his solution.

My territory is too small. This may apply in certain circumstances but seldom as frequently as stated by many sales people. While a small territory may have a limited number of new sales leads, it opens the door to create additional sales opportunities within your existing customer base.

My territory is too big. Nice problem to have! Although a large territory presents challenges from an account maintenance perspective, this issue can be remedied by focusing your attention on the right customers. If you are really serious about expanding your business, you could hire a personal assistant (at your expense) to help manage your accounts. This approach frees up time for you to focus on prospecting and adding new customers to your roster.

The company expects too much. I remember talking to a district sales manager who lamented the fact that her company was expecting a twelve percent increase in revenues in the upcoming year. However, I have never known a company to say, “Well, we just finished a record year so let’s coast this year, shall we?” Do shareholders expect a lot? Of course. You would too if it was your money on the line.

My sales targets are unrealistic. Let’s face it; most compensation programs do not reward sales people when they fail to reach their quotas or targets. As a result, sales reps often believe that their sales goals are unrealistic. However, top performing sales reps set their own targets which are usually higher than the quotas established by their boss. If they can do it, so can you.

I remember when…. Give it a rest already! No one cares about the good old days except for you. Yeah, things were different ten years ago. But that was then and this is now. If you want to succeed, stop reliving the past and focus on today’s reality. 

You can make all the excuses in the world but it doesn’t change the fact that you and only you are accountable for reaching your sales targets. This may sound harsh but if you don’t want the responsibility, find another career.


  • http://www.contrarydomino.com Andrew Rudin

    Hi Kelley: The issue is this – as a manager, how do you distinguish between “excuses” and symptoms of problems that management should – or must – address. Issues involving flawed sales strategy or tactical execution.

    I have worked with sales organizations that were tone deaf to the problems that the front-line sales team brought to sales management. They were dismissive of what they said, falling back on the knee-jerk expectation that it’s still up to the salesperson to make his or her number.

    Are some issues that salespeople bring to management mere whining? No doubt. But a manager who consistently takes the position “bring me sales, not excuses” will fail. The better performers will leave the company to work in organizations that have better listeners in the senior roles, and are more interested in fostering organizational learning and process improvements.

  • http://Sellingfearlessly.com Robert Terson

    Andy, you make a great point, but I’d be willing to wager that 80% of the excuses will be voiced by the bottom 20% of the sales force, and in most cases they’ll be the kind of “alibi” excuses that calls for a good motivational talk and not much else.

    Kelley, thanks for a good read; I really enjoyed this one!

  • http://pempoatempo.wordpress.com/ Jeff Wiebe

    Often the difference between an excuse (illegitimate reason for problems) and an explanation (legitimate reason for problems) is whether or not there is intent to address & eliminate the issue, or to retain it as a license to fail.