Winners make things happen. Losers make excuses. Regardless of the field, this time-tested principle consistently rings true. In sales, sellers who cite convoluted reasons to explain poor performance, rather than proactively doing something about it often remain — unsurprisingly — at the bottom of the success ladder.
There certainly are a lot of things in sales that make life a tad more difficult. Yes, competition is almost always brutal. Yes, some of your product features suck. Yes, prospects can be frustratingly unresponsive. Yes, quotas seem cruel and your pricing strategy doesn’t make sense. And yes, bosses can sometimes be a pain in the ass.
But these hitches only balance out the selling dynamic: competent sales professionals reap eye-popping rewards, while laggard performers fall behind. Anyone without grit, determination, and drive will surely fail in the unforgiving terrain of selling.
Mediocre salespeople complain about their challenges, but don’t put pen to paper and take action. True sales professionals may vent at times — but they follow through by winning.
It may not reflect immediately on top line figures, but their follow through moves the needle on other metrics — productivity, discovery of new tools or techniques, and sharpened selling skills — any one of which will eventually translate to higher performance and attained goals.
With the new year just around the corner, it is high time to re-examine the many excuses sales professionals make (and what to do instead).
Top 10 Sales Excuses You Need to Stop Making in 2018:
- We can’t find qualified prospects.
- Our marketing team sucks.
- Our quotas are too high.
- Our product isn’t good enough.
- My workload is too overwhelming.
- The market is drying up.
- My leads are going dark on me.
- We can’t beat our competitors.
- Our sales process is broken.
- Cold calling is too hard.
1. We Can’t Find Qualified Prospects
- We have a weak pipeline.
- We don’t get enough leads.
- The leads are terrible/no good.
- SDRs/BDRs are not doing their job.
- Our old CRM sucks.
Validity/Verdict: Inefficient pipeline management and lead qualification is a common problem across sales organizations but should not constitute an excuse for poor performance. Instead, it should trigger an upgrade in methodologies, skill sets, inter-team synchronizations or sales enablement tools.
Value Generation: Examine your sales process for gaps in the pipeline. Find ways to better synchronize marketing and sales departments as well as sales development reps and account executives. Improve your ideal customer profile and align the qualification process accordingly. Consider other approaches such as social selling to find new prospects and grow your pipeline. Optimize or upgrade your CRM.
2. Our Marketing Team Sucks
- Our website looks crappy.
- Our landing pages are outdated.
- We don’t have the right advertising.
- No one knows our brand.
- No one cares about our brand.
- The few leads we are getting, are horrible.
Validity/Verdict: Blaming other departments is a low punch even when some of your points are valid. The main culprit in this area is — overwhelmingly — the lack of coordination and synchronization among teams.
Value Generation: Consider Marketing as part of the Sales organization aiming for the same shared goal. Maintain full transparency and constant communication to synchronize your respective processes. Implement a shared metrics system to gauge success or produce insight. Everyone must be in the same boat and looking at the same page all the time, especially when solving challenges such as website design, product messaging, and lead generation.
3. Our Targets Are Ridiculously High
- My quota is insane.
- Our goals are unattainable.
- My territory / opportunities are too small.
- The objectives are unrealistic.
- Our sales manager is living on another planet.
Validity/Verdict: Leaders sometimes do set high, overly optimistic goals. However, question their judgement only if no one else, or very few outliers have achieved those objectives. If a fair number of sales professionals are actually achieving their quotas, then citing this factor is a lame excuse.
Value Generation: Formulate a personal strategy on how to achieve targets. Streamline your workflow, or focus on specific types of leads that will help you move closer to your goals. Get help or ask for advice from peers who are attaining targets. Get additional training to improve skill sets.
4. Our Product Isn’t Good Enough
- Our product features are not attractive.
- There are way better products out there.
- We don’t have the product features customers want.
- Our price is too high.
- Customers find our terms unacceptable.
Validity/Verdict: Product development and branding are extremely tricky. But guess what — nothing is perfect. Cite the very best handsets offered by Apple or Samsung and you’ll still find critical naysayers in both camps.
Value Generation: As a sales professional, your job is to highlight the positive aspects of your product and propose reasonable workarounds for its shortcomings. Better yet, sharing your insight into how customers perceive your product can help your company’s product designers to build much better products down the road.
5. My Workload Is Too Overwhelming
- I’m juggling too many responsibilities.
- I’m cold calling and emailing with too many prospects at once.
- This sales cycle involves too many decision makers and obstacles.
- I don’t have time to update my CRM.
Validity/Verdict: Unless you’re Tim Ferriss, time is going to be scarce. Time is extremely valuable in sales. The sooner you close, the better your metrics. More time spent on prospecting keeps your pipeline healthy. Blaming time is like unleashing a scapegoat and ascribing responsibility to everything else but yourself. In most cases, all it takes is having clear priorities and an effective time management system.
Value Generation: Set your priorities in order and organize your workflow based on a streamlined sales process. Avoid procrastination at all costs. Adopt an effective schedule or time management system that suits your lifestyle and workload. Utilize browser plugins and extensions that integrate with your sales stack to automate tasks and become more efficient.
6. The Market Is Drying Up
- The economy has reached a downturn.
- Closing is too difficult during this business climate.
- Budgets are tight for everyone right now.
- Prospects would just rather use the freemium version.
Validation/Verdict: Markets and economies fluctuate for various reasons. So does consumer behavior — sometimes, in surprising ways which you can exploit for your brand. If competitors still sustain profitability, then panicking and whining about supply and demand won’t get you anywhere. Your rivals are doing something right and you’re not.
Value Generation: While products and services evolve with the market, the more important factor to consider is behavioral economics. Your focus should remain on your core buyers and how they react to different economic stimulus. Track their buying behavior and understand what matters to them most when making purchase decisions in different contexts. Consider also whether economic shifts have influenced other buyer demographics into finally considering your solutions.
7. My Leads Have Gone Dark
- My contacts are unresponsive to my emails and voice messages.
- The client said they need more time to consider.
- The stingy gatekeeper won’t let me talk to the CTO.
- They don’t like face-to-face meetings.
- The prospect likes their current vendor.
- They were just soliciting proposals from competing vendors.
Validation/Verdict: Groundwork is hard and tends to get your hands dirty. In sales, that translates to the “floor,” where sales reps do much of the heavy lifting. Prospecting and engaging leads represent two of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of selling, and it’s alright to vent your anger once in a while. But don’t stop there.
Value Generation: Frustration can sap your reserves. Making things worse, sales is basically built on huge blocks of disappointment. But instead of letting frustration drain your energy, use it to drive results. Unresponsive clients may need a different messaging approach. B2B selling does need multiple points of contact and you may take that as an opportunity to grow your network. Learn new techniques, use better tools, and improve your engagement skills.
8. Competitors Are Destroying Us
- Our competitor is a behemoth.
- Brand A can spend insane amounts without a second thought.
- They have a friendlier pricing model.
- Why can’t we have that feature?
- Brand A just snatched our main client.
Validity/Verdict: Knowing your competitors’ strengths is a good thing. But do you know where they’re not good at? Would it benefit your brand to exploit that weakness? Having an objective assessment of the competition landscape is vital to your brand’s survival. Are there high-value niches or consumer demographic you can engage? Coca-Cola, Nokia, and GM were once unassailable brands, but new and more agile players were able to enter and thrive in their markets.
Value generation: Allow objective data to trounce feelings of intimidation. Generate insight then use imagination, creativity and innovative thinking to outwit the competition in a specific area. Specialize and do it better than anyone else. Create your own niche and loyal following where possible. Practice empathy and build deeper relationships with clients.
9. Our Sales Process Is Broken
- Our sales process is confusing/convoluted.
- We have mismatched skills and roles in the sales team.
- I feel unmotivated.
- Why can’t our tech team meet the client’s roll out requirements?
- We’re wasting time on bad leads.
- We don’t even use the right sales methodology.
Validity/Verdict: It’s either you’re overreacting or things are really messed up in your organization. But instead of letting “serious” problems linger as convenient excuses, prepare a proactive plan or write a letter of intent to draw one up collaboratively. Instead of getting rendered immovable by multiple factors both beyond and within your control, be a mover in your organization.
Value Generation: Make an objective assessment of your sales organization. Don’t base your evaluation on your feelings or emotions. If everyone on the team finds it difficult to meet quotas, schedules, and other metrics, then something might well be seriously flawed. If there’s a consensus that something drastic has to be done to turn things around, then you can’t start whining in order to win.
10. Cold Calling Doesn’t Work Anymore
- I keep getting hung up on, and can’t break through.
- Everyone’s social selling now, can’t I just do that?
- Inbound marketing is the hot new trend.
- Our strategy is too outbound focused, need a better balance with marketing.
Validity/Verdict: It’s easy to sit and make excuses about cold calling, but the fact remains that it STILL works, and many successful organizations are crushing it right now with outbound. If you’re failing with cold calling, it’s because you lack motivation, proper training, and you’re not serving relevant offers to the right people at the right time.
Value Generation: Ask yourself why you feel this way. Dig deep and be brutally honest. Cold calling may not be for you. There are other sales techniques that work too, so perhaps those may suit your strengths better. Listen to your call recordings. Get call coaching and make strides forward.
It Comes Down To This: Accountability
Responsibility and personal accountability are among the most critical traits in successful sales professionals. The ability to point fingers and make lame excuses is not. That means assessing personal culpability serves as the default reaction of high performers every time things go wrong.
Selling is tough and no sales organization nor professional is perfect. There will always be challenges and setbacks. You can either give an excuse for missed targets, or take accountability and bounce back.
Use setbacks as launchpads for proactive solutions to personal shortcomings (skills, technique, know-how) or to systemic problems in your company (tools, organization, culture, methodologies). It’s a lot better to find a way to address challenges than to find an excuse to dodge blame. One helps make things better. The other just allows mediocrity to linger.
Remember, a culture of excellence and success will never accept excuses.
Also published on Medium.