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5 common excuses a great salesperson would never make

5 common excuses a great salesperson would never make

Excuses suck. Nobody wants them. If you’re not holding up your end of the bargain, your manager/founder/CEO doesn’t want to hear you blaming something or someone other than yourself.

This is by far one of my favorite topics to talk about.

I even talked all about it with my friend Hiten Shah on The Startup Chat a few hundred episodes ago. We both shared some examples and our thoughts on the concept of “No Excuses.”

It’s 26 minutes, so bookmark it for later:


To put it simply, excuses are nothing more than a lazy attempt at justifying why you didn’t do what you said you were going to do.

And in this post, I’m looking at them through a sales lens. I’m going to share five of the most common excuses sales reps give that a great salesperson wouldn’t even think of.

Let’s get to it.

The most common excuses that just don’t fly at a successful company

First things first: Let’s set the stage a bit...

Here’s the scenario we’re going to be running with:

  • It’s the end of Q1
  • You’re a sales rep on a team of five
  • For some reason you came up 25% short on your quarterly sales quota

It’s the dreaded day… It’s the day when you have to share why this happened with your sales manager and you’re contemplating how to come out clean. You come to them on March 31 with one of these five excuses:

“Hey boss, I didn’t hit my Q1 quota because…”

1. Marketing is sending us bad leads

“... the marketing team keeps sending us bad leads. They’re not qualified and we’re wasting our time talking to them.”

The age-old strategy of a poorly performing sales rep: Always blame someone else. It’s all marketing’s fault because they’re letting bad leads come through and you didn’t even get the chance to talk to legitimate MQLs, right?

Is the marketing team perfect?

Probably not.

Is the day after you missed your quota (i.e., you didn’t do your own job) the best time to complain to your boss about somebody else’s job?

Absolutely not.

(And I shouldn’t even have to tell you that.)

If the MQLs coming through aren’t as qualified as they need to be, that’s something you need to be proactive about. Did it really take you until March 31 to realize the leads weren’t ready to buy? I’m guessing not.

Take the initiative and talk to the marketing team yourself as soon as you start to see the quality dip. And no, I don’t mean burst into their office blaming them for sending you terrible leads—I mean have a grown-up conversation where you talk about solutions and what qualities you’re looking for in an MQL.

Don’t just complain—take ownership and do something about it. Creating alignment between marketing, sales, and even the success team is everyone's responsibility.

2. Marketing isn't providing support

“... the marketing team isn’t doing their job supporting us, so we’re all by ourselves.”

It’s always the marketing team, right?

If you need sales collateral to support the sales process, sitting on your hands hoping someone else steps up and does it for you isn’t the move.

Book a call with someone from the marketing team and show up with solutions.

Talk to them about what content, resources, assets, etc., would be beneficial to you and the rest of the sales team.

From there, you can work together to prioritize which sales enablement assets are the most valuable and should be created first, get them in your project management tool of choice and start putting them to work.

If you’re not sure what sales enablement assets you should be creating, we just launched The Sales Enablement Toolkit with eight free templates you can customize to kick your sales enablement strategy into hyperdrive.

3. The quotas are unrealistic

“... there’s just no way for us to hit those goals. They’re way too high.”

If your sales goals were easy to hit, what’d be the point of setting them in the first place?

Quotas and sales goals are in place to help the company grow—not stay comfortably stagnant, content with how things are going today.

If you genuinely believe the quotas are unobtainable, talk to your sales director well before the end of the quarter arrives. Waiting until you’ve officially missed your quota is easily the worst time to have this conversation. No matter what, it’s going to come off as an excuse.

Book a call or a meeting with your sales director and come prepared to back up why you think the quotas are too high. And if you can’t do that, strap on your boots and start making calls.

Pro tip: If you are a sales director, and your sales reps are complaining about unrealistic quotas, try introducing some extra incentives and tracking performance with a sales leaderboard. Set it up to track revenue from closed-won’s and you’ll be amazed at how quickly the complaining stops when they see their colleagues constantly crushing their quotas.

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4. The product isn't good enough

“... all the prospects I was talking to just didn’t think the product was any good.”

If prospects aren’t seeing the value in what you’re selling, take a look in the mirror and point to the culprit...

Instead of immediately placing the blame on the product itself, take a closer look at how you’re actually selling it in your conversations.

Are there key benefits you’re not conveying well?

Are they missing the value proposition?

Are you mapping the solutions you provide to the actual problems they’re facing?

First, try to find the gaps yourself.

And if prospects are still asking over and over for a set of features that you simply don’t offer, don’t just sit on that information and blame the product team for not knowing what customers want.

They’re not talking to prospects every day—you are.

Share the insights you’re collecting. If a lot of prospects are asking for it, think about how great it’ll feel when you can finally tell them, “Oh yeah, we can do that.”

Every company needs to have a game plan in place when what the prospect wants doesn't match up with what your product offers.

At Close, we're no exception, and we asked James Urie, one of our Senior Account Executives on how he's handling these situations:

James UrieI often encounter prospects who tell me they need a certain feature to buy our CRM. Sometimes it’s a real dealbreaker, and then I save both myself and them the time, and recommend another solution. But in many cases I’m able to tell them: “I understand why this feature is important to you, let me show you how our customers do this today. Our product team has plans to make this feature even better and I expect those improvements in the next 3-4 months. In the meantime, our customers have had a lot of success doing it this way. Let's run through it.”

As a sales professional, your job is not to convince people to buy. Your job is to figure out: Would this company benefit from using our solution? If yes, then help them understand how. It’s rarely a straightforward line between what the prospects think they need, and what features your product offers.

It’s your job to help them connect the dots. This requires subject matter expertise and creative problem solving skills, but these are skills you should develop anyway. As more and more sales reps become automated out of their job, those who really generate value for prospects are the ones that will be in even higher demand in tomorrow’s world.

5. Our leads are too busy to talk to me

“... everyone I tried to reach out to doesn’t have time to answer me.”

Everyone’s busy all the time.

Here’s some truth for you: All of the prospects you’re trying to sell to have a mile-long to-do list and 50,000 unread emails sitting in their inbox.

There’s noise everywhere. Everyone and everything wants their attention—especially if they have real buying and decision-making power.

It’s your job to cut through that noise.

It’s not that they’re too busy to talk to you—you just didn’t do enough to actually get their attention.

If your calls aren’t getting returned and your emails aren’t getting opened, do something about it. Change your approach, experiment with new techniques, test your subject lines, don’t go in for the sale right away, find some common ground and use it.

Don’t just throw your hands up and blame them for being too busy to answer you. If you do, chances are they will end up being too busy—talking to your competitors.

We've got a few chapters packed with tips on how to handle the "I'm too busy"-objection from prospects in our book on sales negotiations, and you can download a free copy here:

How to approach missed targets the right way

Notice a trend in these five excuses?

Each and every one of them can be avoided, and all it takes is for you to do one thing:

Be proactive.

Waiting until the deadline has passed before trying to fix what’s broken just isn’t good enough. If that’s the path you choose, congratulations—you’re about to get shown up by all your teammates who took initiative before the end of the quarter.

It’s simple: If something isn’t going to get done on schedule, don’t wait until the day of to pull an excuse. Be proactive and communicate with whoever else is involved as soon as possible.

And make sure you come to that conversation with a plan of attack, not just the bad news that you’re not on track. Solutions, not excuses—that’s what your sales director/CEO/founder wants to hear.

So—what’s your excuse?

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