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No matter how you slice it, being a sales rep is not easy. And even the best, most seasoned pros will feel the pressure from time to time. This leads to excuses -- excuses to draw attention away from the sales reps' performance (or lack thereof).

The truth is, these people are rejected, challenged, and often given unreal expectations each day. This leads to great days and some not so great days. The important piece for an employer is to build a company culture where excuses are not accepted, even when the times are tough.

I’m sure you have heard this: Excuses are like armpits, they stink and everyone has them. Before you can build a culture of positive thinking, it is important to identify excuses and defuse them. Without further ado, here are the six excuses you should never hear from your sales reps:

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“I Don’t Have Enough Leads”

Leads are the pipeline that keep your sales moving, yet only about 70 percent of the leads marketers send to sales reps are ever contacted. Shocking? Not really.

No matter the organization, this is an extremely common problem. Sales reps often feel as though they do not have enough leads, despite actually having an abundance. I have seen that this problem often starts with a lack of accountability in the CRM. Sales reps don’t log appointments, nor pick them up, leading to snowball effect.

When This Excuse Might Be Valid: It’s a story as old as time, the miscommunication of Sales and Marketing. The definition of quantity and quality of leads can differ. In these cases, it not an excuse for Sales. Rather, identification that the leads won’t allow Sales to reach their goals.

“The Leads Aren’t Any Good” 

Not all leads are qualified the moment they come in the pipeline, which is why marketing should classify them as “SQL,” Sales Qualified Leads, before handing them off to Sales. If the logic for a “SQL” is solid, then there should be no quality-related excuses.

As a sales rep, it is their job to get in front of the lead and sell -- not cherry pick for their definition of low hanging fruit. For example, if a lead indicates they want to buy in the next three months and have the money to purchase, it should be a case of simply closing.

When This Excuse Might Be Valid: When there are issues with Marketing and Sales alignment, lead quality can come into question. What marketing considers a “sales qualified lead” might be completely different from what Sales would consider ready to work. 

“I’m Too Busy Taking Care of the Floor Traffic”

In a B2C environment, sales floor traffic is important. These potential customers have come to your location and deserve the time. But only serving these customers and ignoring your future customers is an excuse which simply shows a lack of time management skills. 

When This Excuse Might Be Valid: When budgets are tight, so are hours allotted to sales staff. If there aren’t enough salespeople to service the floor traffic, then it shouldn’t be surprising when a majority of their time is monopolized speaking to these customers.

“Marketing Doesn’t Do Anything”

Hearing that, “marketing doesn’t do anything,” or “they just print shiny brochures” is enough to send any manager through the roof.

This excuse is frustrating for two reasons. One, this means your sales reps aren’t aware of the promotions going on within the store. And two, they aren’t taking accountability for their own actions. The truth is, Sales cannot function without Marketing and vice versa. If a sales rep is complaining, it is probably time to look in the mirror.

When This Excuse Might Be Valid: It’s a blanket statement to say that all marketing departments do nothing. But it’s also a blanket statement to say that all marketing departments are working optimally to promote the company and deliver leads. In the worst of cases, this excuse can be completely valid.

“Our Goals Are Unachievable”

Sometimes managers like to set lofty goals, but often they're still entirely achievable. Sales reps might just unable to devise a strategy to hit said goals. Encourage your staff to work toward achieving these goals, and teach them how to make it happen.

When This Excuse Might Be Valid: If goals are set without a basis in analytics or past performance, chances are they’ll unachievable. Anyone can say we’ll sell a million gazillion widgets, but if we only sold five last month, it might too lofty. 

“It’s Not Me, It’s the Product” 

Nothing smells of denial more than blaming the product. In sales, you must believe in what you're selling. Luckily, unless your company is still selling VHS tapes, this shouldn’t be a problem. There is a demand, and the sales rep needs to close.

When This Excuse Might Be Valid: If the product changes, or quality diminishes, there’s nothing you can do as a salesperson. Just imagine if you sold Coca-Cola, and suddenly you’re forced to sell the “New Coke.” It’s impossible to sell something everyone hates.  

Hopefully these “excuses you should never hear from your sales reps” will help you build a positive environment that fosters a killer sales team. For further help, download our Lead Generations Lessons from 4,000 Businesses ebook to see insight into supporting your sales reps. Good luck!

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Originally published Dec 22, 2014 7:00:00 AM, updated October 02 2019

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Sales Coaching