If It’s Important Enough to You, You’ll Do It. If Not, You’ll Make an Excuse.

Mike was a salesperson with one of my clients. He was struggling to make his quota. During his quarterly review, he agreed to make a certain number of calls on new prospects every week. The number was reasonable, and it was necessary if he was going to have any chance of reaching his sales goals.

For the third week in a row, he failed to even come close to making the agreed upon calls. He had lots of excuses … operations needed his help with inventory, the finance department needed him to square away some customer accounting problems, he had car trouble, the weather was bad, etc., etc. Nothing was ever Mike’s fault. Next week he’d try harder. Yeah, right!

Of course, it was all BS. Next week wouldn’t be any better. The excuses might change, but the results wouldn’t. Mike would still find reasons not to make the calls. He’d still make excuses and promise to do better. “Coulda,” “Shoulda,” “Woulda.” Maybe I’ll begin to respect our Congress or maybe I’ll win the Lottery. Of course, my chances of winning might be better if I bought a ticket. Regarding Congress, whatever happened to term limits?

So, what’s a sales manager to do with the Mikes of the world? It’s simple. Not necessarily easy, but simple. Take Florence Nightingale’s advice. Don’t give or accept excuses.

“I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse.”

Look, people make excuses all the time. None of us are immune. I did not want to get out of bed at 5:30 this morning. I had a busy week and I was tired. Taking a pass on the morning walk would not be a big deal. The other two members of my household had a different idea. There was no discussion. We were going. Fortunately, for me, my laziness didn’t even make it to the excuse stage.

Here’s a whole slew of excuses we make for not doing stuff

I’m too tired. I’ll do it tomorrow.

I worked out yesterday, so I can eat whatever I want.

I don’t have time. I’ve got too much going on right now.

It’s too expensive. I can’t justify spending that much money.

I’m not ready. I need to do some more preparation.

I’m too old to change.

I’m not good enough.

I can’t lose weight. My metabolism won’t let me.

This is not a good time. I’ll start after the holidays … after Easter … after my vacation … when I retire … whenever.

I don’t have the right tools; the right clothes; the right whatever.

It’s not my job.

People will think I’m weird.

So what? If it really matters to you, you’ll find a way to do it. If not, you’ll make excuses.

OK. Back to sales and sales management. If you manage salespeople, you are uniquely positioned to help your salespeople avoid excuse making. Just refuse to accept them. Here are the steps:

  • Get the salesperson to agree on a course of action. This should include very specific activities (the number of calls) and behaviors (what exactly the salesperson will say and do).
  • Track those activities and behaviors
  • Hold the salesperson accountable for the commitment. That means no excuses.
    • Use the “Three strikes and you’re out” formula:
      • First time they fail to act, give them a warning.
      • Second time, take punitive action. This must be something that gets the salesperson’s attention. It could range from losing some perks to losing a major account.
      • Third time, it’s over. No more chances. No more excuses. They’re history.

A sales manager does not have time to play around with salespeople who won’t make the calls. While the salesperson is ignoring customers and prospects, your competition is taking care of them. Sometimes you’ll never win them back. Those opportunities are gone for a very long time. Perhaps forever. Let your new mantra be, No Excuses.

I’m Oliver Connolly and I help sales managers build a sales team that makes the numbers. To see if I can help you, contact me at oliver@streetsmartsalesmanagement.com 

For a bunch of FREE STUFF on sales and sales management, check out my website … https://www.streetsmartsalesmanagement.com 

Oliver Connolly