It was American aphorist Mason Cooley who once famously said, “Excuses change nothing, but make everyone feel better.” Exceptionally wise words from a man who spent many of his life’s working hours coming up with witty observations about the world around him.
And though Cooley’s professional background had next to nothing to do with sales, his words undoubtedly strike home with salespeople. When used by those in the product- or service-pushing realm, excuses are able to accomplish little more than artificial peace of mind.
They’re calming effect is fake, fleeting and produces nothing measurably positive. It’s easy to identify the problem here—we’re human. As such, we’re prone to making excuses when we don’t see the results we want.
The solution, however? Not so simple—altogether eliminating excuses from your repertoire of ineffective sales strategies is one of those things that’s easier said than done.
To get the ball rolling on a long-term fix, it’s always a good idea to sit down and blatantly identify the most common sales-centric excuses out there.
By so doing, the next time one of them creeps its way into your headspace, you’ll confidently call it out for what it really is—yet another excuse. Even better, based on many years of sales experience, I’ve already done some of the heavy lifting for you. Take note of some of the lessons I’ve learned:
1) ‘Ugg, everyone keeps telling me they don’t have budget’
Price will always be a factor in every buying decision.
Your customers have budgets, and they must do their best to operate within them while trying to make good decisions on how to spend said dollars. Still, no matter the product or service you’re pushing, price by no means is the primary reason someone makes a purchase. And take it from me—if it is, the last thing you want is a relationship that’s solely driven on price. It’ll be more of a headache than anything else.
The key to solving this problem is the approach you take and positioning.
No, budgets can’t be ignored, but price becomes secondary or tertiary in importance when your offer solves a genuine, recurring problem for a potential customer. They want to simplify things knowing their decision to spend will serve them and their company well. Create value, understand their needs, make them the hero for purchasing your product because it solves their problem and your audiences will gladly work to make room in their budgets or find the dollars needed to get the deal done.
2) ‘It’s the product team’s fault. Our offer doesn’t do everything the customer wants.’
The company you’re working for is in business for a reason. Because of this, as harsh as it might sound, if the product is good and the business is growing, the problem isn’t the product team’s fault—it very well could be you.
For your product or service to move fluidly, it’s vital that you believe in what you’re selling. Remind yourself why you took the job in the first place and the excitement you had for the task at hand.
Having first sold yourself, it will be substantially easier for you to connect the dots between your customers’ needs, and the solutions your company provides.
Still in trouble? Build bridges to understand the product roadmap, actively seek the help of other salespeople who are dominating, collaborate with your leadership team and if that’s not enough you may need to rethink your position.
3) ‘My territory sucks.’
You’ve read the story of “Goldilocks,” right?
That little girl was full of complaints. If things weren’t “too hot” or “too cold,” they were “too big” or “too small.” And though most salespeople deal very little with bowls of porridge and La-Z-Boy chairs, they do find something incredibly insignificant to complain about—sales territory.
In today’s current sales climate, companies are constantly trying to accomplish as much as possible with as little as possible. This means that lone sales representatives are often given sole charge of a sizable sales territory. It’s a hefty responsibility, and sales are expected.
Make the most of your spacious area by improving the efficiency of your efforts. Two words—planning and prioritization. Before you complain about why the territory is the worst, know it like the back of your hand. Create an action plan, identify top targets, trends for where your product does the best and customers that can truly benefit, growth areas and hidden gems that can accelerate your growth. Your more profitable accounts receive the bulk of your attention, while you simultaneously make it a point to be more removed from high-maintenance, low-profit customers. The latter needn’t be neglected—just managed more efficiently.
Likewise, small areas are often seen as a curse of sorts.
If you’re working outside of booming city, you can still see tremendous sales success. Here, though prioritization remains important, the focus should be on mastering both proactive and passive sales strategies. You have the extra time to really dig into the territory, create solid foundations for healthy business relationships and understand the nuances of each potential customer to increase your sales. Each small area is unique in what works and what doesn’t.
Experiment with different sales strategies, track your results and adapt accordingly.
Whenever a sales slump hits, the knee-jerk reaction is to quickly make an excuse, placing blame on someone or something else. This won’t make things better—it never has, and it never will. Instead, avoid making excuses, taking complete ownership for your sales performance—both the good and the bad. If something is happening and you’re struggling, come to the table with an action plan versus a laundry list of excuses.
And now for the fun part—what excuses do you regularly hear?
Whether you’ve heard them or given them yourself, I don’t care. Together, what matters most is that we remove as many excuses as possible from the greater sales culture. The first step just so happens to be identification. Can’t wait to see what you have in store for me—thanks for reading!