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Sales excuses - Prima Resource

What are the 4 main reasons salespeople don’t take responsibility for themselves and make excuses?

  • Company pricing,
  • Competition,
  • The economy,
  • The salespeople themselves.

The first 3 are not in the salesperson’s control, hence we focus on the latter, which they can control no matter the peripheral elements.

Responsibility is the degree to which a salesperson takes responsibility for results rather than rationalizing or making excuses.

No matter the conditions surrounding them, a salesperson who has a strong sense of responsibility will find a way to get the necessary amount of sales. They’ll do so by controlling the one element which is controllable, the only element, themselves!

Unfortunately, 60% of salespeople don’t take responsibility for their results.

Dismiss the uncontrollable

There will always be unfavourable uncontrollable factors which will influence their numbers. A failing economy, low quality products, and sometimes competitors who away their product. In these situations, when most salespeople tend to throw down their arms and give up, a few elite sales reps still manage to be successful. 6% to be precise.

This 6% will do everything they can to stay in control of their productivity. How do they do it? They stay focused on their daily activities. They keep their sales funnel full, they’re relentless about cold calls because they know cold calls work. They also make sure to be consultative and pay attention to the needs of their clients.

The subtlety of taking responsibility for your actions

No matter the length of a salesperson’s career, they will most likely go through economic upturns and downfalls. In fact, the longer their career, the more they’ll experience the cycle.

Their level of responsibility depends on how they react. If they’re reactive by responding to uncontrollable elements, rather than the controllable ones, they’ll become a victim of the circumstances.

Don’t let uncontrollable elements affect their attitude. If they let this happen, they’ll without a doubt experience a loss of morale, which will affect their will to sell. Like a row of tumbling dominos, every stage of the sales process starts falling apart.

The sales process and responsibility

When a rep suffers a loss of morale, they might lose the motivation to make cold calls, might become less committed, not only to their success, but to the needs of their clients.

The idea here isn’t to ignore all the situations which can affect their success. In fact, they must acknowledge them if they’re to have a clear grasp of their circumstances. However, they must consciously decide not to let them deter them from their objectives.

If they have a weak outlook (they don’t feel great about themselves and their career) or if they aren’t able to control their emotions, they might have a harder time getting over things.

Bring down their barriers

You were born a winner, a warrior, one who defied the odds by surviving the most gruesome battle of them all – the race to the egg. And now that you are a giant, why do you even doubt victory against smaller numbers and wider margins? The only walls that exist are those you have placed in your mind. And whatever obstacles you conceive, exist only because you have forgotten what you have already achieved.”

― Suzy Kassem

Take this example which a colleague once shared with me. His daughter was the best player on the worst team of their baseball league. As a learning experience for his daughter, it was a great opportunity for dad to make a case for responsibility and its link to objectives.

His daughter’s objective to become the best player of the league was in no way jeopardized by the current situation. By controlling the elements within her control, there was still a chance for her to better herself, and eventually be recruited to the top team. From there on there was no limit.

The only barriers which existed were the ones she would create for herself.

The outside elements tempting reps to give up are just excuses stopping them from getting where they need to go. Ultimately, taking responsibility for their actions and say to themselves, “I’m the only person standing in the way of what I want to achieve.”

The art of excuse making

Are your salespeople a DUDE? Dave Kurlan broke down the areas in which excuses tend to materialize:

  • Defensiveness—why you are wrong in your appraisal of them;
  • Understanding—why my prospect is doing what he said he is doing;
  • Denial—they never agreed to that;
  • Explanations—why they didn’t do what you expected them to do.

Sales managers, recognize that the reasons their reps provide for poor results are one and the same with the excuses their team members provide to explain their unproductiveness. Make sure your reps aren’t providing the reasons, because reasons = excuses.

How to manage excuse making in sales reps?

The following details the sales manager’s responsibility in thwarting excuse-making within their team:

  • Recognize it;
  • Address it—“That’s an excuse.”;
  • Warning—“I won’t allow that anymore. You’ll have to take responsibility for your results.”

“If you should change one thing tomorrow when you get into the office, it should be to stop excuse making! If salespeople say they can’t get the business because of X and Y reasons, they’re not taking responsibility for their actions.”

—Dave Kurlan, Two Minutes on Excuse Making

The minute a salesperson admits to not getting business due to their own fault, instead of blaming a bad economy or cheap competitive pricing, then the next question becomes: “What could I have done differently?” Once a rep become aware and acknowledge their share of responsibility, they start getting different results.

Nothing can change until then.

Turning your lemons into lemonade

Every person’s level of responsibility will vary. While 40% of salespeople are in the high range, this still leaves the greater majority who have very high tendencies for excuse making. The fortunate thing is that responsibility is easily fixed.


As parents we’re keen on calling out lack of responsibility in our children, though we often fail to recognize this weakness many of us have carried into adulthood. Our natural inclination when faced with the weak performance or failure is defensiveness.

Stand up in the face of adversity and resist its influence on your fate. Every time you say, “No, this will not get me down” is an instance bringing you closer to your success.

Say it out loud “I take full responsibility” and feel the power and freedom that come with this statement. Your success will follow