5 excuses of sales representatives and how to turn them into action

Let's start with a definition of this expression "excuse". In some cases the more suitable word would be "calling for help", in other cases it may be rather a warning sign about Your team's performance. So first of all, it is cruical to find out wich of these You're dealing with. In both cases it is good to start by asking "Good, do You have any suggestions how to solve this?" That will confirm wich of two above mentioned cases happened. Any idea ( even useless) shows a good will and indicates a real problem that should be solved. An opposite indicates a personal problem ( low performance, demotivation, burnout or just a wrong person at a wrong position). Following discussion differs by situation You're going to face when having a 1:1 conversation with Your team member.

#1 Our products are too expensive

Mostly used "reason" of not closing a deal with a prospect, often seen as insuperable. To my surprise I haven't seen this only by sales guys but also top managers. It is often used because it sounds very serious and hard to refute. Fortunately I have some good news for You - NO! It is not about price!

If a price is not exactly non-sense there will be always a buyer for that price. The question is for wich price there are the most customers willing to pay. So You won't sell for a wrong price but to a wrong customer.

It also very much depends on how Your prospect perceives his current costs. And that is Your task to make him become aware of every aspect that increases his current cost to make Your solution a preferred one. You are an expert for Your product. That is why no-one but You can calculate it that precisely for a customer.

If You still don't believe me, try to ask a customer this question : "If I sell You my services for free, will You start tomorrow?" If he answers "NO", You know it is not about price. If he says "YES" then You know he likes Your product and You're on a good way. Another argument You can use is: "We don't want to be the cheapest just to increase our revenue. We want to provide an added value to our customers"

Look around Your-self. Do You see more BMWs or Dacias? If it was about price everyone would be driving old small and ugly cars. That is obviously not the case. Everyone wants a fast and cost efficient car. The same applies for products and services. And all are willing to pay for it.

#2 There are no new clients to be called

How long has a sales rep. worked in his region? One, two years? Than probably "yes", there may be no new clients. But how many of the called ones hasn't been contacted more than once, twice or just three times? The sales statistic made by National Sales Executive Association says:

There are only 10% of sales people who make more than three contacts. On the other side 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact.

How many prospects of Yours have been called more than five times? This statistics doesn't have to be 100% accurate for each market. But be sure there is something about these numbers and consider them as an example of what to improve.

Sales is not only about discovering new exciting opportunities. It is more about being consistently in touch with resistant clients, building slowly the relationships and heading towards Your chance to finally get them.

BONUS: The more resistant Your new client was, the better. This one will be very same resistant to Your competition who will try to take over.

#3 They just don't want our services

Why? Why? Why? Why only me?

The right "why" is "Why exactly don't they want to? Because of quality? Or attractivness? Or fear of stepping into strange waters? Are they afraid to loose their own customers by risking with a new supplier?" Ask "why" until You get a specific reason. Or until Your sales man answers "I actually don't know why" and let him go to ask a client again and more specifically. There is always a concrete reason even it is a bad mood, personal dislike or unwillingness for change. For any reason Your task is to find a solution, find a medicine to heal this customer's fear, stiffness or unfriendliness.

Very often a customer may have needed just one more small reason to believe in You to start. Maybe he just wasn't sure about something and You didn't try to go deeper into details.

There are a few customers who really don't tell You anything else than "We just don't want". Then there is no better reason for going somewhere else.

#4 I am overwhelmed with workload

"OK, I can see it worries You. What exactly is the problem?" Go into details asking why, how and why again. We sales people have one of most difficult jobs but also we have been given a freedom to organize our work and schedule. Exactly therefore we shall be able to be much more time efficient than anyone else. Why? Because we can flexibly adapt, we can play it our way, we can decide when and where to go.

Becoming overwhelmed having such freedom signalizes a lack of time management skills or weak sales process and system. It may not be a sales representative's fault and he may be sort of "innocent". But if he doesn't come with warnings and proposals to change and improve this he becomes "guilty" himself staying in such state.

Right sales man shall be able to shout at internal meetings: "I visited this and this client, prepared this and that solution, brought five new customers last month but still have to spend 5 hours a week using our ancient CRM. If You want me to increase our sales more... do something with the system, please. If You need any of my help, please don't hesitate. But let's do it now!"

#5 We are going to sign the contract the day after tomorrow

Many times I saw sales teams or even top managers celebrating a new customer. And that si great and right to celebrate each big success. BUT... it is evenly important to have very real tangible reason to do so. "Is the contract signed? Did they made a first order? Did we successfully implement our solution into our new customer's agenda?"

Don't even think about celebrating until the answer to all of these is "Yes". Otherwise You will experience big personal disappointment, Your credibility may suffer and in the worst case You may also cause some internal problems if finances or operations have prepared a forecast based on Your new business celebration and then there will be no business at all.

Taking this from one another perspective there are also perpetual sales underperformers who once in a while present an almost definite win at internal meetings to conceal their bad results. Then the next meeting they say something like "It was a closed deal, we shall have started already, but they've changed their mind in last minute. I don't know what happened. I did everything to get them". Then it looks like this is not their but customer's fault and they may get a "breathing space" for another few months before manager will ask again for results. Just keep this in mind and ask very specific questions about the negotiation to find out the truth.

The Bottom Line:

Teach Your team there are no excuses and no problems, only situations to solve and challenges to deal with. Your and their drive and motivation will grow rapidly.

Don't make them sheeps following Your orders. Let them grow and do it their way still following Your example. Imagine all of them as Your potential successors. If they ask for an advice instead of reacting with an excuse, that's a sign You're on a good way. Good luck! :)