No one likes to take the blame when things go wrong. So when it becomes clear that we aren’t going to measure up to expectations, we start looking for excuses.
Sometimes, those excuses are obviously not valid: “My dog ate my homework.” “My alarm didn’t go off.”
Other times, the excuses might have some basis in reality: “I got stuck in traffic.” “I caught Covid and have to quarantine.”
When you work in sales ops, it’s pretty common to hear excuses from sales reps. And by “pretty common,” we mean that this is absolutely going to happen.
So how are you going to deal with excuses?
You could just wait to hear what lame reason the sales team offers up for missing their forecast. And then you could point out the inconsistencies in their logic and watch them flounder while they try to explain what happened.
But if you wait for an excuse to materialize, it’s already to late. The team has already missed their numbers, and you can’t do much about it.
Instead, it’s much better to get ahead of the problem. We recommend a three-step process borrowed from strategy consultants:
- Anticipate Identify the possibilities in advance, away from the heat of the battle, as objectively as you can. If you are planning to roll out a new initiative, consider possible objections before you unveil your plan. For example, if you have moved a salesperson into a new territory, consider that they might say, “There isn’t enough opportunity in that territory for me to meet my sales targets” Or they might say, “I’m too new to these accounts. I don’t yet have the necessary relationships to meet these goals.”
- Eliminate Identify the themes that could be legitimate and figure out how to take them off the table. In the new territory example, you might be able to provide the sales person an analysis that shows which customers should be buying more products or buying additional product lines from you. If you hand the salesperson a list of the potential opportunities, it makes it much more difficult to support the idea that no opportunities exist.
- Mitigate For the possibilities that can’t be eliminated, figure out how to minimize their strength and impact. The argument about not having relationships might be valid. But you might be able to mitigate it by showing how other new salespeople have met similar targets and/or by putting an early warning system in place to let you know when it looks like they might be in danger of not meeting their numbers.
We cover this process in much greater detail in the webinar on Neutralizing the Sales Team’s Go-To Excuses. Based on research, it also uncovers many of the most common explanations you are likely to hear, and it offers several mitigation strategies for dealing with all kinds of scenarios.
Remember, the goal here isn’t just to point out how bad the sales team’s excuses are. Your goal is take those excuses out of play altogether so that improved sales are a natural result of the systems and processes you’ve put in place. Give it a try and let us know how your efforts and anticipating, eliminating, and mitigating excuses turn out.