The 11 Worst Excuses Sales People Make When They Miss Their Targets

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Dollarphotoclub_58605572-reWhen I managed a team of salespeople it was always interesting to hold meetings with them when their targets hadn’t been met.

I often had to smile to myself when they were avoiding eye-contact, rubbing their hands together, breathing heavily, umming and erring as they tried to find specific reasons to back up their poor performance.

It’s natural for someone who hasn’t performed up to expectations to find excuses (or reasons, in their mind) for the situation. The defense mechanisms churn over and the salesperson will attempt to defuse any potential bad feedback.

Just for fun, here are the top excuses I hear salespeople make when they don’t make their quota, plus what they actually mean…

What they say: “The Leads Are Weak!” 

What they mean: “I haven’t the motivation to make my own leads so I’m going to blame the company for not giving me an easy life and laying great leads on a plate for me.”

What they say: “There’s lots bubbling under…” 

What they mean: “I have lots of potential business out there but those pesky customers aren’t making decisions and until they do, they’re missing out on what I can offer…”

What they say: “I’ve got too much admin to do…” 

What they mean: “If you would get me a PA, secretary and admin assistant, I would have time to go out and get the business. Until then, don’t expect me to spend more than 9 hours a week actually selling”

What they say: “The client is on holiday” 

What they mean: “I knew he was going on holiday, but I left it too late to help him progress towards making a decision, so it’s on hold for another couple of weeks. Don’t blame me!”

What they say: “My email was down so I didn’t receive the message” 

What they mean: “I saw the email, but (delete as applicable) ignored it/didn’t want to deal with it/it was 4pm so too late to deal with it/thought it was spam/I couldn’t be bothered”

What they say: “I’m too busy” 

What they mean: “I don’t have the organisational skills to be able to see what was important and what was urgent, and I don’t have the PA, secretary or admin assistant to help me out and I’m always expected to do a 75-hour week and I can’t fit in 12 calls a week and so I’m obviously too busy”

What they say: “The targets are unrealistic” 

What they mean: “I know I could achieve these stretching targets if I work smarter, but it’s too much like hard work, so I’ll blame my manager for setting the targets too high. Don’t blame me!”

What they say: “The prospects are ignoring my emails and calls” 

What they mean: “I’ve tried to contact them twice, but they haven’t replied to my obvious desperate messages and I don’t have any ideas how to make them really want my product so I’ll blame them, not me”

What they say: “Their call was just a fishing exercise” 

What they mean: “I don’t want to do the necessary work to help this prospect see what we could do for them, so it must be their fault that they didn’t simply ask me for my product.”

What they say: “It’s marketing’s fault not ours” 

What they mean: “I don’t have the skills, talent, business acumen or competence to be able to sell my products so I’ll have to blame the marketing department for not making people make my phone ring day and night, begging me to sell them my stuff”

What they say: “My products are too expensive compared to the competition” 

What they mean: “I haven’t worked out how my customers benefit from the better value my products offer, so I’ll blame the price as that’s easier than building the real reasons why prospects should choose me”

So, these aren’t all the excuses salespeople use, of course, but they have been used since Adam sold Eve the first apple.

Watch out for more to come!

Check out our Sales Training solutions if you’d like some further information on how to improve your sales performance. And if you’re a sales leader we have a great Sales Management Training programme that will help you to get the best out of your people.

Happy selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 4 November, 2014

Related Articles

Arrow down

Search For More

Arrow down