Top 4 ‘Bad’ Excuses for Poor Sales Performance and What to Do About Them

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While the best sales managers understand there are valid extenuating circumstances for poor performance, all too often, the reasons reps fall back on to explain their sales numbers veer into ‘bad excuse’ territory.

Jonathan Whistman

In leading a sales team, you try your best to balance holding salespeople accountable and being understanding when a situation warrants understanding. 

Poor sales performance is easy enough to spot in well-organized sales organizations with attentive leadership. But identifying the root cause of sales slumps can pose far more of a challenge, especially when excuses from sales reps and teams begin to enter the equation.

While the best sales managers understand there are valid extenuating circumstances for poor performance, all too often, the reasons reps fall back on to explain their sales numbers veer into ‘bad excuse’ territory. 

“Identifying the root cause of sales slumps can pose far more of a challenge, especially when excuses from sales reps and teams begin to enter the equation.”

Excuses have no place on high-performing sales teams, so sales managers should be well-prepared to dismantle bad excuses for poor performance and discourage excuse-making behaviors as a whole.

This article addresses the most common ‘bad’ excuses for lackluster sales numbers. We also cover what you can do as a leader to push back against excuse-making constructively and provide actionable steps for struggling sales reps to improve productivity and performance.

Four “Bad” Sales Performance Excuses and How to Handle Them 

1. “My Quota Is Too High!”

Sales organizations need to set realistic and attainable sales quotas. Unfortunately, some businesses set their sales quotas optimistically and occasionally even harmfully high. But if most of your sales team is managing to meet quota, this is likely an easy excuse to deflect responsibility for poor performance. 

As a general rule of thumb, if 80% of sales reps or more meet quota most of the time, there is no need to lower it. But if your organization regularly relies on high-performing outliers to meet sales quotas, you may be flying too close to the sun with your sales targets.

What to Do When You Hear this Excuse

If you’ve determined your sales quota is reasonable, the next step is addressing the actual root of your sales reps’ performance issue. The sales rep in question may be lacking motivation, confidence in their sales ability, or the skills and knowledge necessary to move prospects through the sales process and effectively close deals

This process can include one-on-one sales coaching sessions, outside training, improved sales enablement, or even allowing sales reps to set individual action-based goals to increase productivity and improve performance. 

2. “Rejection Wipes Me Out!”

Rejection is a constant in the world of sales. It can quickly lead to poor motivation, morale, and performance lapses if sales reps aren’t equipped with tools and techniques to mitigate the sting of regular rejection. 

What to Do When You Hear this Excuse

While this excuse is more common amongst younger or inexperienced sales professionals, the truth is rejection can be hard to handle for even the most weathered sales veterans. 

Sales managers should hold ongoing training sessions with sales teams to brush up on the best practices for overcoming objections and tips for maintaining a positive attitude and a healthy mindset in the face of rejection. 

Be sure to encourage your sales teams that success isn’t about how many times you fall, but instead how many times you manage to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep striving towards your goal.

3. “My workload is overwhelming!”

This is an excuse that can be frustrating to hear, especially in high-volume sales environments where everyone else is pulling their weight. 

Remember that as a sales manager, you set the tone for inter-team relationships and communication. So be sure to stay calm when working with your team, especially when you feel frustrated. 

What to Do When You Hear this Excuse

You can approach this excuse from many angles. First, go over productivity and performance metrics with the sales rep in question for a clearer picture of their day-to-day sales activities and successes. 

If you notice the sales rep struggles with a certain sales activity, like consistent cold calling, work with them one-on-one to increase their sales call confidence and polish their skillset. 

But suppose your metric deep-dive reveals that administrative tasks are eating up too much of the rep’s day to sell effectively. In that case, your organization may be suffering from a pervasive sales industry issue. 

The average inside sales rep spends only around 33% of their work time actually selling due to time-intensive administrative tasks. And a shocking 71% of sales professionals say they spend too much time on tasks like data entry.

Be sure to review your sales enablement package with struggling reps to identify tools or resources that can help streamline their sales process and provide more time for active selling. 

And if your current sales enablement strategy doesn’t help your sales team automate time-soaks like scheduling, invoicing, and basic communication with clients it may be time to update and modernize your sales enablement tools and strategies.

4. “We don’t get enough leads!”

This is a common complaint in the sales sector. Sales reps who feel they don’t have enough leads to meet quota can become demotivated, creating a negative feedback loop spiraling performance into the gutter. 

What to Do When You Hear this Excuse

First, remind your sales rep that lead generation is a shared responsibility between the organization and sales teams. While marketing absolutely plays a pivotal role in filling sales pipelines, sales reps can also make an outsized impact on the number of leads available each month with a little ingenuity and effort. 

For example, sales reps that take advantage of the reach and ubiquity of social media and networking platforms can boost lead generation by over 20%. Engaging in social selling also improves close rate and can increase the size of your sales reps’ average deal by a quota-busting 35%

Social selling is just one channel for innovative and driven sales teams to grow leads and consistently fill their pipeline. Sales managers can significantly boost revenue and earn goodwill points with the sales team by keeping an ear to the ground for emerging lead gen channels and strategies that keep the sales pipeline full. 

Improve Sales Team Performance with Us

It is possible to address excuses head-on to reduce their impact on your sales culture. But wouldn’t it be easier to avoid altogether sales reps that rely on bad excuses to explain poor performance? 

We certainly believe it is, which is why we harnessed the power of predictive analysis to create PerceptionPredict’s Performance Fingerprints

Performance Fingerprints are data-driven candidate and employee profiles that use advanced AI, machine learning, and computational modeling to create highly accurate sales rep performance and productivity forecasts. 

Our predictive analytical tools revolutionize the sales hiring process by providing unmatched insight into the value of sales position candidates pre-hire. This allows organizations to make highly strategic onboarding decisions that consistently drive growth, boost performance, and increase profitability. 

Book a demo today to learn more about how Performance Fingerprints can transform your sales organization.

Lisa Kinsey

Lisa Kinsey

Lisa Kinsey’s expertise lies in organizational strategy, culture change, project alignment and execution. She has been on the forefront of change and transformed businesses and cultures through people-focused strategies. Lisa has held numerous leadership positions with Fortune 500 companies that spans from sales and operations to HR and organizational development. She is passionate about sharing her experiences, successes and lessons learned with her clients, helping them breakthrough to the next level of performance.

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