How much sales growth have you lost to excuses? Some combination of those conditions exists in just about any business (who isn’t pulled in too many directions?). In a growing business, something has to give — often; it’s sales. At a certain point, business owners learn to accept excuses, both their own and those of others, around sales performance issues. These excuses — and the flawed, sales-sabotaging logic they are built on — eventually create an organizational culture where the bar is set so low that sales under-performance is expected. Sales performance gets “broken” on the back of a thousand excuses.
A culture of sales excuses starts at the top, and trickles all the way down to the bottom. Here’s a list I put together of eight of the more common excuses CEOs and business owners tell themselves about sales, along with why they are flawed. I’m sure some of these will be familiar to you.
8 Sales Excuses CEOs Make:
Excuse #1: We don’t need to formalize a repeatable sales onboarding process. I think that’s more for bigger companies. Between our HR person and the sales manager, I’m sure our new hires will get the hang of it eventually.
Why this is flawed thinking: Systematic sales onboarding is critical to shorten the time to productivity (and ROI) and to retain your salesperson (avoiding the high costs of turnover and mis-hiring). Get our eBook to learn more about onboarding for sales.
Excuse #2: I just met with the sales manager a couple of weeks ago, how much could things have changed since then? If there were an emergency, they would loop me in. I need to focus on putting out these fires over here.
Why this is flawed thinking: In this post, our OMG Partner Affiliate explains why business leaders must have, at a minimum, one conversation per week with each sales manager, which consists of seven questions. This is necessary to keep your finger on the pulse of incoming revenue and foresee sales problems before they grow unmanageable, as well as to keep the sales manager on track.
Excuse #3: I’m not surprised our sales are down; it’s unavoidable when the economic outlook is sluggish and gloomy.
Why this is flawed thinking: In this post, I explain why a sluggish economy is no excuse to give up on sales. In fact, it can present a tremendous opportunity. But leadership must set the tone by laying a roadmap for success in these conditions, rather than signaling that it’s okay to accept less and fall back on excuses.
Excuse #4: I don’t need a designated sales manager yet; I’m better off doing it on my own.
Why this is flawed thinking: It can be tricky as a business owner to determine the point at which you can no longer afford NOT to have a designated sales manager. Sometimes it is just not possible to bring one on. But take care you don’t go without one any longer than you have to, because it is difficult to impossible to be effective as a sales manager while also being a CEO, as I explain here and here. This case study also illustrates the benefits of simply having a sales manager.
Excuse #5: It’s okay that my sales manager is closing the majority of the deals; the most important thing is that someone is closing them. We can work on improving the other salespeople later.
Why this is flawed thinking: The sales manager’s job is to grow salespeople, not to grow your sales. The longer you let them sell, the longer you cost yourself sales (think about the exponential difference between a well-developed sales team all closing sales, versus one manager doing most of the closing). This case study shows the impact of reducing reliance on the sales manager’s sales.
Excuse #6: The sales manager and I can close without a formalized, repeatable selling process, so I think we can get by for now without one.
Why this is flawed thinking: Your sales process is the backbone of your sales operations and guides your sales team in their work. You need to have a defined procedure for qualifying and dealing with leads to make things as efficient and productive as possible. My OMG Partner Affiliate provides an excellent source of information about the common pitfalls associated with having a poorly-implemented sales process in this post.
Excuse #7: If I can close without formal sales training, my sales team can too.
Why this is flawed thinking: As a business leader, you don’t have to have great sales skills to sell, you can sell based on other qualities, as described here and here. Since your salespeople don’t have the same knowledge, history, status, or abilities as you, you must give them extra tools (which you may not need) to help them close effectively for you.
Excuse #8: I just need to get someone selling ASAP, this candidate will have to do. I had a pretty good feeling about them from the interview, and they are the best of this bunch (referring to a stack of 25 resumes in response to a Craigslist posting).
Why this is flawed thinking: This is one of the costliest mistakes you could make. No matter how desperate you are, you are better off getting someone on a temporary, contingent, or trial basis rather than hiring under rushed circumstances. Make informed, data-based hiring decisions. Learn more about effective hiring for sales in this post and our eBook.
As the CEO, you have the power to determine whether your business is a place where sales excuses can thrive. As long as they do, they will impede your sales and revenue growth.
I’ll continue this theme in our next post, which will explore excuses that sales managers tend to fall back on.
Do you have more examples of excuses? Share them in the comments.