When we consider how we take responsibility for the things that happen in our lives, we need to be introspective and see if we do so internally or externally.  Do we look to what is happening around us or within us?  How a sales rep manages the things that happen in their daily sales life will be an indicator as to whether or not they will be successful at their job.

More often than not, people tend to make excuses when things go wrong.  Part of the problem may be that it has been ingrained in us that it is not our fault when something happens.  However, we need to all learn to take responsibility for the things that happen and think about how best to deal with it.

For instance, a sales rep may blame a lost deal on the pricing being higher than that of the competitors.  While that may be a fact, it is not the only thing that makes or breaks a deal.  Other excuses include things such as the other company having better service or a better product.

Whereas, a good sales rep will work to figure out how to beat out the competitor despite the obstacles in the way.  Excuse making can be devastating to the career of a sales rep as it will keep them from moving forward and achieving higher revenue.

As the sales manager, you may not even realize at first that the reps are making excuses.  Again, this has been ingrained in our way of life and how many of us were raised.  When they come to you with excuses about a lost deal you try to empathize with them and talk things through rather than actually getting to the root of the problem.  It is important to listen to the sales reps; hear what they are saying AND how they are saying it.  Learn not to accept the excuses because they can’t move forward if they are not accepting responsibility for their lost deals.

A sales rep may have certain obstacles to get past such as a higher price but they have to decide what they can do to drive more business and earn the sale.  Perhaps they need to work on the relationship building aspect or maybe they need to sell other features above and beyond the price line – is there a better warranty?  What does your company offer for service?  Find out what you do better than the competitor and sell it!


Tools You Can Use


Part of getting your sales reps to take responsibility is understanding how to figure out if they need to. To aid this, there are tools that the sales manager can use to know who may be making excuses and how the team is going to get past it.  For example, the Sales Candidate Assessment looks at how people deal with responsibility.

If a candidate scores poorly on the responsibility aspect, that does not mean that they should not be hired; it means that you have to make it clear from the start that excuses are not acceptable in your company.  Make sure they know that you will not accept excuses and that they will have to take responsibility for their work.

That is not to say that you will not be there to coach and teach them; that is part of your job.  But together you need to have open discussions about deals and what may have gone wrong and then find a way to fix the issue.

If you put the right culture in place from the beginning then people will follow that.


What You Can Do


If you have done the evaluation you can formulate a plan to move past the excuses and move on to getting your sales reps to take responsibility.  Make sure you ask the right questions to find out what really went wrong on the deal.  Why did it fall through?  Then listen to the response you get and make sure that the sales rep is taking responsibility and have an open discussion about what needs to be done next.

Ensure that you require the excuse making to stop.  Listen closely to the answers you are getting and address any concerns.

Have an honest open conversation so the sales rep can figure out how they go about the day and how they respond to negative things.  Then, find out how they respond to a lost deal.  Do they look outside or look inward?  Did they do all they could do to win the deal?

Furthermore, the sales rep needs to take control of what they can do better.  Development happens when someone will accept what they are doing wrong.

Once you are enlightened to the problem it is easier to see.  When you know that someone is coming to your office and making excuses put a stop to it immediately.  Give them time to reflect if need be and talk to you when there is more clarity about what actually went wrong.  Remember: you get whatever you are willing to accept; if you accept excuses then they will make excuse

At the end of the day, force sales reps and others in your life to take responsibility for their own actions and then you will see forward movement in business, in relationships, and in the quality of life.


Keep Filling The Funnel

We would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think about this episode. Please feel free to reach out to us if there is a specific sales topic you would like me to cover.  You can find me on Twitter at @Sheajohnr or email me at  And if you get a chance, please feel free to review us on iTunes.


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