"The Navigator" News Blog

Is it a Barrier, or Just an Inconvenience?

Barriers can prevent success, but inconveniences just make it a little tougher.  Knowing the difference can be key to succeeding.

One thing about Kansas City – if you don’t like the weather, just wait a while. Or, as I’ve done today, drive around a bit, and you can get several different weather options. Today, I’ve had several out-of-the-office appointments, and I’ve encountered the following weather patterns: Clear and chilly, sleet, freezing rain, light snow, heavy snow, and back to freezing rain – all within a four hour period, and within about  40 miles of driving. Now, do I love weather like this? Nope (which makes my wife’s suggestion of ‘that winter headquarters in Miami’ all the more appealing). But it’s something that you just work around to make a living.

Which is why I was so surprised when I talked to a salesperson at 1 PM who, he said, was canceling his afternoon appointments (“for safety”) and heading for home. I couldn’t help but ask a few more questions, and found out that his basic philosophy was that the coming severity of the weather would mean that “nothing would get done” this afternoon, and that he might as well be safe and head for home. In his mind, the same weather that had inconvenienced me by forcing me to drive more slowly and had gotten me cold and wet while outside had become a barrier to him doing his job. Which, as the title of this article suggests, reminds me that what is an inconvenience for some is a barrier for others – and since, as salespeople, we make our living overcoming obstacles, it’s best to have as many inconveniences as possible.

The truth is that a lot of people are pretty good at turning inconveniences into barriers. Here’s an example: One of the most common things that I hear from people is that “cold calling doesn’t work in my business.” Really? So I start probing to get an understanding of the facts that led them to that conclusion. Seldom is there a strong database to support this position. However, their perception that cold calling doesn’t work has allowed the prospecting process to move beyond an inconvenience to become an obstacle. Here’s the thought process:

  1. I (or my salespeople) prefer not to prospect (Prospecting is an inconvenience).

  2. Since I (or my salespeople) prefer not to prospect, I (they) do it as little as possible.

  3.  Since I (or my salespeople) prospect as little as possible, we have no success stories from our industry to share when it comes to prospecting.

  4.  Hence, prospecting doesn’t work in my industry. (Prospecting is a barrier).

Notice that the conclusion – that prospecting is a barrier – is driven not by experience and data but by a lack of willingness to push through and do what is inconvenient. This is the same as my salesperson friend who is unwilling to go to the inconvenience of completing appointments during the bad weather, and instead, goes home in front of a nice fire with a cup of cocoa (Okay, I’m imagining that last part).

Many times in selling, we have to be able to make decisions – good ones – regarding what is an inconvenience, what is an obstacle, and what is a barrier to selling. If you set your bar too low, you will cost yourself money by overstating the inconvenient as a barrier. Here are some examples:


  • I can’t get to the decision maker.
  •  They won’t allow me to present a proposal in person.
  •  My computer is down.
  •  I don’t have any prospects to call.
  •  I’m not getting any referrals.
  •  My quota is too high.
  •  The weather is too bad to drive.

You get the idea, right? Each one of the above are inconveniences; they make the selling process harder or more time consuming, but none is a direct barrier to success. Barriers, on the other hand, can close off a path to success:


  • Nobody buys my product anymore (hey, somebody sold the last buggy whip – the key is, do they really not buy it – or just not from YOU?).
  •  My customer doesn’t have any money (if this is literally true, it’s a barrier).
  •  My prospect is contracted to a competitor, and there’s no way to legally break it.
  •  The roads are closed.

The truth is that I had a hard time coming up with a list of real barriers, because most of the things that we state are barriers are inconveniences of varying levels. Our job as salespeople – what we are paid to do, and what our employers and customers expect us to do – is to push through the inconveniences, overcome the obstacles, and adapt and improvise to make the right things happen and drive business. To do less is to fail. Make sure, when you think about bailing out of a particular customer, function, or duty, that you have examined the situation and found it not to be an inconvenience, but a barrier.