"The Navigator" News Blog

Stop Making Excuses!

In this article, we dissect the nature of excuses as well as some common sales excuses.

Have you ever had one of those instances where you hit your limit of patience? I did recently, and I want to share that moment with you. Earlier this week, I had a meeting set up with a salesperson. The salesperson had been referred to me by a friend, and I had accepted the meeting largely out of courtesy to the person and in recognition for the referral. I didn’t have a burning interest in buying, but I was willing to listen and there was an outside shot of a sale for the guy.

So what happened? You guessed it – he called at meeting time, complaining about a traffic jam due to a wreck on the highway. He wasn’t moving, and could he show up late or reschedule? Since I had just gone through the same traffic jam 30 minutes before, but found an escape route and took surface streets, I wasn’t inclined to cut a lot of slack. The truth is that my calendar was (is) packed fairly tightly, and a missed appointment represented a missed opportunity. I told him that I’d wait 20 minutes (more than fair), and if he couldn’t make it, I wasn’t sure I could reschedule. That was on Monday, and I haven’t heard from him.

I’m sure that he’s telling himself that I’m a bad guy and that he wouldn’t have wanted to deal with me anyway. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it’s not. The point is that it was his responsibility to make the meeting on time. I know for a fact that, based on the location he gave to me, that in 20 minutes he could have driven on the shoulder of the road to the nearest off-ramp and then taken surface streets to my office. He chose not to. This whole episode started me thinking about common sales excuses, and how most of them really represent an unwillingness to get off the highway (most common route) and instead weave some surface streets to get the job done.

“Traffic,” or any other excuse for poor punctuality: Of all the sales excuses, this is the one that I have the least patience for. When you are late for an appointment, it is a signal of poor time management on your part, period. I am seldom late (in the interest of full disclosure, I was 2 minutes late for a lunch meeting yesterday, and it was entirely my fault), and when I am, I don’t blame any outside force.

“The Economy:” You already know that I do recruiting for some clients, and this excuse is a sure interview-ender. Yes, economic conditions have taken their toll on some industries, but I know of no industry that has gone completely inactive. The truth about “the economy” is this: In every industry, some salespeople have thrived, some have survived, and some are going under. If you are one of those going under, it means that you are unwilling to do what those in the first two groups are willing to do.

“I work in a dying industry:” This one is interesting, and I’m hearing it more and more in those industries that are affected by new technologies (such as printing, for instance). The question here is, is your industry dying, or are you a dying salesperson in a dying company? As one of my printing clients put it to me recently, “I think we’re in a last-man-standing industry, and I’m planning on being the last man.”

“(Insert sales technique here) doesn’t work in our industry:” What this one really means is that, whatever the sales technique is under discussion (usually cold-prospecting), the salesperson is unwilling to do it and find out if it works. I have a friend who tried operating a management consulting business. He hung out his shingle and placed some ads, and started networking – but he refused to make cold calls. He said that “cold calls would hurt my credibility.” Well, he’s out of business and looking for a job now – how’s that for credibility?

I could go through a litany of other excuses here, but I won’t – partially because I don’t even like typing them. The bottom line is that each excuse represents (much like my salesperson example that started this story) an unwillingness to get off the highway (the easy route) and look for surface streets that could help get the job done. There’s a great line in the movie Road Trip: “Of course it’s rougher and tougher. That’s why it’s called a shortcut. If it was easy, it would just be called ‘the way.’”

If you find yourself using any of the above excuses, my advice to you is this: Get your butt off the highway. That’s where all your competitors are. Find a side street and start making things happen, instead of letting them happen to you.