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Stop Making Excuses for Your Sales Woes

By Nathan Jamail

How many times have you heard a person say, “it wasn’t my fault” or “I can’t believe someone did this to me” to news of down or lost sales?   News flash: everything is your fault (or phrased differently-your responsibility to own). If we truly take responsibility for ourselves and as a leader to our sales teams, everything is our fault, because ultimately we are the only things we can control.

A great leader can never be a victim and just as important a great leader cannot allow people on their team to be victims. We have all heard the phrase  “crap happens” (or a variation of it), but how we respond to it (crap) determines whether or not a person is a victim. The same goes for your business, the economy is not causing your business to struggle; rather, how your business is responding to the economy is causing it to struggle.

For those looking for motivation, there are many sayings or famous quotes talking about taking control and not being a victim, for instance, Winston Churchill quipped a favorite, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." However, it takes a lot more than reciting famous quotes and great ideas to be a successful and victorious sales leader. It takes a true commitment, time, strong coaching, a willingness to learn and to take calculated risks and most importantly a refusal to be a victim blaming “the economy.” Despite the economy you can motivate your sales team by taking responsibility and placing the correct emphasis on logical sales goals and market share.

There is no room for a realist in sales: Sales people don’t need to be realists; they need to be a blind optimist, it is finance’s job to be realists. The finance department needs to be realistic in setting budgets and expenses based on current trends and forecasts to ensure the financial safety of the company. On the other hand the sales people need to only think of how they will achieve their sales regardless of the situation. When a sales person says “I am not a pessimist, I am realist”, I know one of two things are true:  1) whatever goal or obstacle is causing them to make this statement will stop them from being successful, because they have already accepted it, 2) maybe they accidently came to the sales team from finance, and perhaps they need to go back to finance. This is not a punt on finance by any means; rather it is an understanding that each role and responsibility has its place for a team to be successful.   In sales there is no room for realistic goals and realists. This does not mean that a goal should be a pipe dream, it does mean a goal or result should be logical. The difference between logical and realistic is that realistic has limitations based on someone’s experiences and fears and logical deals only with the action and the allotted amount of time.

The question every sales team should answer when they are faced with an obstacle is “what can we do, that does not require any other departments or things we cannot control, to overcome this obstacle, then do it and do it again?”  If your life depended on it, could it be done? Great salespeople are visionaries who live a dream and find a way to make things happen.

Market share versus industry status: There are a lot of companies in today’s economy blaming the economy and the their industry down turn for their results. This year it is the economy effecting sales, 3 years ago it was the competition cutting the prices of their product or service and before that it was the competition had a competitive advantage with something they didn’t have or the customer had no need. The economy is just another reason  (excuse) why our sales are not where they need to be. This is not to say that the economy or budget restraints are not a real issue, but they are, and will always be an issue. The goal is the same, to increase sales, but the obstacles have changed. That does not mean there are more obstacles, just different reasons for not closing sales.

Unless a company has over 50% market share, the amount of market share will effects a company’s bottom line more than the industry’s down turn.   The solution is to understand how the game has changed and change your game plan to make sure victory is the only solution. For most businesses the solution is to increase market share and that can be done by adding a new market segment or by taking customers from the competition.   This requires a different skill set than getting current customers to buy more or account management. This skill set is not new, but it may be a skill that many veteran sales reps or top sales reps have not used in a long time.

The sales leader’s job is to help get the top reps past their egos and back into skill development and training of getting new clients.   Watch for the fatal sales team mistake:  when a sales leader relies on their top sales people to know what to do because they have been doing it for xx years or because they have always been on top. They will find themselves waiting for the market to change (and perhaps end up closing down completely while they wait), because they don’t change their sales people. To win in sales is to take control of your top sales reps and veteran reps and develop a sales plan and practice.

Victims blame others and situations for where they are in life or their performance and results. Victors and great leaders know that they cannot control every situation; rather they can control their response. We can prepare our best and change when our best is no longer working.   Success and failure, both, are just a result of what a person or team does, and not a permanent state unless you chose it.   The economy and belief between your ears will affect your success more than any stock market, government or competition.  

Read other articles and learn more about Nathan Jamail.

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