The Worst Excuses You Give Your Sales Manager When You Miss Quota

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This year, sales managers heard it all from reps who missed their quotas.

Much like high school kids will say, “The dog ate my homework!” sales reps have innumerable excuses for why they simply couldn’t reach their goals for the month, quarter, or year. Whether a deal unexpectedly pushed or there weren’t enough high-quality leads, there’s always someone else to blame for poor sales results.

But before you start justifying your own failure, remember that your manager has heard it all before – and none of these sorry excuses are going to make your missed quota miraculously disappear. No matter what you say, your manager isn’t going to forget about your poor performance. Stop using these terrible excuses for why you missed your quota, and try to sell smarter instead.

“My quota is too high – there’s no way anyone could hit that number.”

If “no one” could hit that quota, why did one of your coworkers do exactly that? You shouldn’t be talking about how impossible your quota is when you know that your peers are selling successfully and hitting the same goals. You didn’t miss your quota because it was set impossibly high; you just didn’t put in the right efforts at the right time. You can always find ways to improve and drive yourself to reach that higher number, but only if you put in the necessary work. Don’t talk about how you can’t do your job if you still want to have a job.

“I had 2 HUGE deals that pushed out of NOWHERE. Nothing I could do.”

Some deals will push – it happens when prospects can’t make up their minds quickly or have a slow buying process. However, saying that you were relying on a few big deals to reach the goal line means that you’re not planning well as a rep. You were probably putting too much time into working these two deals, ignoring other, smaller deals that were probably more likely to close. You need to work on your sales forecasting skills, and be more realistic about what deals are going to close and when. You can’t keep relying on whales to bring in the big dollars on the last day of the quarter – that is a recipe for failure.

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“It’s a slow time of year – no one’s buying right now.”

You say that it’s slow in the winter because it’s cold, and it’s slow in the summer because it’s hot – you can’t have it both ways! Most reps don’t just have a monthly quota, they also have an overall quota for the year. Many sales organizations already take it into account if summer is busy and winter is dead. Your quota is probably a little smaller now than it was during the busy season, so you simply cannot lean on this excuse for why you missed your number.

“I got undercut on price by a competitor.”

This one is tough. Every business has competitors in the marketplace, and sometimes you’re going to lose out on price. However, the way to beat out your lower-priced competitors is to focus on proving the value of your product. Emphasize the ROI, and show that the product is truly worth their money. If the pricing really is an issue, it’s not just an issue for you. If the entire business is having problems because of pricing, management will decide whether to make a change. But if you’re the only one with this problem, it might be that the problem is you.

“I closed a lot of deals, but our ASP (Average Sale Price) is too low.”  

This excuse is the opposite of losing a deal because the price is too high. The rep is essentially saying that if the price of the product were higher, they’d have hit their quota. However, that same rep would almost certainly complain if management actually raised the prices, making it harder to compete on price and leading to the excuse above. A higher ASP might sound good, but in reality it would end up with you complaining about being undercut on price by competitors instead. There’s just no winning in this scenario.

“The leads were terrible this month. I didn’t have enough leads.”

There’s an old joke you may have heard: “The food at this place is really terrible – and such small portions too!” Sales reps often echo this joke, saying that the leads are bad, and also, that there are never enough of them. While lead quality can be a serious business issue, again, there are other reps closing deals from the same sales pipeline. You have to work the leads you have, instead of wasting your time wishing for better or more leads. Work on what you can control – improving your selling skills to close more deals.

“I took vacation, so didn’t have enough time to close deals.”

OK cool, no more vacations for you then! Your company is revising its vacation policy to allow NO Vacation Days for all sales reps; I’m sure your coworkers will be thrilled. If you can’t work around your vacations, then you shouldn’t be taking them at that specific time of the month or year. You should figure out when is the best to take time off, so you can still hit your quota. Whether that means the end or beginning of the month is up to you, but you still have to complete you work, vacation or no vacation.

“I didn’t lose those deals; they didn’t buy from anyone.”

Not every lost opportunity buys product from a competitor, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a loss at all. Though losing to competitors hurts, losing to no one at all still hurts the business. Your job is to close the deal and win the revenue. If a prospect opts to buy nothing, that means you didn’t prove to them why they need your product. If they don’t believe they need it, why would they buy? This doesn’t excuse you from closing the deal at all – it means you need to work on your selling skills.

“I didn’t lose those deals; they’re just pushing to next month. I’m going to have a big January.”

Reps always talk a big game, promising that next month is going to be huge and they’ll make up for missed quota then. However, you probably won’t be able to fully cover for your missed quota, no matter how killer of a month you do have. The slate is always wiped clean when you have a new quarter, which is both a good and a bad thing. If you miss quota today, you can’t always make up for it tomorrow.
Next time you miss your quota – whether by a lot or just a little – skip the excuses. Take responsibility for your actions and try to start improving your sales skills today. Look back and learn from your mistakes, analyze your loss reasons, identify your weaknesses and get better at your job. Start working on improving your selling skills, and next month you won’t need the usual excuses at all, because you’ll make your quota with ease.
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