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5-Minute Sales Coach: Show your people how to make changes, not excuses

Human Resources
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Do you have a salesperson who’s not performing up to expectations? If you have more than a handful of reps on your team, the answer is probably — and unfortunately — yes. If you asked your poor performer why they were falling short, what would they say?

Bill McCrary, a speaker, coach and trainer, founded Strategic Partner, an authorized Sandler Training Center, in 1997.Here’s my guess: They’d blame a slowdown in their market or the economy. Others might blame your company (or even you). And, of course, their customers are always a problem, right? These are excuses! But many salespeople carry these justifications as firmly held beliefs.

When it comes to where salespeople place the blame for lackluster performance, we can generally divide them into three groups:

Winners. These are the folks who are usually the high performers. Who do they blame when things aren’t going well? Themselves. They DON’T make excuses. They’re willing to take risks and change their approach to ensure they perform up to their potential. They’re more likely to say, “I’m not getting it done. Can you please help me figure this out?”

At-leasters. These are often the middling performers, and their thought process goes something like, “I’m not in the top, but at least I’m not in the bottom.” We’ll discuss these folks more in a minute.

Non-winners. As you can probably guess, these salespeople are full of excuses as to why they don’t meet their goals. They refuse to see themselves as the problem, so they don’t accept accountability for their own uninspiring performance. Taking risks and making changes are foreign concepts to them.  

How can you apply this information to your team? Two ways:

Show your At-leasters how to be Winners. Don’t let your average performers “at-least” themselves through life by making excuses and not believing in themselves.

The middle-of-the-pack mentality can be hard to shake. Say a middling salesperson has a string of successes—he wins 10 projects in a row, when normally he would expect to win just five of those ten. What will happen next?

Believe it or not, he’s likely to slack off. Here’s why: He identifies himself as a middling performer. His mind is telling him, “I’m good, but I’m not that good,” and he’ll slide right back to his comfort zone of a 50%-win rate. Odds are that you’ve worked with someone like that at some point.

Your mission? Convince him that he can be “that good” by adopting a winning mindset and having the courage to change!

There are many occasions when a good salesperson demonstrates courage—sometimes just a little, and sometimes a little more. Making another cold call, declining to put together a quote for a job when the conditions aren’t right, asking for an up-front contract, or talking about money are just a few examples. 

Another situation that demands risk-taking is when a salesperson creates constructive tension to discover a prospect’s pain. Most of us don’t look forward to having uncomfortable conversations with anyone, much less someone we’re trying to do business with. Most salespeople hate tension and want it to go away.

But guess what? Winning salespeople want a prospect to get uncomfortable with a situation they weren’t even aware of (until the salesperson asked the right questions). Finding the prospect’s pain is the only way to determine how to fix that pain. Top salespeople are willing to help prospects see the truth despite a little discomfort. They view that as their job, and they’re right! 

Tell your staff the good news: Most salespeople rely on excuses. Emphasize to your team that by taking responsibility for their own performance, by being accountable for meeting their goals, and by being willing to take risks and make changes in the way they deal with clients and prospects, they’ll be light years ahead of their competition.   

Reach Bill McCrary at 803-771-0800, or

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