10 Excuses Only Mediocre Salespeople Make

Only mediocre salespeople use excuses to justify why they can't hit their numbers.

I’ve heard it all, and chances so have you.

Sales excuses are devices that justify why someone can’t, won’t (or didn’t) do something. Often, they are lies and self-fulfilling prophecies selling you and your business short.

A serial excuse-maker – a sales manager, rep, or even leader – is a liability for your business and sales team.

Here is a list of the most common salespeople excuses that are unacceptable in any sales organization:

  1. Quota is too high
  2. It’s a slow period
  3. My leads have gone dark
  4. Our marketing sucks
  5. We’ve got bad leads
  6. Our product/services aren’t good enough
  7. It costs too much
  8. The market is drying up
  9. Our competitor is better
  10. You’ve got us doing other things

Let’s detail the 10 most common excuses mediocre salespeople give that a great salesperson wouldn’t.

Let’s get to it.

Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman– not the attitude of the prospect.

William Clement Stone

Quota is too high

“… we can’t hit those numbers. They’re way too high.”

Quota should not be easy to hit; otherwise, what’d be the point of setting them?

Quotas and sales goals help the company grow—not stay comfortably stagnant.

You cannot agree to a quota and then turn around once you’ve officially missed it and discuss why it is unachievable.

That is an excuse.

That is unacceptable. 

If every team member misses the target, you have a leadership problem. It may not be that the targets need redefining, but the systems, processes, and incentives are in place.

On the other hand, if only select members of your sales team, the problem lies with the individual, not the target.

It’s a slow period

“… everyone in my pipeline is on vacation …they are out of the office for a few weeks.”

There is no such thing as a slow period, except for the few days before Christmas to New Year.

Besides those few days in the holiday season, every prospect is reachable and available. Decision-makers still work on vacation.

It’s a lazy salesperson’s out.

If you’re solving someone’s problem, vacation does not matter.

No reply means your offer was not compelling. You didn’t position it right. It was a bad close.

And then the sales representative will say: But they are away the whole summer.

Let’s get real. Most people go on vacation for a week, maybe two weeks. But that’s usually about it.

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We evaluate your compensation structure, tech stack, sales playbooks, sales strategy, sales process, hiring and onboarding to ignite revenue growth.

My leads have gone dark

“… we had a great conversation, but now they’re not getting back to me.”

This is just another version of the “holiday excuse.”

Everyone is busy. Period.

If you’re not closing deals, it’s not your prospects; you’re floating your deals.

A floater is when sales professionals get the meeting or deal to a certain point and expect the prospect to do the rest. A floater takes control away from the sales professional and will diminish success outcomes.

If sales managers can solve my problem, I’ll take a 15-20-minute meeting with that person and commit because I need the problem solved.

You will lose the prospect if your offer is not compelling or you didn’t pitch it to the decision-making team or person.

These are not the prospect’s problems; they are excuses salespeople use to cover up the inability to close deals.

sales leader or sales team speaking to prospect

Our marketing isn't providing support

“… but where is the support from the marketing team. We are on our own here.”

Again, it’s all marketing’s fault, right?

If you need some sales collateral to help arm your sales process, be proactive and make some.

High-performing sales professionals collaborate with the marketing team to deliver solutions. Talk to them about the content, resources, assets, collateral, etc., you and your sales team need.

Be proactive and stop using other departments as an excuse.

I do not believe in excuses. I believe in hard work as the prime solvent of life's problems.

James Cash Penny. J. C. Penny Stores Founder

You're giving us bad leads

“… but it’s the quality of the leads in my pipeline.”

The truth is that lazy, negative, or mediocre salespeople will blame everybody else before they hold any form of accountability. And it stems directly from poor performance.

Now, am I saying marketing is perfect?

Probably not. Marketing is never perfect. 

Can leads be weak?

Yes. Leads can be weak– but it’s part of the job, not an excuse.

God forbid these salespeople to take some real accountability or responsibility and get your leads. Try cold calls, own lead generation, further qualify new prospects, or the previous client follows up with other clients.

These excuses emerge when they tell you why they won’t make a quota or miss it.

That tells you everything you need to know.

If the leads aren’t as qualified, take the initiative and talk to the marketing team as soon as you see a reduction in quality. And no, I don’t mean bursting into their office and blaming them. Salespeople need to be solutions-focused and growth-minded.

Don’t just complain—take accountability and do something about it.

Rose Garden Sales Accelerator Process
We evaluate your compensation structure, tech stack, sales playbooks, sales strategy, sales process, hiring and onboarding to ignite revenue growth.

Our product isn't good enough

“… our prospects have reservations about the quality of the product.”

If prospects can’t see the value in your product or service, the fault lies with your salespeople.

The problem is most salespeople do not know how to communicate effectively

In most cases, these salespeople have an issue with:

  1. Own familiarity with the service or product, talk around the product, and read instructions or a list of features and benefits.
  2. They don’t understand their prospect or the product users.
  3. They don’t know how to communicate the product solution to the prospect.

Now, people unfamiliar with the product are lazy and uncountable and should immediately be transitioned from sales teams.

People who have a problem with the other two need to level up, learn new techniques, or change jobs.

As a salesperson, your responsibility is to improve your selling abilities and commit the customers to a deal. Figure out a way and stop using the product as an excuse.

sales leader speak with prospect and sales team

The price is too high

“… the price is too high for them.”

People pay to solve problems.

Now, you didn’t qualify the lead properly or did not provide the value or motivation to buy.

Either way, you’re not solving problems. You’re making them. 

If the leads aren’t qualified, take the initiative and talk to the marketing team as soon as you see a reduction in quality.

If prospects can’t see the value in your product or service, the fault lies with your salespeople.

Both are unacceptable. Next…

sales team

The market is drying up

“… closing is too difficult during this business climate, and people just aren’t buying right now.”

Sales representatives love to talk about everything except how and why they will hit their numbers.

They talk about the economic downturn, work-life balance, poor mental health, international unrest, diversity inclusion, etc., but all these “excuses” ask why they can’t close deals that month.

I have heard it all before.

External factors, like the economy, are essential, but the problem is sales reps are blowing issues well out of proportion. You can’t control the economy, so focus on what you can control.

Things can always be better.

Acting like these factors is the end of the world distracts us from success.

To prevent these factors from becoming excuses, I use our daily stand-up meetings to talk about action items or problems that I see persisting in the team. Then, you may role-play or discuss solutions with the team to work around the issues.

sales leader and sales reps

Our competition is better!

“… our competitors are killing us on this.”

Is your competitor going to be better at something?

Yes. Probably.

Can you learn something from your competitor?


Know your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. That goes without saying.

Generate insight, then use innovation and growth-minded thinking to create differentiation. Exploit it. People will pay more money for better solutions.

I feel like all of this goes without saying. This should be a regular topic in sales stand-ups, training, and role-play. If it continues, this individual does not have the growth-minded attitude you need to grow your team.

My workload is too much

“…you got me juggling too many responsibilities, and the sales cycle has too many obstacles.”

This is embarrassing. Using time as your scapegoat is lazy and unacceptable.

If you can’t organize daily activities, attend meetings on time, speak to prospects, and complete follow-ups – you’re a low accountable.

That is all I have to say on that subject.

Do you have accountability in your team?

sales hiring and sales team

Your team culture lacks accountability if your team uses excuses to talk themselves out of missed quotas, consistently negative attitudes, and poor performance.

Do you know how to find creative solutions to these issues preventing team progress? Can you be creative? Can you lead? Can your team learn from you?

If you can’t answer those questions, your business needs help.

Let me be clear, if you were going to find the solution to your sales problems, you would have seen and solved them by now.

You need support and help to solve them.

Rose Garden is solutions-focused, so if you want me and my team to ignite your revenue growth, we will do so with our Sales Accelerator Process and Team Assessment.

Ali Mirza

About the author:

Ali Mirza is the Founder & CEO of Rose Garden, a national sales consulting organization, and featured in Forbes, Inc, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Business Rockstars, and The Wall Street Journal.

Ali is a highly sought-after public speaker presenting at multiple national conferences on innovative ways to accomplish transformational growth on your sales team.

Rose Garden provides unparalleled support and guidance to growth-minded founders via sales strategy differentiation, world-class sales culture creation, and exclusive playbooks, processes, and scripts to position them for limitless growth.

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