How to Inoculate Your Sales Team Against the Excuse Virus

By Gregg Gregory 

Excuse-making, is a behavioral virus that’s wormed its way into businesses everywhere, at every level. This particular virus doesn’t need to mutate – it’s already lethal. It’s not seasonal; it’s an affliction for all seasons. It can turn the healthiest of businesses into bedridden patients on life support. It’s airborne, too: to catch a really nasty case of it, all you need to do is listen. To spread it, just open your mouth and let it out.

And to contain it? To kill it? To prevent it from infecting your sales team and management in the first place? For that, I’ve got a three-part business Tamiflu of my own.

Hire the Right Salespeople and Managers to Build Your Team’s Resistance to Excuse-making

Think of your star salespeople and managers as white blood cells who cruise the bloodstream of your organization, smothering excuses wherever they’re found, whether actively or passively. Actively, when they counter excuses with solutions. Passively, just by succeeding where others don’t – after all, it’s hard to say you can’t when others obviously can.

Like white blood cells, you need a sufficient count of the right salespeople and managers to clamp down on nascent disease before it becomes a full blown catastrophe (I know an overactive immune system is not such a good thing when it comes to H1N1, but humor me). So how do you inject more of them into your team? Identify the traits you want to emphasize in your organization. Find candidates with those traits in abundance by using proven assessment tools (and no, an interview is not a particularly useful assessment tool, as I’ve written elsewhere). Hire them. Watch excuse-making dwindle.

Turn Your Organization Into an Excuse-Free Clean Room

This is the business equivalent of spraying Lysol everywhere: simply stop accepting excuses. When an excuse can’t find a place to stick and fester, it dies. Kill it even faster by asking what the excuse maker would do differently, if he or she couldn’t make the excuse – which they can’t.

Know What Sales Health Looks Like

Define expectations, measure performance against them, and hold employees responsible for results. Sound simple? It is, but you’d be surprised how many businesses fall short in this area. If you don’t know what constitutes a healthy organization for you, though, how will you know when you’re sick? How will you know when you’re better? And what defense do you have against excuses?

Just as in disease of the biological kind, it’s important to treat the core malady of excuse-making, rather than just the symptoms, which range from poor morale to a lack of sales that will put you down for good. But with the right people, the right environment, and the right metrics in place, you can beat the excuse virus and look forward to a healthier bottom line in every season.