If It Weren’t For COVID (and other excuses about why you’re not hitting quota)

Stop complaining excuses
Photo by Omar Prestwich on Unsplash

Excuses? Trust me, I know. 2020 has been an incredibly hard year with challenges that many of us have never had to deal with before. 

Between people losing jobs and sales drying up because people were scared to spend money, salespeople have had a lot to complain about this year. And they’ve had a lot of excuses for why they weren’t hitting quota.

But here’s the thing… 

There are always going to be excuses and there is ALWAYS something to complain about in sales. Salespeople love to hang out in clumps and wail about the injustices of their world. It is a lot like a poker room where regulars collect to talk about all the hands they got unlucky in.

I know this to be true because I used to be one of them, both in the poker room and on the sales floor. Worse than that, I was often the person bringing these perceived injustices to light. My constant cynicism and questioning made it easy for me to find cracks in any facade and to not buy into the mission.

I would have a bad attitude when management wouldn’t bend over backward to make concessions to close deals that could help me get to my goals. When I sold mortgages in 2010 (not long after the mortgage bubble), the deals had to fit in a very tight box or else the bank couldn’t make it happen. I remember being mad about the fact that my mortgage goal seemed impossible to hit when EVERY packet I sent up got disqualified.

When a business loan didn’t get funded, I would be irritated about, “why the company I worked for was trying to set me up for failure.”

Medical doctors excuses

Imagine the field day that version of me would be having right now in the time of COVID.

Add in the fact that as I am writing this, it is almost the end of October and we are in the 4th quarter. Typically, this is balls to the wall time and here it is, 2:15 in the afternoon and I am writing a blog post during “work time.”

This is not avoidance or excuses, but I am sure it would look like that to most.

It is about trusting the process and taking ownership of what I can impact.

I was working with my business partner in the website design agency when the victim mentality of sales started to fall away from me. You might not realize it yet, but that is exactly what we are talking about, the victim mentality of sales. Welcome to my Ted Talk.

A victim in this sense is someone who believes they have no control of their environment, and when things don’t go their way, they blame everything but themselves. When we’re in this state, we love to look around for any reason why a deal didn’t close. Any reason than a failing on our part.

I remember one time when I was frustrated with a manager because they wouldn’t waive fees on a decent-sized deal. The deal seemed so good to me because it was five transactions at once, but it didn’t have the cross-sell potential that made it a REALLY good deal worth waiving fees in the eyes of my boss.

Didn’t see that at that time because I was making excuses and just looking at it from one angle, mine.

For sure, I took no ownership of the situation at all. Was so pissed about how my boss was not empowering me to close deals. 

What would that version of me be saying in a situation where a global pandemic is making it hard to get on the phone with people?

Frustrating sales excuses

One of the first lessons I learned when I moved into my second B2B role was to not pitch to everyone, even if some excuses came out of my head.

This was one of the very first things that blew my mind as it ran counter to everything I had learned up to that point. Why would I pass up any opportunity to pitch a new client? After all, “coffee’s for closers,” right? Didn’t I have to pitch anything that moved?

The answer is no.

That was the first chink in the armor of my old school sales mindset. It would also lead to me changing my mind about larger ideas in sales.

  • If I didn’t want to pitch to everyone, who did I want to pitch to? 
    • People who saw value in what I did and how we did it. 
  • How could I determine that? 
    • Ask questions to find out instead of assuming.

If I sell a complex marketing solution to fortune 500 companies and my aunt calls me asking about marketing for her small t-shirt printing company, am I going to spend time pitching her a solution?

I could, but it doesn’t make sense.

Do I even spend time vetting this deal and qualifying it to see if I should pitch?

I could, but it doesn’t make sense.

If I am not going to pitch in that situation or carve out time to be immediately available for that conversation, what other types of conversations should I be avoiding?

This is why pain is such a better lever to use in conversations than features and benefits. Everyone thinks they want all the features and benefits, but there are only certain ones most people actually care about and are willing to pay for. 

If my complex marketing solution allows you to create a lot of content effortlessly, is there going to be any value to the person who doesn’t have a hard time sitting down to create content? Most likely not. While they might be open to hearing more about it, that doesn’t mean that they NEED it or are willing to PAY for it. Putting together a proposal to pitch them and then turning on your follow-up game is probably a waste of time. 

When you don’t take ownership of who you pitch to, you are giving up your ability to own other parts of the sales process. 

Looking back at my situation of being mad about the deal not being discounted, I could have done any number of things differently.


  1. Ask my manager what a deal needs to look like for it to qualify for any kind of discount so that I can be better prepared.
  2. Look for low hanging fruit to turn a decent deal into a good deal on a regular basis.

At that moment:

  1. Ask the prospect if the fees were a deal killer?
  2. Do the, “I can ask management but they are going to ask me about X, Y, Z. What can I tell them about those areas when they ask?”
  3. Own the decision myself.

I know things have been hard. Believe me, I know! And trying to stay positive and figure your way out of a bad situation isn’t easy. Again, been there. It takes some major shifts in your mindset to do it. But there are things you can do to take ownership of any situation. And try to turn it around with no excuses!

  • Discuss your issues with management, and if there are valid reasons for lowering quota, a supportive company will. If they don’t, maybe it’s time to beef up the resume.
  • Find areas where you can pivot or try something new. Markets and trends change no matter what else is going on; sometimes you have to change with them.
  • Sell with the intent to help others and build trust. Not just trying to hit quota, you’re setting yourself up for failure because your prospects are going to see that. 
  • Qualify your prospects and only sell to those it makes sense to sell to. Otherwise, you’re hurting your numbers, wasting your time, and annoying unqualified prospects.
  • Stop complaining! If nothing else is working, do your research. Find out how other people are surviving and apply it to your situation. Or just ask for help. Complaining and finding excuses doesn’t get you out of the hole. 

You’re thinking you would be successful if we weren’t in a pandemic? I’m curious how many other things you’ve let stand in your way? Maybe it’s not COVID, maybe it’s your process or your mindset. The good news – we can improve it. The bad, you have to realize it first and then work hard to fix it. 

But if I can, you can too.