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Top Tier Training & Development Inc. | Seattle, WA

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Whether quotas are arrived at through meticulous calculation or by throwing darts at a dartboard, one thing is for certain: a sales rep will have an excuse for why he/she didn't reach it.  Sometimes the reasons are legitimate, sometimes they aren't.  But at all times, the sales rep should be given the proper tools, training, and motivation to ensure they have the best chance of making that quota.  Read the excuses and determine if you're giving or have been given all that is needed to succeed.

Sales quotas and targets are business tools most salespeople are measured by.  Professional sales is a difficult, complex employment position that most people do not understand and many underestimate the complexities of the job in order to become the best at it.

Sales quotas are leading revenue drivers for many companies.  Marketing, operations, engineering, and general and administrative overhead usually are tied to corporate revenue forecasts.  When sales quotas are missed, the entire company must realign budgets to manage the loss of revenue captured.


The general model for evaluating salespeople in terms of quota success is:

·        If sales reps hit 100% or more of quota –management doesn’t care how difficult they are, they will learn to deal with it.

·        If sales reps hit 90% of quota – management still thinks the rep is a good person and they want them on the department’s ball team

·        If sales reps hit 70% of quota – management talks about taking the rep to the back room and put them on a 30 or 60 day workout program.

·        If sales reps hit 60% or less of quota – managers may say it’s time to say goodbye.


When a new salesperson is hired, it is often based on a hybrid of reasons, including the communication skills they use during their interview, the strength of what they did in their prior or current employment, and the available pool of candidates at the time.


Here are the top 23 excuses heard directly or indirectly from our clients’ teams when consulted about why they cannot or will not hit their sales quotas. Have you heard (or used) any of these?


23 Excuses – and yes, these are real – and some of them are even legitimate.


  1. My management teams’ sales quota is made up in the backroom so our quotas are like a joke.
  2. I get paid enough in base salary, so I don’t need to hit my sales quota.
  3. Don’t tell my boss, but I hate sales.  I’m just hanging out earning my salary and benefits until the right thing comes along.
  4. No matter how hard I work, I’ll never hit quota – no one ever has, so really it’s just a number that we all know is not real.
  5. No one asked me about my quota – management doesn’t have a clue what happens out in the real world.  I can’t ask for help either, as my manager just messes up my calls and makes promises that I am stuck with
  6. It’s hard to work to something that makes no sense.  And when ever I ask about my quota they tell me to “go get ‘em tiger”, “you can do it”, and walk away.  Oh yeah, and then they say “let me know if you need any help”.
  7. In our company, when we get close to quota, they change the number.  I don’t think they really want to write any bonus checks. 
  8. The guy in the next office hit his sales quota by holding on to one gravy account.  Why should I work any harder than I do?
  9. I made a lot of money in real estate, so I’m really just trying to keep busy.
  10. 10.I’m dating the president’s daughter, so I don’t have to sell.
  11. 11.My hands are tied – I can’t sell what we can’t deliver, so I just don’t understand the pressure to hit numbers that simply aren’t going to happen.  They tell me to sell more, but then refuse orders.
  12. 12.I have worked 30 years in sales and this is my last job.  I’m tired and frankly comfortable coasting.
  13. 13.My boss told me to do “what ever it takes” to get the business – I got the business, hit my sales quota, but got punished because the margins weren’t high enough. 
  14. 14.I am planning to get a new job in a year or two, so I’m just waiting to get two years of work on my resume to make it look good.
  15. Our product/service doesn’t work – it’s not my fault no one wants to buy it.
  16. I’d like to see my boss make these numbers.  Maybe if our management team were out in the field more, they’d understand how ridiculous these numbers are.
  17. My boss is a jerk.  He gave the best accounts/territories to everyone else.
  18. I would have hit my sales target, but my boss messed up my biggest deal by interfering.
  19. I’m the only salesperson in my company and my boss does not want to sell, so I don’t have to hit my assigned sales quota.
  20. Even though I have a quota, I am not really in sales.  I’m more of a customer service person.
  21. Our competition will always outsell us – their prices are lower and the sales reps get a budget for things like hockey games, fishing trips, dinners…
  22. My spouse makes more money than me, so I don’t really need to hit any particular number and the base pay here is pretty good.
  23. I have a great management team.  They don’t measure performance so I don’t have a sales quota.


Are you or your salespeople making any of these excuses?  In sales, it’s not what you did yesterday – only what you are going to today!  What are you doing to consistently hit your goals or to make sure your salespeople are making their quotas?

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