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Posted: June 21, 2011

Are you playing the sales blame game?

Time to enter the "no excuse" zone

Liz Wendling

There seems to be no shortage of people and things to blame for poor sales and lack of revenue. Business owners and sales people who are choosing to play the blame game are quickly finding out that this is one game where there are no winners.

Every successful sale is the outcome of a series of consistent behaviors and actions. Consistent behavior plus sales activity equals results. This is called sales accountability and if you do not have it, you need to get it.

A recent survey revealed that most people view accountability as something that happens to them or is inflicted upon them and they choose to perceive it as a heavy burden to carry. They think about accountability as a concept or principle to be applied only when something goes wrong or when someone else is trying to pinpoint blame.

Many people define accountability this way, so it is no wonder they spend so much time explaining and justifying poor results. Business owners and sales people are no different. Lack of sales accountability produces dismal results and excuse-making decreases sales. No one wins when you suit up to play the blame game.

When sales people encounter a less than hoped for result, they begin preparing their explanation and start reciting the typical tired overused excuses. Here a just a few of the many hundreds I hear sales people use every day:

• The economy is tough, companies are not spending money right now
• It is impossible to compete when our competitors are giving away product
• Our market's shrinking, and everyone's cutting prices
• If my managers would get their act together, we would be able to meet our goals
• Our advertising is ineffective so our leads are terrible
• I cannot make my numbers, the market is too soft.

As a result, thousands of people in hundreds of organizations expend their valuable time and energy justifying their lack of performance instead of focusing on ways to improve it. They are learning to become adept at playing the blame game, covering their tail and crafting their versions of what went wrong and why. It is sad and difficult to watch grown adults choose to play the" blame" game instead of the "accountability" game.

Many weave these excuses so deeply into the fabric of the sales process that they resort to them without really thinking about what they are really saying. To overcome the impulse to blame, sales people and business owners must abandon the "who-done-it" definition of accountability.

Almost without exception, whenever something goes wrong in the sales process or a sale is lost, business owners and sales people often start playing the "who-done-it" game, a subtle variation of the blame game. They immediately begin searching out the person or situation to blame for the failure.
Those who play the game seek only to make sure the spotlight shifts to someone else while they dive for the shelter of excuses, explanations, justifications and disassociations.

A better definition of accountability is to make a shift in the attitude of how you view things. Continually asking "what else can I do to rise above my circumstances and achieve the sales results I desire?" It is the process of seeing it, owning it, solving it, controlling it and just doing it. It requires a level of ownership that includes doing what is necessary and focusing on proactive accountability, instead of reactive excuses.

Creating a disciplined culture in which everyone takes personal responsibility for achieving results and meeting performance levels will separate the winners from losers. Losers talk about why past efforts went awry and why future actions will not work, while winners think creatively, take action and make changes. Are you winning or losing? Changing or blaming? The choice is always yours. Remember, it's not what you sell, it's how you sell.

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Liz Wendling is the president of Insight Business Consultants, a nationally recognized business consultant, sales strategist and emotional intelligence coach. Liz is driven by her passion for business and generating results for her clients. Liz understands the challenges that business owners are facing building a business and selling their professional services in today's market.

Liz shows clients how to tap into and use their innate strength, power and confidence to develop highly successful businesses. She teaches them to create effective, dynamic and fluid client conversations that turn interested prospects into invested clients who keep coming back.

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Readers Respond

Liz, love it. We are on the same page with our most recent columns. High-performers want to be 100% responsible for their results, otherwise they can't change them. They also seek out accountability,because they know it helps them stay focused. If your want to stop making excuses use the 2 buck rule that was in my last article ... it works! By TC North on 2011 06 22
Great, timely article, Liz. "The Blame Game" is aptly named and certainly there's no lack of excuses today! For the individual seller, this requires a shift in attitude, as you said. For the corporate seller, it requires changes from the management level on down or developing skills for "managing your manager." In a culture of "don't accept no for an answer" and "you must be doing something wrong," sellers are forced to spend precious time defending and reinforcing excuses instead of collaborating on solutions or moving on to more promising sales opportunities. By Julie Hansen on 2011 06 21

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