Joe Ellers: Four Top Excuses Not to Call . . .

. . . that salespeople don't even realize they've made.

Joe Ellers, STAFDA Sales Consultant
Joe Ellers, STAFDA Sales Consultant

I want to let you in on some of the reasons people can’t or don’t make sales calls. In the recent sales-time management course I gave, I spent a fair amount of time telling people that the important thing for a professional salesperson to do, if they want to be more effective, is frankly to make more sales calls and spend more time trying to sell.

When I work with salespeople, I always ask them about how they set calls, how they schedule their time, how they manage their lives, and more. I get a lot of excuses. Some are blatant excuses to not have to work; others are truly trying to do the right thing but are simply totally misguided.

Having coached thousands of salespeople, there are nine primary excuses people make. Here are the top four. Make sure you don’t fall into any of these traps.

1. My customers don’t make appointments on Monday
mornings, or Friday afternoons, or too close to the holiday, or whatever. What happens here is that salespeople have absolutely eliminated a huge amount of prime selling time because they are absolutely, totally convinced the customer will not talk with them during certain portions of the work week.

If you can’t make a sales call on Monday morning, okay. But look at it this way — that’s 10 percent of your total week gone. Can’t make sales on Friday afternoon? That’s another 10 percent of your week gone. A four-hour block Monday, a four-hour block Friday — you are now down to 80 percent of the total work week. Twenty percent is gone — the week hasn’t even started and 20 percent is gone.

Then people say, “Joe, you know you can’t make calls the Friday before Labor Day, or Friday before Memorial Day, or Friday before Easter, or the week before Christmas. And the week of Thanksgiving, of course, you can’t make calls. You can’t make calls the week after Thanksgiving. You can’t make any calls between Christmas and New Year’s Day. And yada, yada, yada.”

What happens is that your salespeople have taken two or three months out of their lives, out of their ability to sell, because they say you can’t make calls.

I agree with you to a certain extent. You can’t make drop-by, drive-in calls during those times. But you can always set a sales appointment if you have something of value to say. As a matter of fact, some salespeople have found that the best time to make calls is on Friday afternoons and Monday mornings because they are the only person out there. In your industry, you know a lot better than I do when you need to make calls, but I want you to understand you can’t afford to give up those big blocks of time.

2. I can’t make sales calls today because I have all this paperwork. Paperwork is a funny thing. I have dealt with paperwork my entire life and I have found something very interesting. Paperwork almost always takes less time than a person thinks it takes.

When I sit down next to an inside salesperson, I often notice that the IN basket gets remarkably cleared out by 10:00 in the morning, because when the phone doesn’t ring, they actually take something out of the IN basket and do something with it. When I walked past for the previous two or three weeks, the IN basket was often full and never seemed to move, but when I was sitting there and the phone wasn’t ringing, then the person pulled the stuff down and did something with it.

Paperwork is almost always less of a problem than we think it is — but it is always a good excuse. I have something else to say about paperwork: it is not supposed to be done during prime selling time anyway. Paperwork is supposed to be done, by and large, after and/or before prime selling time. Between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., I do not want a lot of paperwork being done; but that is an excuse.

3. I have to go to the office the first or last thing every day. I was blessed with a great boss, a wonderful boss, in my very first sales job. He taught me a whole bunch of good stuff and gave me a whole bunch of good habits and just was an overall good guy.

But I’ll never forget one morning. I was selling copy machines and I was in the office at 8:45 a.m., loading up a copy machine a customer wanted to look at as a demo, when my boss happened to walk in and catch me standing around the office. He said, “Joe, why are you here?” I said, “I’m loading up this copy machine to take to my customer.” And my boss said, “You know, if you’d come by here yesterday afternoon at 5:30 on your way home and loaded the copy machine, you would have already been at your customer’s office 45 minutes ago, making a presentation. You could have added one more sales call to your day, which probably would have increased your income some. Joe, if you could do that enough days . . .” See what I’m saying?

So you have to look at whether you go to the office first thing and last thing every day because you really have to or because it’s just a pattern that you have for wasting time. I try not to go to the office at all if possible. Because the problem is when I get there, people are going to get me involved in things that maybe I shouldn’t be involved in. The phone is going to ring, there will be something I have to do, one of my colleagues will ask me to do something — and all of a sudden, a couple of hours of my day are gone and I have very little to show for it.

I’m not in favor of that, so if I have to go by the office first thing in the morning, I like to be out on the road by 7:30. Or if I have to go by my office last thing in the afternoon, I don’t want to get there till about 5:15 or 5:30 — and if I have to drive 2 1/2 hours to get there, I don’t want to get there till 7:00. You catch my drift? I want people to be out in the field, making calls, as often as possible — and that includes me.

4. I need to respond to e-mail. There are no nice words to describe how I feel about e-mail. I love e-mail when it’s used effectively. I mean, I love it. It is a really valuable tool for sending information back and forth. But too many salespeople have become slaves to e-mail.

A customer perhaps should be told — and should be educated — on the fact that sending me an e-mail is not quite as effective as leaving me a voice mail. I will
respond very promptly to a voice mail — I’ll get back to you in an hour or two because I check my voice mail every day. But if you send me
an e-mail, I will assume you didn’t need it badly or you wouldn’t have sent me an e-mail.

E-mail is not something a professional field salesperson needs to spend all day hooked up to. Unfortunately, a lot of our customers love e-mail and they really are using it not only as a way to not talk with us, but also as a way to transmit information and transmit requests. It is a real problem in our world today.

If you’re going to check e-mail, I recommend you check it at 7:00 a.m., with the rule you be at the office by 7:30, and check it again at 5:00 p.m. so anyone that e-mailed you during the day gets a response back when they come in first thing in the morning. Of course, that requires a fair amount of customer education.

Some of you, I know, don’t agree with me, but if you’re sitting there doing e-mail — and I know, it has happened to me, once I start answering them, by the time I’ve answered the first batch, there’s seven more. And, while I’m answering them, there’s more, and it absolutely can keep me in the office.

Those are four of the 10 biggest sales pitfalls. Avoid them — they are huge time wasters: deciding that you can’t make calls so you’ll do something else; exaggerating the amount of paperwork you have to do; first and last visits to the office; and the e-mail crunch. Those are all pretty severe. CS

Joe Ellers, STAFDA’s Sales Consultant, is a sales trainer and strategist to the distribution and manufacturing industry with extensive experience in building industry sales, distribution and contractor's perspective. Joe has consulted with hundreds of companies all over the world, and personally trained thousands of sales staff and managers
over the last 25 years. You can find additional information on Joe’s Web site at