I hear a ton of reasons why your business is not growing. Between conferences, national sales meetings, firm retreats, and leadership groups, I have the honor of speaking at over twenty events this quarter alone. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to discuss business with some of the brightest minds on the planet. Yet, at each of these events, there are a few excuses I hear that always stand out as the biggest obstacles to success. I’ve outlined them below along with suggestions to get past them.

“It’s the economy.”

The hard reality is that consumer markets can struggle based on the overall economy. Consumers often buy based on desire more than need (how many of us really NEED a larger flat-panel television?). However, if you sell to business and government, you might be facing buyers who have to make tough choices about where to spend a smaller budget. The companies that are achieving record growth despite “the economy” are the ones who are helping their clients discover and solve important challenges.

You and your team must know, in tangible terms, the underlying needs that you solve for your clients. If you don’t know what they are, your client is not likely to figure it out on their own.

“We just need this one thing”

Every organization has a member of their team who is sure that they would be successful growing business if they just had that one additional “thing.” It might be a new feature in your product, it might be access to a resource you don’t have, or it could be additional capabilities for your firm. It sounds like this: “We would have won this deal if could have showed the client that we had X.” Unfortunately, it is just an excuse. If you acquired that feature, rest assured that another excuse would have replaced it. Take ownership of success and failure… it’s not about one feature.

“People prefer email”

In our electronic world, I always encourage people to pick up the phone or meet with people face-to-face. I often hear, “My clients prefer to just use email.” Electronic communication provides many great benefits. However, if you had a serious medical issue, would you want to have your physician diagnose and treat you via email?  How about via text message?  I don’t think so. If your clients see you as addressing a critical business challenge for them, they’ll want to speak in person. If you keep getting deflected to email, you are probably not addressing an important issue. Email is a great tool to confirm agreements, but not one that should be used to negotiate deals.

“We need more leads”

We’ll place this in the category of quantity over quality. My clients who are realizing the most explosive growth are not the ones chasing the most opportunities. In fact, it is just the opposite. They focus on the places where they are most likely to deliver dramatic results for their clients. They work hard to define the major problem they are best at solving, and then define the impact to their clients of not solving that problem. Think of it like fishing. If you have the wrong bait or are fishing in an empty lake, casting more lines won’t help you catch more fish. But, if you cast one line in the right lake with the right bait, you might catch a big fish.

Take responsibility

The one thing that each of these excuses shares in common is that they deflect responsibility to something other than the person doing the selling. When I interview potential salespeople for clients, I often ask them to describe a deal they lost and why they lost it. The top performers always attribute a loss to their own actions. The ones who don’t succeed always blame something else. Which one are you?