Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

NAVIGATION - SEARCH

The Cost Of Bad Employees - January 26, 2019

If you’ve been in business for even a few years I am sure you’ve heard or read this statement: “If you think good employees are expensive, try bad employees”. It is a phrase that executive leadership and HR groups have come to use as a mantra over time. But, this statement is often overlooked by sales managers, and I believe it is due to either being in the weeds or believing the issues of a bad employee will resolve themselves.

 

Let’s first look at this from the eyes of the sales manager viewing the sales rep. Generally I’ve found many sales organizations are very slow to recognize and react to bad reps (bad employees) because they are focusing on the accomplishments and successes of the good employees. Bad employees get pushed aside which then make them worse employees. And, it is typically too late to correct bad employees, thus leading to many terminations. Sales managers get frustrated quickly when their bad employees are not performing. They begin to ignore them and then these employees go on about their day as lone rangers.

 

The term bad employee means a lot of things to a lot of sales managers. The rep may not be the right fit for the organization. They may be a behavioral problem. They may have a bad attitude. They may blame others for their shortcomings. Regardless, they are expensive in terms beyond just compensation. Whatever the issue, not all bad employees are bad people, and some can be changed.

 

The same goes for a bad employee that is in a leadership position. Bad sales managers can be very expensive and again not just in terms of compensation. How many good reps has the sales manager lost or pushed away? How many deals did the sales manager blow due to ego or lack of trust with the reps? How many manage through fear tactics instead of mentoring?

 

The basic cost of an employee is quite easy mathematically. Salary, commission, bonus, taxes, benefits, etc. all determine the loaded cost of any one employee. What cannot be easily calculated is the cost of the employee, good or bad, in terms of client relationship management skills, likeability, leadership or mentoring qualities, business and personal connections, and reputation in the marketplace. These are serious factors that must always be taken into consideration when calculating the cost of a good or bad employee regardless of their specific position within the company.

 

Ultimately, the value placed upon a good employee is priceless, while the cost of a bad employee is expensive. Very, very expensive.

Do As I Say Not As I Do Should Not Exist - January 19, 2019

I am now forty-seven years old and the phrase “do as I say and not as I do” has been around long before I was born. I remember my uncle, who smoked like a chimney, use this phrase with me as a child. I had a lacrosse coach that was overweight and couldn’t run a 100 yard dash preach to us about conditioning and used this phrase at every practice. I had a manager in my early career constantly attempting to coach us younger sales people, but would never lead by example, and always fell back on this phrase. I even used it myself once a few years ago with my son. However, I quickly said, “what the hell am I doing”, and I sat down with my son for a longer conversation.

 

The phrase “do as I say and not as I do” should not exist….ever. At the core it is saying that I can talk the talk but cannot walk the walk. Or, in sales, it’s saying I am lucky and can’t really sell by virtue of real sales training or practices. And, that folks is the real shame in using such a phrase in the first place and why it should not exist.

 

The bottom line is this, if you want someone to follow your advice, then you must be able to lead by example. Eat your own dog food so goes another phrase. In other words, success can and should breed success. A successful sales person should be in a position to lead others by their own successful actions and not simply words alone. I had a mentor say to me “bad habits be damned”. Everyone has a bad habit or two. We’re all human, but bad habits are just that, bad habits, and they should be damned. Bad habits should be acknowledged and corrected.

 

If you use the phrase “do as I say and not as I do”, besides leading by poor example, what are you also telling yourself? I have found over my many years of managing people that those that use this phrase are also liars, not necessarily to other people, but to themselves. These are the people that tend to be successful ‘B’ level sales people but struggle to break through their own ceiling and reach ‘A’ level status. These are individuals who complain about being overweight but order the double cheeseburger for lunch. These individuals tend to congratulate their peers for promotions but oftentimes ponder out loud why they’ve been passed over even though they hit their sales numbers.

 

Look around you or maybe even in the mirror. How often do you hear this phrase? What does hearing this phrase do to your mood or attitude? Look a little deeper at the person saying it and ask yourself if you truly believe this person has reached their own potential. What might be holding them back? As you ask yourself these questions do one more thing, look around for the successful sales person that never uses this phrase. Identify this individual and engage them in conversation. Now ask them why they don’t use it. Ask them what has been a driving factor in their success. Engage those who cannot only talk the talk but who can walk the walk.

When A Leader Falls Behind - January 12, 2019

While I typically write about sales or sales management, and in many cases sales management can be an example within this week’s post, managers (i.e. Leaders) in any areas of business can be the target. Starting a new year off should bring about a positive attitude and level of excitement that is contagious within your organization. But, what happens when a leader falls behind?

 

I am working through this scenario now, where a business unit leader I know quite well is falling behind in her organization. Not only am I seeing a shift in her attitude, from genuinely enthusiastic and optimistic, to being more worried about new business coming in, almost to the point of panicking. Yet, her counterpart in the business unit is thriving, and could not be more excited about the growth of their organization. Is she afraid of growth? Or, is she afraid she cannot handle / manage the growth?

 

Having watched this scenario unfold for the past six months I believe we are witnessing a case of someone that is simply not equipped to be in a leadership position in a rapidly growing market. She is by no means a bad employee nor is she a bad person. Quite the opposite in fact. However, while many within her organization will speak highly of her technical qualifications, the same cannot be said about her leadership skills. Unfortunately, this is clearly a situation where she should be task focused on client work, and thus removed from a leadership role. So, what comes next?

 

As referenced above there is a counterpart in a co-leadership role within this organization. While I have been working with their CEO over the past few months, it is evident to this gentlemen that he should be rewarded for his knowledge, work ethic, and management capabilities by being given the single-lead role. I say he is aware because instead of boasting about how good he is, he is the epitome of team player. He continues to show support for his co-leader while he takes the lead in tough conversations and detailed business decision making.

 

Their team members have shown their growing level of respect and trust for him as well by their own actions. They seem to rely on his advice and guidance more than his co-leader. This is being witnessed throughout the organization. And, the CEO for whom I am engaged by, he too leans more on one versus the other.

 

In processing the circumstances, I have recommended a promotion for the one co-leader to become the main, single leader of the entire business unit. I am not suggesting a demotion or termination for the other, rather a shift in responsibility. It is best to have the right person in the right seat on the bus. To do so requires the CEO to make adjustments from time-to-time and will afford this woman the ability to put her skills to work where they are best suited. Relieving her of her leadership responsibilities may have a negative fallout and she may resign. That is a risk this organization must take in order to ensure the right leader is in the right seat. However, she may also breathe a sigh of relief and her work product may improve.

 

The moral of the story is this – leadership roles in any organization are too critical to allow the wrong person to be in the right seat – or the right person to be in the wrong seat. It must be addressed quickly in order to minimize the downsides of this wrong leader being in a seat they are simply not suited to be in.

The New Year and The Next Better Version of Myself - January 5, 2019

One of my favorite authors, Matthew Kelly, for whom I’ve referenced in several past posts, often talks about striving to be a better version of yourself. This is certainly not a new concept nor a concept or phrase that Matthew coined, rather this is a time tested personal methodology. I call it a methodology, even though that may be a slight misuse of the word, because a methodology is a practice or a management technique. And, in my humble opinion, striving to be a better version of yourself is just that, a personal management methodology.

 

As I wrapped up 2017 and went into 2018 I had the best of intentions to grow my business, do a better job at attending church on a more consistent basis, work on my marriage and fathering skills, engage my family and friends more, and enhance my overall health through nutritional and exercise practices.

 

Now I begin 2019 having accomplished many of my goals, coming close with some, and completely missing the mark on a few others. My business grew at a slower pace than anticipated due to a very poor hiring decision that I take full responsibility. While I did turn the ship around, I was at the helm nonetheless, and now must make up for this oversight. My relationship with my wife and children is stronger, in part because my kids are getting older, and my wife and I are headed toward our 20-year wedding anniversary. I tried very hard not to make excuses for engaging friends and family, even when I was having long weeks. And, while I still have a way to go with my personal health plan, I am further along than anticipated.

 

I’m sharing this update because, as Matthew Kelly says, you can never stop working on becoming a better version of yourself. Waking early each morning I have a personal conversation with myself. I review who I was and what I did yesterday; and, I ponder on the day ahead in terms of who I want to be and what I need to do. In each statement I seek to be a better version of myself.

 

Asking questions and being 100% honest with my answers is the key. Did I do the right thing for myself or my family or my business? Was I being fair to the person I was engaged with in conversation, negotiation or debate? Am I following a moral compass and being ethical? Am I acting in a way that is in the best interest of all involved? Was I respectful?

 

My goals for 2019 may seem in many ways like a repeat from 2018, but in an effort to commit myself to becoming a better version of myself on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis, I must set these goals in writing for all to see and hold myself accountable. In order to be a better version of myself I will grow my company both in terms of revenue and profitability. I will assist my management team in hiring the most qualified and culturally fitting candidates. I will strive to add new clients that share my company’s outlook and values.

 

On a personal level I will continue to work on my personal relationships including with my wife, kids, friends and family. I will strive to turn the other cheek when someone insults me. I will look for the good in others and not their own shortcomings – because no one is perfect – especially me. And, I continue my commitment toward improved health through diet-nutritional management and planning, as well as daily exercise.

 

Becoming a better version of myself is not easy and the job is never done. A daily grind, so-to-speak, and a challenge I am certainly up for. I encourage all of those around me to become better versions of themselves, and through this post I encourage you to do the same. Read Matthew Kelly if you need guidance in this area. He will not disappoint.

Goodbye 2018-Hello 2019 - December 29, 2018

Well, here we are at the conclusion of another year. I am writing this final post of 2018 sitting on my balcony overlooking the ocean in Florida. I don’t share this to make anyone jealous but as a reminder that it’s important to recharge the batteries every once in a while.

 

2018 has been another interesting year for me both personally and professionally. On the personal side I’ll keep it simple – my kids are getting older. We began looking at colleges for my son this year. Yep, I’m feeling a little old. It has been a good year and one that I feel lucky and blessed. Me, my wife, and my children have made another trip around the sun in healthy fashion. We’ve enjoyed quality time together as well as with friends and family. We did some traveling at the best times, when we all needed to recharge our batteries, and stayed close to home when the Cleveland weather couldn’t have been better.

 

2018 from a business standpoint was a bit of a roller coaster ride. I made a bad hire about a year ago which I didn’t fully realize until late spring of this year. By then there was some sales damage that, even though I worked hard to overcome, I did not fully clean up until December. The year finished strong which I am excited about because 2019 will start strong. At my fulltime gig we gained two dozen new clients. In my freelance work I had the opportunity to counsel several fantastic organizations and individuals.

 

Onward and upward as the old saying goes. As my batteries are being recharged so is my spirit. As an old dog I’m not afraid to learn a few new tricks. I plan to take my experiences gained throughout 2018 and apply the lessons learned, the new tricks so to speak, and become a better version of myself in 2019. I am excited to be surrounded by a solid team. I am even more excited for some of the changes yet to come. Growth can be stressful, but growth is also exciting. Growth does not come without risk, but hell I’ve never been afraid of risk. So, onward and upward. May your 2019 be like my 2019 – a year filled marked by the love of family & friends and by growth & success. Cheers and Happy New Year.

Holiday Termination Follow-Up - December 22, 2018

Two weeks ago I answered my final Q&A which dealt with the termination of a sales rep a few weeks before Christmas. I received several emails in response which varied from total agreement to being called callous for not being considerate of the holiday timeframe. I was challenged to consider the sales rep at Christmastime and asked why I wouldn’t consider waiting until January.

 

Let me pose this question in reply: Is January a better time to terminate a failing sales rep? What if I were to tell you that she had a January birthday and would also be celebrating her 5 year wedding anniversary? Should we then wait until February?

 

Simply put there is no good time to terminate any employee for any reason. Termination is termination. It is not fun, not easy, and emotional, even though it should not be. Termination is firing. Firing sucks whether you are the firing manager or the employee being fired. I am not callous nor do I lack emotion. In fact, I am empathetic to the young lady being terminated right before Christmas. Considering the worst of the situation, losing your job right before Christmas can be considered downright cold. It may cause the person being fired to have an absolutely miserable holiday season. They may have left the company crying uncontrollably. Or, maybe they have a sense of relief and will go through the holidays with a weight off of their shoulders.

 

In answering the question two weeks ago I did point out that we never know what someone else may be going through in their personal life. But, personal is personal and business is business. Regardless of what time of the year we’re in, business decisions must be made, and such decisions must be made with the best of intentions for the company. Keeping an underperforming sales rep around for another month or two simply delays the inevitable. It costs the company more money in terms of salary, benefits, and taxes. The relationship between the sales manager and the sales rep will continue to be strained putting stress on both people and possibly others within the sales organization. Needless to say, keeping the sales rep around does nothing for either the company or rep.

 

Because we don’t know what someone may be going through and time of the year should not be a factor, let’s take a different view for the sake of this light debate. The underperforming sales rep has been miserable for some time. She recognizes and acknowledges that she is underperforming, and while continuing to try to sell, she is not successful. Unfortunately, while she is not happy, she also has not found a new opportunity yet, but she has been interviewing. She’s not really been looking forward to Christmas because of the stress of work. Each and every day she wants to leave and is hoping a new opportunity comes through soon. Then she is terminated. With HR being involved she is provided a three-month severance package and is immediately shown the door. The weight of her poor sales performance has been immediately lifted. She has time to relax and refresh during the holidays which also gives her additional time to spend with family and friends. And, with the severance package in place, she can now concentrate on the interview process with other companies after the holidays are over. What if? I understand this is a hypothetical, but it may be the real case. Regardless of her story, I stick by my previous post and answer. The company must do what is best for the company, the sales manager, the rest of the sales team, and in the moment not based on the time of year or date on the calendar.

Q&A Thank You - December 15, 2018

Over the past several months I’ve used my blog posts to answer reader questions. I hope these posts have provided you with some insight into sales, sales management, competition, and other sales related topics. I have enjoyed all of the emails and found myself answering as many questions direct in reply as I did through these posts.

 

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions. I am always seeking topics to write about and would be happy to answer in the form of a post or a direct reply. Next week I will be getting back to regular posts based on requests and ideas you’ve shared. Stay tuned…and until then…Keep On Selling.

Q&A Week 24 - December 8, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: It has become crystal clear that I need to terminate a sales person before the end of the month. The mandate to terminate has come from my vp of sales and our vp of human resources. Christmas is only a few short weeks away, and while I am in full agreement that she must be let go, I feel terrible about the timing. She’s not a bad person, just not a good sales rep. She has been on two separate performance improvement plans this year with little-to-no progress made. My company does not want her to be on the sales team at the start of the new year. How would you handle this situation?

 

A: This is a tough one from a personal standpoint and very straight forward from the business side. Unfortunately, the business is the most important side to take with this person. While I am sympathetic to the timing, with Christmas in a couple of weeks, your sales rep has been clearly underperforming for way too long. I’m sure there are reasons she was not terminated sooner, which can be debated at another time, but nonetheless you are now faced with the termination conversation.

 

I would treat the conversation as if it were any other time of the year and try to ignore the fact that Christmas is days away. Facts are facts and the sales rep must go. HR should be involved in the conversation, making sure that any termination information is properly relayed, and the conversation should be handled no differently than if it were in September. She must be informed that her poor sales performance has resulted in her termination effective immediately (or whatever date HR has set). Explain the multiple second chances that were given but results were not achieved. End it there…period.

 

It would be my hope that she will accept her termination given the multiple warnings and second chances. But, remember that we never know what someone else is going through in their lives, especially during the holidays which can be more emotional for some. If emotion does creep into the conversation or if she brings up Christmas, New Year’s, or the holiday season in general, be careful not to be baited into showing sympathy which can result in other termination related issues. Simply remind her that regardless of the calendar, her performance (or lack of) is the issue and nothing else. Her position has ended and the calendar has nothing to do with it. Do not discuss the holidays or any other personal matter she may throw into the mix.

 

I do feel for your situation and I understand that my advice lacks all emotion. It must lack emotion from you, the sales manager, because this is a business issue and not personal. One final piece of advice from my own HR consultant. Under no circumstances do you contact this sales rep after the termination. Again, the holidays tend to be an emotional time for many, even for you firing someone right before Christmas. You must remain stoic and not emotional. The now former sales rep needs to grasp the concept that sales is based on performance and not emotion. 

Q&A Week 23 - December 1, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: I have a new sales manager. She was hired into the company about three months ago and I like her very much. She does not micromanage the sales team. Instead she manages more as a mentor and less as a bean counter. She’s great at giving guidance and advice based on her experience which is a lot better than our previous manager. Now, as the year is coming to a close, she wants us to write our own business plan for the upcoming sales year including goals and quotas. Our previous manager never had us work on a business plan. He always told us what our monthly, quarterly and annual sales quota would be without any input from us. I’m at a bit of a loss on where to begin or even how to put this plan together. Please help.

 

A: First of all, congratulations on getting a new sales manager, someone that seems to be a very welcome change. She sounds great and someone I could get along with easily. If she is a true mentor as you’ve described, I would immediately share your concerns with her. She will understand and welcome the opportunity to guide you through the planning process. She may want you to have certain ideas or goals in your plan. Ask her what she would like to see, what her expectations are, and even what format the plan should be in. Have a few ideas in mind as well when you approach her. You should know where you will likely finish the year based on the quotas that were already set for you. Will you increase sales in 2019? By how much? Will you add new accounts? How many? These are basic ideas to start your planning. Share this information with your new manager. Gauge her reaction on your current numbers and how you feel you can increase in the coming year. Also, how do you want to grow personally and professionally? Do you want to learn a new skill or become a sales manager in the future? Share this with her and ask for guidance on how you can incorporate your own goals into the business plan. Engaging your new sales manager now will help you deliver a plan that is more in line with what she wants and needs. Keep one thing in mind, your sales manager must also prepare and present a plan to her superiors, so working collaboratively with her on your own plan will help her with her plan. You may well win additional favor with her by taking these proactive steps.

Q&A Week 22 - November 24, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: We’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving and the holidays will soon be upon us. My sales team, although small, have accomplished more than I could imagine this year, and I’d like to treat them to a nice thank you gift. As a sales person and sales manager, do you have any suggestions? I cannot give everyone in the company a bonus this year, so I’m concerned about doling out money. The team already have flexible work schedules, so days off don’t seem practical as a gift. They each have relatively new iPhone’s, but their laptops are getting old. Would new laptops be good gifts?

 

A: My answer is entirely based on my personal opinion. A good friend, Brian, showed me his latest sales tool and I am very jealous. If I were one of your sales people, I’d be grateful to receive a new iPad Pro instead of a new laptop. Loaded with all of the necessary software, such as Word, Excel, etc. the iPad Pro with a fully functional keyboard is a fantastic replacement to a heavier laptop. With all of the same capabilities and the syncing function with the iPhone, the practicality of the iPad is a great way to thank your team while at the same time giving them a business tool that is easier to use. This is also a gift that is geared toward sales and not necessarily others within your organization. It can be considered a gift but also an upgrade to their existing laptops.