Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


A Sense Of Urgency - August 30, 2014

Do not put off until tomorrow what should be done today. You’ve done your homework and have made a decision, so sign now and close the deal. Be aggressive and not so passive. Have a sense of urgency in what you do.


A sense of urgency does not mean you need to fast-track your sales process, nor does it mean you should take short cuts in an attempt to close a deal sooner. A sense of urgency is about tone, attitude, demeaner, and ultimately being professionally aggressive in chasing after your goals. I’ve been reminded of this quite a few times recently. There have been scenarios in my organization, as well as with a few sales people I counsel on the side, and so I’ve been giving this topic a lot of thought.


To a certain extent you can blame the weather. It is late-August in Northeast Ohio. After a cooler and wetter summer than most would have wanted, we seem to finally be getting the warm, dry days we’ve been craving. Of course, that means no one really wants to be in the office. The kids only have a few days left of summer vacation. Lake Erie is becoming ideal for boating. Pools will be closing right after Labor Day. And again, no one really wants to be in the office. So, maybe this nice weather is wearing on sales people’s sense of urgency. Fine, I see where you’re coming from, but you need to get past it.


A sense of urgency should not be something you turn on and off like a light switch. A sense of urgency should be as much about who you are as what you do. And, if you are in sales, and more importantly striving to become or maintain ‘A’ level sales status, than get that sense of urgency going and keep it going. So what I am talking about?


A sense of urgency is as much in how you carry yourself as it is about the words you choose. I am in a service industry and so I will leverage my experience as an example. When I find a prospective client that seems like a great fit, I want this prospect to know how I feel. Therefore, I will explain why I want to do business with them from the very beginning. I will find opportunities to remind them just how and why I believe this is a great fit. I will ask often about their feelings. I will make every opportunity presented to me one to ask the client for their business. And, ultimately, above everything else, I want my sense of urgency to become contagious. I don’t just want but need the prospect to feel the same as I do about the pending relationship. I need them to feel that the opportunity is so important that we cannot delay. I need them to sign on the dotted line today not tomorrow.


This whole sense of urgency thing is not 100% full proof. It does not work perfectly in every sales scenario. But, an ‘A’ level sales person strives to have a sense of urgency 100% of the time. And, when they do, the right type of aggressive behavior shines through and the passive behavior goes away. When this happens you will see a dramatic increase in your close rate. You will also have a more energetic client base. 

Sales Is Not One Sided - August 23, 2014

I was recently faced with two similar scenarios. The first was with a prospect that I had been meeting with for a few weeks. After each meeting I would evaluate the discussion, review potential red flags in moving forward, outline reasons to continue or not continue the discussions, and then plan accordingly. The second was a sales opportunity with an existing client. We have been discussing, in both face-to-face meetings and conference calls, how to expand and enhance their marketing presence. I followed a similar path as with the prospect and outlined the ups and downs for the potential project and what steps, if any, need to take place to move forward.


In both cases, with the prospect and the existing client, I chose to walk away from the opportunities. Yep, that’s right, I walked away. And in both cases the person I had been dealing with accused me of being a poor sales person. They felt I was not looking out for “THEIR” interests. They wanted me to do what they wanted because I was a “vendor”. Well guess what folks, sales is not one sided.


By now there have been enough articles written about the “customer is NOT always right”. This is true, but how you handle each of these cases can either be a benefit or a detriment to your company and your sales performance. First and foremost, if the customer is always right, then you and your company are always wrong. Second, being treated as a “vendor” often times means that you are bidding on a piece of business based on nothing at all but price. Forget your knowledge and experience. Forget that you want to put the client’s interests first. If you are not ready to always say yes, do as they ask, and for a certain price, then you will be replaced.


I believe in both scenarios referenced above, I would lose the respect of my colleagues, and I would lose a bit of self-respect too, if I continued with the sales calls. In both cases there was enough reason to know that we were not a good fit. In both cases the prospect and the client may not get our very best work because they were not going to allow our team to flex their creative and technological muscles. In both cases the attitudes of the prospect and client were that they knew more than my team and we were just going to be hired hands to do as we’re told.


Simply put, we were going to be hired into an unhealthy business relationship, and that does not work for us. So, I did my job, and I excused myself and my firm from consideration. I can handle their criticism of my sales approach, no problem. I wouldn’t be able to handle the disappointment of my team afterward. Sales is not one sided. Remember, you have your company’s and your own interests to keep in mind too when selling. When the prospect’s or client’s needs, approach and beliefs match yours, you have found a good sale. 

A Trusted Advisor - August 16, 2014

Earlier this week I was fortunate to have lunch with my Director of Sales and someone he considers his “trusted advisor”.  It was a bit of a spot check for my guy to make sure he was keeping his confidence in a time where sales were getting a bit tough. The conversation over lunch was fantastic and everyone agreed that a little pep talk can go a long way.


I’ve been thinking about this meeting all week. Even this morning, an unseasonably cool August Saturday morning when I should be thinking about my plans for the day, I find myself thinking about this meeting again. Although brief in the grand scheme of a week of productivity, it reignited many feelings I hold personally about “trusted advisors”, and so I wanted to share a few with you.


I find the term, in and of itself, to be unique. We are all advised from time-to-time. We had academic advisors in college. We have financial planning advisors helping us save for our children’s college education. We have spiritual advisors. We have health & wellness advisors. But what is it about adding the word “trusted” in front of advisor. To me it is someone that encapsulates all of the above and so much more.


I’ve had several “trusted advisors” in my life. For example, as I moved through high school, then into college, and beyond throughout my career, I’ve defined my father as a “trusted advisor”. He has a legal background, was a coach, has served on many a board, has donated his time-talent-treasures many times over, has been married for 45 years, and continues to this day to be a phone call away to hear me out, discuss an issue, and give the issue thoughtful and careful consideration before ultimately offering his advice. He is a “trusted advisor” because “he’s been there and done that”.


There are a few others in my life that I hold in similar regard. A good friend that I can turn to when I am struggling with a decision at home. A colleague that balances my sales knowledge with his technical knowledge. So, who do you have?


If you’ve read some of my previous posts you’ll know I refer to ‘A’ level sales people quite often. Here is another example where I cannot think of any ‘A’ level sales person that does not have a “trusted advisor”. You should too. Finding someone to call your “trusted advisor” does not need to be a difficult process. It may be someone that you interact with daily. It may be a parent or an uncle. It may be a former teacher or coach. No matter what, here are a few things to consider when seeking out such a person: they should have an understanding of your career goals and mission; they should have a similar background in business (or other like career); their personal lives should also be similar; and, they should be a bit older (and hopefully wiser) than you.


It is a combination of these traits that will provide you with a person that can give you the best advice because they understand you and the situation you face. They’ve most likely been there before. And most importantly, their success is a path you can see yourself on. 

Handshake or Contract: Why You Need Both - August 9, 2014

I only do business on a handshake. Get the upfront contract, you know, the verbal commitment. Put the agreement together and send it over. I’ll give you the okay in an email; that should suffice.


Over the past 20+ years of sales and management I’ve heard it all. The deal. The agreement. The contract. And, sales reps always ask me, what is the best way to proceed toward a close? Is a handshake enough of a commitment? Do we need a written contract? Which is better? And, my answer has never changed – You Need Both. That’s right, you want to do business with someone because you’ve developed a relationship, sealed with a handshake. But, you must also protect your interests and your new clients.


Sales can be a tedious and emotional process. In fact, it should be, emotional that is. Sales can take time and when it does it tends to build a bond between the sales representative and the prospective client. The relationship becomes emotional and when emotion is in play things can be said that may sway the deal either in your favor or the prospective clients. Emotion can be a great selling attribute. You want to develop trust and respect. You want to engage on the services now or sell your product now, but you also want to have a long-term relationship so you can sell more down the road.


When it comes time to close the deal, by now your inclination is to shake hands, maybe break bread, and exchange the pleasantries that go along with the newly formed relationship. So what exactly was promised along the way? What are the specifics of the project, the service or the product sold? What payment terms were agreed upon? What guarantees or warranties are in place?


A contract is a business tool and should be used as such. Just as though every ‘A’ level sales person knows that budget must be discussed very early on in a sales call, so must the topic of a contract or written agreement. It must be made clear to your prospective client that the contract is a tool that you’ll use to keep his and your best interests and intentions clear. Your relationship is valuable and you wouldn’t want anything misinterpreted.


You should be prepared to share your contract language early in the process. If the prospective client has a contract they’d prefer to use, request a copy, and make sure you can live with the terms or negotiate. The worst feeling for a sales person, and the prospective client, is to watch a deal fall apart because the contract process was not managed up front. Trust me, I’ve seen this happen many times, when the contract is managed early on in the sales call the handshake will still be there and the relationship will be stronger. 

Ask For Help - Really It's OK - August 2, 2014

As a parent I am often approached by my children and their friends with a request for help. It can be something rather simple like raising the seat on a bike. Or, it may be more complex, like an interview by my son’s classmate for a school project. No matter what the request, large or small, I appreciate the fact they even ask.


I also pride myself on asking for help. I don’t know everything (although my wife may disagree with my statement). I seek advice on a daily basis whether it be sales, financial, a DIY fixer-upper around the house, etc. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I learned a long time ago that it’s easier to ask for help or advice than to go it alone. There are others that have gone before me that have the experience to help guide me.


So, why then do sales people always try to go it alone? I believe that the same trait driving sales people for success also drives them to strive for success on their own. I’ve seen this so many times in ‘B’ and ‘C’ level sales people, but not in ‘A’ level. Why?


An ‘A’ level sales person has reached this desired level of success by admitting that they cannot go it alone. They know when and where and how to ask for help. They are not ashamed but rather humble to be asking for someone else to help or provide advice. They learn from these experiences which ultimately make them a stronger sales person.


Remember: not knowing something is not a sign of weakness. Not knowing how to handle the situation or find the answer is weakness. Ask for help. Approach your seniors. Talk among your peers. Join a network of other like-minded professionals. Track the ‘A’ level sales people you know. And always seek to learn when you ask for help.