Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


The Sales Manager from Hell - September 27, 2014

Not every sales manager should be the sales manager. We’ve all experienced the sales manager from hell at least once in our careers, whether as a rep or as a buyer. So what defines a sales manager from hell and why should you run away from them?


Over the past several months I’ve been counseling a sales representative that was a one-time owner in his company. He and his partner sold their business a little over one year ago and as part of the transaction they were to remain onboard for a period of eighteen months. My client Dan has always been the top producing sales person in the company, and now even in a larger organization, he remains at the top. However, he is no longer the head of sales, but rather reports to the Vice President of the company. Enter the sales manager from hell.


Susan does not trust her employees. She requires employees to be in the office way to much when they should be visiting clients. She requires pre-approval for every expense, even when buying your client a cup of coffee, otherwise she refuses reimbursement. She threatens to put tracking on the sales reps cell phones so that she knows where they are at all times. She admits to reading the reps emails. And she contacts clients to check up on her reps. Trust in her team is a foreign concept to her.


Dan has been completely frustrated. The company he loved so much is now in the hands, at least partially, of a woman that has no idea how to sell, manage accounts, build relationships with clients, and trust in her reps to continue growth. Dan is beside himself and is visibly frustrated. As he comes close to the end of the eighteen month required stay period, it is clear that he is going to immediately leave. With Dan’s 20+ year career experience as an ‘A’ level sales person, you may be wondering why he’s asked me for help.


Dan’s frustration being under the thumb of the sales manager from hell is completely new to him. We’ve been working on how to handle the current situation so that he can exit amicably. But, Dan is concerned about what comes next. He has a non-competition agreement, so he’ll be seeking a new opportunity in a new industry. He’s concerned about entering another organization and being managed by another Susan. It’s been my job to assure him that the Susan’s of the sales world are the minority.


 Sales managers from hell can be toxic to both an organization and the sales reps within. Most ‘A’ level sales people know how to avoid these managers or work around them. They know what to look out for and are careful to manage themselves rather than letting the sales manager from hell take control. So, I’ve been helping Dan identify the characteristics to avoid: (1) keep an eye out for the overly personal questions, maybe skirting the HR boundaries just enough, from the person you will be reporting to; (2) be upfront about your own working style, schedule, time management, etc. and watch carefully the visible reactions from the sales manager (read their body language for agreement or discomfort); (3) ask as many or more questions of the sales manager as they are asking of you (an interview with a new company or for a promotion in your own company is a two way conversation); and, (4) whenever possible, place the sales manager into hypothetical scenarios, and have them explain their management style.


This is an approach recommended for any interview process, but it is very important to use the scenarios as the key to make sure your methodology for selling is a match for the person you’ll be reporting to. And as for Dan, he’s going to come out on top, while Susan’s very bad flaws will eventually be her demise. Sales managers from hell always lose in the end.

What's In It For Me? - September 20, 2014

As a career sales person I’ve had the opportunity to attend many events as a means of client entertainment. Many years ago I was at the inaugural NASCAR race at Homestead (Florida). I’ve been to other NASCAR races, a variety of major league sporting events. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to wonderful cities and dine in some of the best restaurants. And, most importantly, I’ve always, always, always been grateful. Sometimes I believe these fortunate opportunities were mine because of my role in sales. Other times I just feel downright lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Either way, I’ve also made sure to make the most out of each opportunity presented to me.


Not that long ago I was reminded that there is another side to client entertainment: “what’s in it for me?” I was shopping in Costco when I ran into an old client contact Joe. Joe left the client’s organization about 2 years ago to move onward and upward as he put it back then. While he was the director of marketing, he also worked in a sales capacity, and whenever the contract was up for renewal he would ask me for tickets to a Cleveland Brown’s game. That’s right, he came out and asked me, and made sure I knew something had to be in it for him directly.


As we continued to talk he explained that he just started another new position with another new company. He claimed he “didn’t get any good perks you know, tickets and stuff”, from the previous position. I couldn’t believe he was saying these things, but sure enough, there just wasn’t anything in it for him. Well, nothing other than his salary, commission, bonus, benefits and fantastic vacation package. So, he moved onto a new gig in hopes that he’ll get more perks from others wanting to do business with him.


This is a horrible position to take and one that sales people should be very careful of when dealing with a “what’s in it for me?” type of person. Sales people, even the best ‘A’ level talent, want to please a new or existing client. Whether it’s a nice thank you lunch at the hottest steakhouse in town or a couple of tickets to a game, saying thanks with a small token of appreciation is not a bad thing. Most clients are very receptive and do not take advantage. But some do.


Here are a few tips to help you avoid the “what’s in it for me?” group: after a nice lunch the prospect or client suggests another lunch at the same or equally higher end restaurant for the next meeting instead of at the office; when he asks if you can score him an extra ticket or two to the game; when she invites others to the dinner meeting that you’re paying for without telling you or even asking you; when instead of saying thanks for taking them to an event they say that it was good and look forward to the next event (on your dime).


I’m certainly not suggesting that you cease client entertainment. I’ve closed or celebrated some of my largest sales in such a manner. But, I do caution you to watch out for these “what’s in it for me?” characters. They can become a real drain on your time and resources and can keep you from being productive.

The Second Chance - September 13, 2014

Don’t burn a bridge. It is both a business and life lesson that I’ve worked hard to apply daily. Many years ago, shortly after I entered my career, a mentor once shared with me that his largest and most profitable client had, at one time, told him no. In fact, the client did not like the sales approach, the service or the company for whom my mentor was employed. After a two year stint my mentor moved on to another firm, reached out to the client, and began to win him over. But, once again he was told no. This time the client stated that he was just not quite ready to hire my mentor for his services. And so, instead of ending the relationship, my mentor politely and professionally stayed in contact. Not in an overbearing way, but a telephone call here and there. Well, about seven months had passed, and then the words he had been waiting for were mentioned…it’s time we do business together. When my mentor shared that story with me, he was celebrating fifteen years of business with his client.


This lesson sticks with me to this day as if I just heard the story for the first time. He could have been upset and not stayed in contact. He could have told the client to pound salt. He did neither of those things. Instead, he kept his composure, wished the client well, and stayed in contact. That was it, nothing more. The client viewed this as a sign of true professionalism. He was a gentleman, not a “sales shlup”.


As I said before I have maintained this approach myself since I heard the story. And, let me tell you, it absolutely works. Sure, I’ve lost a deal here and there, but I’ve also won many on the second go around. Prospects and clients are human. When treated with respect, they respond with respect. Maybe it was not the best time for them to buy your product or service. Staying in contact after being told no says to the prospect or client that you still care. And ultimately people buy from sales reps that care.


The second chance takes time. Some second chances may take months or years. But every single ‘A’ level sales person I know applies this principal: don’t be a jerk when you’re told no; be gracious for the opportunity presented; ask to stay in contact; don’t be overbearing; and, show them you still care no matter what decision they made. It will eventually win them over and you will win a grateful, long-term client.

Finish What You Start - September 6, 2014

There’s no doubt about it, we’re all busy. We live hectic lives between work and family. Digital devices keep us plugged in to every aspect of our own lives, our spouses, our children’s, our co-workers and so on. It is easy to forget something sometimes with so much going on. I get it. You get. Makes sense. So, what is Finish What You Start?


All too often sales people find excuses when something slips through the cracks: when you forget to send the thank you note after a meeting; the examples you were going to email took you an extra week because you forgot; or, you gave up calling the prospect after the fourth voicemail. Whatever the reason, there should be no excuses, and certainly no exceptions. You must finish what you start.


Time management can be one of a sales person’s greatest attributes or hindrances. It has been my belief for a very long time that if you work on the philosophy of finish what you start then you are a step closer to producing results. Let me explain.


As I mentioned above, we all live busy lives, and can feel overwhelmed at times. That is okay. It is how you manage your schedule, personally and professionally, that leads to results. If you manage yourself to not put something off until tomorrow, you will get more done today. I know, I know this makes sense, but it is easier said than done. Time management requires daily evaluations of how you are spending your time, what tasks are being accomplished, and making sure you check off everything on your daily to-do list before your head hits the pillow.


Clients and prospects very rarely look at the time of when an email was sent. It is most important that the email be in their inbox before they arrive to the office tomorrow morning. So work on it after the kids go to bed. When you commit to sending examples to the prospect, take your laptop into the kitchen at the office, and work through lunch.


Sales is not, nor has it ever been, a 9-5 job. Sales is a career and a lifestyle choice. You do not need to be beholden to your position 24-7, but if you apply good time management principals daily, you will finish what you’ve started, and you will sell more. If you want to chat about my approach to time management, give me a call or send me an email.