Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Manage Your Emotions - November 29, 2014

On two separate occasions over the past two weeks I have received calls on my recent posts. The calls came from two sales reps that I have counseled over the past few years. They read my posts and shared concerns about how they will handle the upcoming few weeks heading into the New Year. They were not in disagreement with any of the information, but rather they became emotional. They are a bit frustrated with their recent sales and are a little worried about the New Year beginning.


Both of these individuals are seasoned professionals, yet it did not come as a surprise to me that they called. It doesn’t matter whether you are a 20 year sales veteran or in your second year of your career. Sales is an emotional profession to begin with, but adding the holidays and end-of-year push on top, and you may well have a recipe for being down in the dumps.


I remember a point in my own career, when I was starting my family and juggling the new company, when the holidays and end-of-year timeframe became very hard for me to handle. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I desperately wanted to spend time with my family, do a bit of travelling to see relatives and friends, and to enjoy Christmas with my young children. But, how could I? I had sales figures to focus on. I needed to close one more deal, just one more. I needed to make sure billing was done a certain way for specific clients. I needed to prove myself to my team that I could handle everything, even if that meant working nights and weekends leading right up to Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. I was getting about 4 hours of sleep each night and burning the candle at both ends. And why? Because I did not plan accordingly and I let emotion take control.


I promised myself after that holiday and end-of-year push never to put myself through it again. And I promised myself that I would lead others by example. We all have personal lives and with our personal lives comes personal emotion. The holiday times may be hard on some due to a loss of a family member. Others may be distanced by miles and alone. It is important that we each recognize why the holidays may become somewhat emotional for ourselves. Then, we must plan ahead beginning in October or November on how we will manage our sales responsibilities. You cannot wait until December 15th to realize where your individual sales performance stands. You should take inventory each and every month of the year and plan for your own individual push toward the end. January 1st is right around corner and you should be more in cruise control than constantly shifting gears. That, unfortunately, is not always the case.


Careful planning of your personal life balanced with a carefully laid out strategy for sales in the fourth quarter pushing toward the end-of-year will certainly be a big help. Take time each day to check yourself on attitude and sales progress. Manage your calendar and try to make time for yourself, a little self-awareness reflection time. And don’t overreact.


If you feel the stresses of the holidays, the push toward the end-of-year, and generally the emotion that can come during this time of year, seek someone out to talk. Find the ‘A’ level sales person that has been there before and ask for their advice. Trust me, they will recognize what you are going through, and they will help.

Being Thankful - November 22, 2014

As I mentioned this week, as a sales person, I do not wait until the final six weeks of the calendar year to show my appreciation to my clients and prospects. That is something I strive for every day and every week. So, with this week’s post coming a few days before Thanksgiving, I wish to take this opportunity to say thank you to my support network.


I’ve mentioned in previous posts that an ‘A’ level sales person never flies solo. They surround themselves with their own advisors and support network. Thus, I am grateful and wish to thank each and every person that I consider a part of my support network.


To my personal board of advisors: you are attorneys, financial consultants, accountants and fellow business owners. You have again this year provided me with your guidance and professional encouragement to seek and make the right decisions with my sales efforts even when some of those decisions have been difficult.


To my fellow management team members: thank you for allowing me the opportunity to spread my wings and push hard toward our business goals. You have entrusted me with some of your own business goals and have given me the opportunity to utilize your expertise so that together we can move forward with our plans.


To my team members: you go forward each day striving to accomplish your sales goals that we have collectively set and you work so very hard to hit those goals. Thank you for your efforts. Keep up the good work.


And to my family and friends: I am so very grateful for the faith you have placed in me which helps guide me every day so that I may provide for you. Sales is not an easy profession and one that comes with a certain level of stress. You have been patient with me and have given me the strength to come back each and every day. Thank you.


May this Thanksgiving holiday and the holiday season ahead bring each one of you joy and happiness. Keep your eyes on the road ahead of you and keep selling.

Lunch-Dinner-Party - November 15, 2014

Here we are in mid-November and heading into the end of year festivities. Thanksgiving is just a little over a week away and the Christmas and New Year holidays are right around the corner. In so many professions this is the time of year when celebrations occur. Whether the office party, a get together with your client over lunch, or a team dinner, it is a time to be extra careful as a sales person.


Several factors come to mind as a sales person. Prospects and clients love to be entertained. And during this festive season, many have built up expectations that they will be taken to lunch, dinner or a sporting event. Many have come to expect a small token (a gift) of your appreciation. And many simply don’t know any better because they’ve been trained to act this way by all of the sales reps that have gone before you.


Sales people do not have an open ended bank account or credit card. ‘A’ level sales people know this and know how to manage their expenses, but more importantly, they know how to manage their client’s expectations during this time of year.


I have never been a fan of using the last 6 weeks or so of the calendar year to show my appreciation toward my clients. I believe this should be done all year long. I also try to spend a little more time in September, October, January and February with my clients, so I can avoid the mad rush to lunch during the holidays.


Sales people also have a tendency to be viewed as the party goers or the drinkers in the crowd. It is a stereotype that has been around as long as the sales-client relationship. But, this is the time of year to be extra aware of this stereotype, and to break the trend. Entertaining clients should not be limited to just the holidays and should not be an expectation by the client. This is a good opportunity to send a hand written letter of thanks in place of the beer after work. Save that for another time.


Leading by example goes beyond the manager-rep relationship and can stem into the rep-client relationship. Show your appreciation for your clients in your words and let the actions follow by being on time for meetings and delivering on your promises. Remember, clients have their own personal lives and company commitments too. A good sales person does not wait to show appreciation until the last 6 weeks of the year but makes their appreciation known all the time.

Selling Season Follow-Up - November 8, 2014

Last week I gave some personal insight into how this time of year is my personal selling season. I was very surprised by the number of readers that contacted me and (laughing) agreed with my commentary on how weather impacts sales, especially in my backyard of Northeast Ohio. But, several people asked about the budget discussion with clients, as in how can they begin or open this conversation. So, this week as a follow-up, here are a few ideas on how to engage your client with the topic of remaining budget before December 31st hits.


For the seasoned sales veteran, you should already have a sense of how your client’s budgets are determined. For example, does your client run on a calendar year budget cycle? Do they have a use it or lose it policy? Do they have any special payment terms that would infringe on the idea of spending in short order? If you know the answers, it will make the initial phone call much easier.


If you are new to sales or new in a relationship with a client, the questions are the same, but you may need to set your client up with a series of preliminary conversations before making the ask. Talk to the client and engage in conversation regarding how they are planning for next year. While in discussion, slip the previous questions I mentioned into the conversation, and make sure to note when and how budgets are determined for the following year.


And then it is time to ask. The ask must be done live either by telephone or face-to-face. The ask is about sincerity. It is about wanting your client to know that you would like to help them spend their remaining budget, but that it is to help them not you. The ask is about gaining the trust of the client by wanting to help them achieve their goals before the end of the year which will lessen the spending burden in the coming year. And most importantly, when you engage in the ask, you must be willing to drop the subject quickly if the client does not want to discuss it any further.


The end of the year ask is not about a pressure sale. It is not about quotas. And most importantly, it is not about you. It is about wanting to help your client. Sincerity when asking about remaining budget being spent with you will be the win or the loss. It is entirely in your hands.

The Selling Season - November 1, 2014

Depending on where you live and work, the weather in your respective area may have an impact on sales. Coupled with the calendar and you may be entering your own selling season. This week’s blog post is a bit more personal, a perspective on my own sales career for at least the past 12 years. You see, living in Cleveland, Ohio I have found there are specific times during the calendar year where my sales are directly impacted by the month and the weather outside. Let me share…


In the Northeast Ohio region, along the shores of Lake Erie, the winter months tend to drag. January through March and sometimes into April can be brutal with heavy snow, frigid temps and long grey days. In this area we tend to feel stuck inside with little options for getting outside for fun with the exception of maybe a quick trip to Florida or Arizona.


However, once June hits, everyone wants to break free and run for the outdoors. It’s boating season, golf season, motorcycle season, anything outside season. And, I’ve witnessed firsthand for years that no one really wants to be beholden to their offices in June, July or August. Sales tend to slow down a bit. I’ve compared my own scenario with other sales people in different industries with like results.


So you may wonder why I’m commenting on this topic today, Saturday November 1st? Well, to me, this is the prime selling season. By mid-to-late October and into early-November many clients have wrapped up their budget planning sessions for the upcoming calendar year. And, many now realize they may have some budget remaining for this year that they can spend. This is a fantastic opportunity to call upon your existing clients (and new ones too) to have the discussion on what can be done to help them spend their budget. And, yes, this is a perfectly acceptable topic. If you don’t believe me, just ask one client, and you’ll see that they are very willing and open to talking with you.


Second, many clients and prospects are ready and willing to meet face-to-face, have budget conversations, and make sales happen before the Christmas holiday. Like you, your clients will want to achieve certain business goals before the end of the year, and before they take personal time during the holidays. They may not realize that buying from you is a goal (yet), but have the budget conversation, and they soon will.


It becomes a win-win situation for you and your client. You will help them spend their budget before they lose it when the calendar starts over on January 1st and they will help you increase your sales at the end of the year. Best part, this will set up your relationship for January, when you’ll have an opportunity to talk once again with your client about what’s next.


It is my selling season and it should be yours too. Good luck as you make the run toward the end of the year.