Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Happy New Year - December 27, 2014

For the past few weeks I’ve borrowed upon the themes of the season. Thanksgiving and Christmas are now in the past and the New Year is just but a few short days away. I’ve talked about being grateful, taking time to reflect on my sales and management responsibilities, and even how we can view our professional lives like a movie. And so, with my final post for the calendar year 2014, I would like to share one more thought. Prepare for 2015 as if it were not a new year but more of the start to a new week.


Yes, I understand the calendar changing is a significant milestone. And, I’m sure it has been rather quiet over the past two weeks or so. But, your valiant sales efforts in December do not disappear just because of the New Year. You must mentally prepare to keep your sales momentum going right into January 2nd.


My advice to you in these final days of 2014 is this…take inventory of your activity, plan to hit the ground running on Monday January 5th, and when you do, remember that it’s business as usual.


I wish you happiness, health and success is 2015.

Make Your Own Movie - December 20, 2014

Over the past few years, as I head into the holidays, my kids ask me to watch a few movies with them. It’s our time to just sit back, chill out on the couch, and spend a little time at home. As we were talking last night about what movies we wanted to watch, I started to think about my weekly blog, which then led me to think about all of the “business” movies I’ve seen. And then I busted out in laughter for which my kids thought I’d finally lost my mind.


I was running through scenes and quotes in my head from Wall Street, Glengarry Glen Ross, Tin Men, The Wolf of Wall Street and Boiler Room. Why was I thinking of these and why was I laughing so hard? These are the movies that over time have become hits because of the actors and story lines. But, in the world of business, and sales in particular, these movies have become almost cult-like. You must first realize that even when based upon some manner of truth, these movies are still fictionalized by Hollywood. Yes, they are fun to watch, but no they are not educational.


And so, as I sat and pondered on my weekly post, I am reminded that we should be managing our own sales careers as if we are making a movie. In fact, we are making our own movie, and it is called our career.


As other recent posts have captured, this is a time to reflect upon the past while planning for the future, and a time to evaluate our sales plans. In many ways, your journaling is like a script. You can look at where you’ve come from so far in your career, and then you can plan accordingly for how the plot should play out. If you take this approach, you can forecast what it may take or what may be needed to reach a certain milestone in your career. As your plot unfolds, or as you look further ahead (as in years down the road), you will begin to see more clearly what steps you will need to take in your ongoing career development to then reach the climax of your own movie.


Now for a bit of fun in this exercise. You must decide what type of movie you want to make about your career. It is certainly safe to say that we all wish to avoid the horror flick. I, for one, would like to void the drama. Rather, I would say I’m heading more in the direction of a romantic comedy with my career. I’ve had opportunities that I thought were “the ones for me” only to escape my grasp. Through a few funny changes or mishaps along the way, I’ve come out better than expected. I’ve now found the one and with a little careful planning every so often I’ll live happily ever after. That is I have found the organization best suited for me with a challenging role balanced with rewards.


During this holiday time I hope you’ll have a moment or two to think about your own movie. Go back in time mentally and watch the clips in your mind of where you’ve come from. Have you reached the climax of the plot yet? Where does the story go from here? How does this next year play into the overall theme? Most importantly, take note of what you need to do to move your story forward, and then act upon those tasks. Good luck and keep selling.

Change Is Inevitable - December 13, 2014

After college I spent several years working in the sales and marketing departments for DeWalt Power Tools. This was twenty years ago and DeWalt at that time was still considered a young up and comer in the world of handheld power tools. The company began its dominance in certain market segments and was adding new product lines every few months. It was during this period of my career that I realized change is inevitable.


It can be tough to greet change with a smile. Planning for change can be difficult because of the unknowns associated with it. However, accepting change is inevitable is the first step in making sure you can manage change when it does occur. And so, as my sales team and I are preparing our final drafts of our own 2015 sales plans, I am reminded to greet change with a smile because it is inevitable.


I’ve been in my role long enough now to be able to spot change on the horizon. And, while you may not be able to fully prepare for change, there are certain tactics or approaches I’ve taken over the years to account for when change does take place. Here are a few examples:


·         Client Losses and Gains > We all want to sell more in the coming year than we did in the previous. This is what drives an ‘A’ level sales person. Compensation is increased when sales increase. Naturally, this would drive a sales person to focus on the gains for the coming year, as in who will become new clients, what services will I sell, what will the revenue increases look like. But, there is always the possibility of losing a client or two, or not gaining the new client that has been hot in the pipeline. Advice given to me a long time ago that I’ve used every year since is this – plan your year as if you were to lose your number one client. What does the year then look like? What will it take to replace this client and still gain? Why might your number one client leave you? Although this is not a pleasant thought, the exercise in and of itself opens the door to greater possibilities on how you can plan, scale and manage your growth plan for the New Year. And, just think, if you keep your number one client and apply your plan as if you were to lose them by some chance, you will end up exceeding your goals.


·         Personal (not professional) Goals > I do not consider myself a materialistic person. I don’t follow the latest clothing trends day in and day out. I don’t drive a flashy car. I am more comfortable coming to the office in jeans than I am a suit. I consider myself pretty down to earth. However, I do have personal goals that I set for myself. And yes, some may seem a little bit materialistic. Take for example my love for Florida. I can do without the traffic, but I absolutely enjoy spending time on the Gulf Coast beaches with my wife and children. One of my personal goals each year is to spend at least one week in Florida doing nothing but soaking up the sun and splashing in the water with the kids. You may ask why I mention this in my personal goals and what this has to do with my sales plan for the coming year? I plan my trips a full year in advance. If I am not hitting my sales numbers, if my team is underperforming, then the likelihood of me taking such a trip is reduced. I have drawn a direct correlation between my vacation and my business success. How could I even think of leaving town for a week or ten days if I am under-performing? This approach, tying my personal goals to my professional goals, allows me to always (as in 24/7/365) keep myself in check. I encourage my sales team to do the same. It is a simple exercise – make a short list of things you’d like to purchase or places you’d like to visit and then set a professional goal next to each. Obtaining the personal goal is reward for achieving the professional. Before you know it you’ll be setting higher and higher goals for yourself on a personal level which will directly impact your sales performance in a very positive manner.


·         Reflection > Sometimes this can be the hardest part of my sales planning process to talk about. It is personal. I am not an overly religious person, but I do have what I call a set of faith-based standards that I try to adhere to in living my life. I love my wife and children very much and would do anything to make and keep them happy and healthy. Reflection, at least to me, is an opportunity to think about all of the positive and negative “things” that have happened to me over the past year. Did I lose the weight that I’ve been trying to lose? Did I speak kindly to those that may be going through a harder time than me? Did I offer my help to someone in need, whether I knew them or not? Did I handle my sales calls in absolutely the most professional manner? Was I the person that I wanted to be? Of course, I’m only human, and so I know the real answers are not always what I want them to be. Through this reflective time, through a review of my daily and weekly journaling, I give thanks for what I have and where I’ve come from, and I layout my plans for how I can do a better job in the coming year. This is the one that may sound a little sappy, but I truly believe that my business success, especially in sales, only comes from my drive to be good in my personal life. I believe my reflection time is the most valuable of my annual sales planning and allows me clarity to layout my strategic plan for hitting my personal and professional goals.


Change is inevitable. Embrace the idea of change. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but knowing something may come to you unexpectedly, not planned for, or changed from the original idea, and being willing to embrace whatever hand is dealt to you, will allow you to shine in the face of change. Success in sales comes to those who can handle change and the unexpected. Stay focused and keep selling.

The Weakest Link - December 6, 2014

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. I was first introduced to this phrase as a young boy playing lacrosse in Maryland. I was a goalie and struggling with my emotions after a tough loss. The coach shared this phrase with the entire team because, well, we simply didn’t play as a team. That was the first but certainly not the last time I’d hear this phrase.


So often sales people are either placed on a pedestal or are held entirely accountable for their company wins and losses. And, I’ve found over the years, that ‘A’ level sales people are accepting of this role…the leadership role. But, let’s be fair, company wins and losses in many cases go beyond the sales person. It is the team that collectively wins or loses. And, when there is a loss, often times it is due to the weakest link.


I was recently reminded of this as I was participating in a performance evaluation of a team member (non-sales) in my organization. Concerns were coming up from others about his attitude, or more specifically his lack of positive attitude, toward being a part of a team and not a lone ranger. It came to my attention that he had been lacking in the ability to self-direct and “grab the bull by the horns”. Although fairly new to the organization he supposedly came with experience and was to be considered a senior level team member. Unfortunately, those supposed attributes were not shining through, and in fact were now in question.


It was commentary shared with me by the sales team that really struck a chord. They lacked the confidence in this individual should he end up working on one of their clients projects. They felt this person was the weakest link in our organization. Although initially hesitant to share their concerns, they did so, and it was for the best.


And with that let me take this opportunity to share my advice to the sales people so you too can help your organizations continue to grow. Weak links only hurt an organization. They place undue stress on the team members around them, especially those that must rely on them for quality and timely work. Weak links dampen the energy an organization strives to have on a consistent basis. Most importantly weak links can damage your reputation because it may be construed as a reflection on how you surround yourself with your team members.


As a sales person you have the right to bring weak links to your management team’s attention. Choose your words very carefully, but don’t be hesitant. Remember, you are the face of your company, and your clients have certain expectations. They buy from you because of your quality and your word. Weak links will not help you achieve your personal or company objectives.