Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Volunteerism - January 31, 2015

Tonight I will be attending a surprise birthday party for a close friend. She is turning 40. When I woke up this morning I remembered the party my wife threw for me a few years back when I too turned 40. My thoughts wandered while waiting for my coffee to brew and I found myself staring out of the kitchen window. I was happy and grateful. Things have not always been easy in my career, especially as a sales person, but I was happy this morning. I couldn’t help but think about how I got to where I am and the many twists and turns along the way.


Then an email popped up on my phone and snapped me back to attention. It was a note regarding an upcoming meeting for an organization I support through volunteerism. I read the note, sipped on my coffee, and then went back to my day dreaming. Except, now I was thinking about the different organizations I’ve supported through volunteerism during the past twenty years of so of my career.


I was once asked if I felt guilty when earning business or connections through volunteer activities. Nope, not once. I believe it is through my career experiences that I’ve been able to volunteer. I have a certain skill set that I try to bring to the organizations I support. And, I’ve always believed that any business opportunities are a byproduct of good deeds.


Sales people come in all makes & models, so to speak, and in many cases have flexibility in their schedule to provide opportunities for volunteering. I’ve always encourage my sales team to seek out volunteer opportunities that they believe in and that are worthwhile. But, my one rule of thumb is this, never volunteer selfishly for business purposes only. Find the opportunities where you can make a difference or put your skills to good use. Business may come to you or it may not. If you enter the volunteer opportunity for the real reason of giving back to your community, well then you may just reap a reward or two yourself.

When A Loss Is Really A Win - Part 2 - January 24, 2015

Last week I shared the story of a prospect that chose another firm and that I defined this as a win. A friend, when hearing the story, asked if I would meet with his sales team. Well, after I said sure, he immediately asked me in for a dinner with his team. And here’s what happened.


In addition to my friend in the meeting we were accompanied by the CEO, the vice president of sales and his five outside sales managers. I shared my story in detail with them before dinner was served and when I explained how happy I was that the prospect went with someone else, first came the collective gasp, and then silence. I had a feeling this would happen, so I stood up from the table, walked across the room, and filled my glass from the makeshift bar that was in the corner. When I turned around all eyes were on me and so I hit them out of left field with a question, “so who has a similar story?”


Before anyone could answer the CEO immediately began to share his opinion. He could see where I was coming from, but still could not grasp my sincere enthusiasm for a lost deal. This was exactly what I was hoping for, an opportunity to further explain why a loss can be a win.


For the next thirty minutes I shared the stories and asked questions about just what a bad client ultimately costs a firm. Forget the fact that it could cost money because you are always working more hours trying to accommodate unrealistic expectations. It can cost you oh so much more – moral. Team members in my firm, and I suspect in this case too with my friends company, want to work on enjoyable projects with clients that show them respect. They want to feel appreciated, not just by their boss or their employer, but by those paying the bill. And what can hurt moral more than a new client that has no appreciation for your experience or expertise.


Dinner came and so we shifted topics to sports and the wonderful Cleveland weather. Afterward the vice president of sales asked the CEO if a tour of their facility was worthwhile for me. We began our walk. These gentlemen, the very ones that run this company, shared with me along the tour how well they take care of their employees. It’s not just about benefits like insurance, but the perks of having a place to relax while discussing tough sales calls. There was the bar area in the back of the building with a pool table and big screen television. It was an impressive corner of an otherwise typical office.


When we made our way back into the conference room, dinner was cleaned up, and then I was asked about my opinion on what they can do to make sure losses turn into wins. My answer, while rather simple, seemed enlightening to them. Treat every prospect as if they are the best opportunity you’ve ever faced; look at all of the positives in the pending relationship; and then realize you’re in dating mode. With every benefit of the doubt you give them, ask yourself if there are any reasons for you to run away. It really is that simple. Are they going to offer you a healthy relationship? No matter the product or service you offer them, your prospect will become your client, and you will have a new relationship. Is it a good one and do you want to be in it? Answer those questions and you’ll know if a loss will actually be a win.

When A Loss Is Really A Win - January 17, 2015

A few nights ago I was having a beer after work with a few friends and colleagues. I was in a relatively good mood and so someone asked why. I explained that a prospective client that I’d been dealing with for several months made a decision. They chose to hire another firm and not mine. I couldn’t have been happier with their decision.


I think my friend stopped breathing for a moment as he looked at me as if I had three heads. “Why in the world are you happy that they turned you down”, he asked. My response quite simply was because sometimes with a loss you actually come out with a win. Here’s what I shared with him.


This prospective client initially seemed perfect, maybe too perfect. They were an ideal size for my firm both in revenue and market share. They seemed open to new ideas, especially as we shared recent experiences and successes with other clients. The director of marketing had been there about three years and seemed to have a very good grasp on their needs and where they currently sit within their respective industry. Pleasantries were exchanged and plans for continuing conversations were laid.


Well, over the course of the next eight weeks we met her manager, the vice president of sales and marketing. He was not at all pleasant. He did not like the idea of “outsiders” coming in and “telling him what to do with his website and web marketing”, and he did not show very much respect for the woman that was his director of marketing. I was surprised that she actually sat through meetings and took his verbal abuse. Then came the director of information technology. He crawled right out of a time warp. It is as if 1996 to 2014 did not happen. His ideas were old and antiquated. He was gruff and somewhat abusive too. It’s not often I say this, but in terms of technology and business, he had no grasp on reality.


Yet, at every turn where I wanted to run the other way, the director of marketing kept asking me back and asking for my help. Now, knowing there were many red flags, I addressed my concerns with her and took these concerns into consideration when estimating the cost of their project. Ultimately, I priced my company right out of consideration. And, as expected, her vice president of marketing called me directly to voice his displeasure in my proposal and he was vulgar on the telephone. Two days later I received the email stating this prospective client went with a different service provider.


After I explained this situation to my friend, he bought me another beer, thanked me for sharing my story, and then asked if I would come in and meet with his team. He is rather high up in management within his organization, more from an operations standpoint than sales, but believes his company all too often enters bad relationships in spite of the warning signs.


As with any relationship, it may take a little time for someone to show their true colors. Sales relationships are no different. Be careful when the warning signs point to you running far away. Follow your gut feeling. When you lose a deal, be careful to chalk it up to a loss, because in reality it may be a great win.

Good People Are Hard To Find - January 10, 2015

The title of this post may sound familiar. It is a phrase that I’ve heard since I was a child. My father would use this when describing his company. School administrators would us this when describing the need for teachers. Coaches would say it when seeking players to fill certain positions. And here I am using it today.


I recently read an article regarding the loss of an employee. The gist of the article was to look at oneself, you the manager, and ask if you were the reason your employee resigned. Is it your management style, your company culture (or lack of), or promises for employee growth that just didn’t come true. I agreed with almost the entire article, well almost. I felt the article came up short in that not every employee leaves because of you or the company. And so, my post this week is to say goodbye to one of my own team members, and to provide a piece of advice to sales managers.


I’ve lost one of my own. Not just any sales rep either, but my Director of Sales. He was with me for over 3 years and I will be saying goodbye to him on Monday. What did I do or not do? Why has he decided to leave me? Could I have done a better job as a manager? Did I not offer him an opportunity to grow? As the article stated, I must look at myself and my company, and so I did. However, he’s chosen not to leave because of anything with me or the company, but rather to join his family’s business. In fact, when resigning, he asked if we’d take him back if the family business didn’t work out. And the immediate answer was “absolutely”.


Good people really are hard to come by and especially when it comes to ‘A’ level sales people. My team member was an ‘A’ level guy. So naturally, of course, I would welcome him back. But would you do the same?


Some might believe that hiring a sales person is easy. Aren’t sales people a dime a dozen? Nope. Not even close. Sure there are tons of people out there on LinkedIn claiming to be sales people, sales professionals, account executives, account managers, etc. But, are they ‘A’ level? That’s where the tough part of finding a good person comes in.


Sales people may, in fact, be a dime a dozen, but there are only about 1 ‘A’ level sales person in every 12. So, if you are seeking to hire and manage only ‘A’ level talent, what do you do? Seek out candidates that are gainfully and happily employed. Real ‘A’ level sales talent are not without a great job. Second, engage them in a conversation about their success, what’s kept them happily employed, and find out what it will take to cause them to think about a change. Then, have them visit you, meet your other ‘A’ level sales team members, and give them a glance into what it might be like if they were a part of your team. Role play with this person. Find out how they handle adversity in sales. Let them interview you as much as you are interviewing them.


Finding the right person, finding the good person, is not easy and it shouldn’t be. Take your time. And, when you do find them, make sure it is worthwhile for both you and them. Hold onto them for as long as you can and make sure they have a growth path. And, should they or someone else leave, ask what you may have done to be the cause and be prepared to change.


To my soon to be former Director of Sales: you’ve done a great job and you were a good person for our team. You will be missed but are welcome to come back. Good luck, grow in your new role, and stay an ‘A’ level sales person.

Good Morning 2015 - January 3, 2015

Here it is 6:05 AM on the first Saturday of the New Year and I’m sitting down to type my first post of 2015. I don’t know why I’m up this early on a Saturday morning. I’ve been up for close to an hour with my mind racing. Could it be the Christmas decorations that need to be boxed up today and put away for 11 months? No, that’s not it. I know, maybe it’s the idea my wife has about rearranging some of our rooms in the house? Nope, that’s not it either. Wait, I did want to watch a movie during the holidays that I haven’t gotten to yet, that’s why I am up early. Not it.


I finally got out of bed, was brushing my teeth, and then it hit me. It is in fact a New Year, but because I wrapped up 2014 with a lot of momentum at work, I am ready to get moving. And so, it was all of the above after all. I am ready to take on my wife’s to do list (with her help of course). I am going to squeeze in a movie on Netflix. I am about to start taking decorations down before anyone else wakes up. And, I have a small notebook by my side to jot down all of the ideas running at 100 miles per hour through my head. They are all work related ideas and the excitement of these ideas is why I woke up in the first place.


This happens to me from time-to-time throughout the year. Although I’ll be a little tired later tonight, and will probably need to crash earlier than normal for a Saturday night, I am perfectly fine with it. I am ready to take on the business world and I cannot wait until Monday.


As I’ve talked about over and over, there are different kinds of sales people out there, and in most cases they are ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’ level. I’ve found for a very long time that ‘A’ level sales people tend to be the idea generators for their companies. They are the lead producers and it is through their brainstorming that new initiatives move forward. I myself am going through this process now. I am in full brainstorming mode and it has my blood flowing. Maybe it is, in fact, the feeling that a New Year brings. It is a feeling of renewal. It is a feeling of excitement. And, sometimes, it is a feeling of starting over or starting fresh.


I mentioned the strong momentum I had heading through December into the holidays. It was a great feeling, I won’t lie. But, this fresh feeling, this feeling of renewal is what I am most excited about. I am taking notes like crazy.


Brainstorming and note taking in privacy at 6:00 AM-ish in my kitchen is fantastic. I encourage you to do the same. Take time, even if you need to get up a little earlier than usual on a Saturday morning. What new ideas do you have for your sales efforts starting on Monday? Do you have any new prospects? What extracurricular activities are you going to take on this month or this quarter to increase your network of contacts? What can you do in your organization to help someone else move forward and grow?


The solitude of my kitchen. 6:05 AM on a Saturday morning. A little notebook in my pocket as I take down Christmas decorations. It is time to get myself geared up for Monday, the official start of the business New Year. I am excited and ready. And, I will take my notes in on Monday morning, and I will share them with my team. These ideas won’t do any good unless they are expressed out loud. I will keep my momentum going and I will keep selling.