Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Spring Is In The Air - March 28, 2015

It’s an old saying, “Spring is in the air”, and after a very cold winter I could not be happier. Warmer days are ahead. Blue skies and green grass. Baseball season is beginning and the golf courses will soon be open for business. You may be wondering what this has to do with sales. It is actually a very simple concept – customers are also excited that it is spring time and they are in a good mood. They are ready to buy.


For many years I have been a believer in seasonal selling behavior and have shared my experiences with other sales managers and sales trainers that agree. This is the best time of the year to sell your products or services to your clients or customers. Here’s why…


There is always the rush to the end of the calendar year, to spend what budget was left over, and to begin the New Year with renewed interest and spirit for your specific responsibilities. But, so often this feeling of renewal fades quickly because of the weather outside, or the realization that you have a long year ahead. However, in my experience, the best sense of renewal comes in late-March and carries into June. It is spring and the calendar tells us it is time for growth. And, generally speaking, people’s moods are much better. Pause for a moment and think about your own personal experiences. Aren’t you feeling more optimistic about your schedule right now?


Decision makers are human beings and they too are beginning to feel alive again after the long, cold winter. They have a sense of renewal and growth. They are excited to get outside and enjoy warmer days. And this feeling carries over into their professional roles and responsibilities. As a sales person you need to capitalize on this opportunity.


Do not be overbearing and constantly hound your clients, customers or prospects. Realize though that when you do make contact, if you are feeling alive and excited, they will too. This is a time for sharing your excitement about spring and also the opportunities you have available with your products and services. That feeling of excitement is contagious and will work to help you gain the interest of your target. Be excited, feel renewed, and sell.

Train Your Client - March 21, 2015

Recently I have spent time with my posts sharing stories of dismay with client relationships. My goal is certainly not to be a downer or focus only on the negative side of things, but rather to share real life stories in hopes that you can either avoid them yourselves or at least see the warning signs. I fielded the same question from a few followers and so I will take this opportunity to answer their question, but then we’ll move on to brighter topics.


Q: Sometimes it seems like we are the cause of our own client relationship problems. How can we do a better job and avoid these situations?


Well, in my opinion, the short answer is that we train our clients in a way that causes us grief down the road. That’s right, we train our clients to be a problem.


We all want our clients to like us, befriend us, order from us, enjoy our company when we schedule meetings or take them to lunch. Why wouldn’t we? These are the people that ultimately keep us employed and can make us look good in the eyes of our own employer. But, to what extent might we go to make our clients happy?


All too often we fall into the trap of putting our clients first, which in most cases is not a bad thing, but can be if putting them first makes them a priority over another client or an internal team member. For years and years there was a mantra in sales and customer service…the customer is always right. But there is an inherent flaw in this philosophy…if the customer is always right than you and your team are always wrong. There can be no in between.


When we drop everything for a new client, when we answer their calls at night and on weekends, when we reply to their email within seconds of receiving it, we are training our clients that we will always respond in such order. Immediately…without hesitation. There are many behaviors, similar to this, that we “allow” our clients to exhibit when we deal with them, without any pushback, and then ultimately we regret down the road.


Training the client is not a new concept. We can train our clients to have great relationships. We can set expectations that work for the client and for your company, on mutual terms, and on a basis that provides a pleasant experience for both. But, the cautionary tale is, take it slow and easy. Don’t set unrealistic expectations. And, the best way to do this with a new client, pretend for a moment they have been your client for years. How do interact with them? How do you communicate with them? What is your standard turnaround time with them? Keep in mind, they are a client still, so finish by asking yourself, why has the client kept you around?


Many of the firsthand examples I can think of begin with how I set expectations with my clients or how I trained them to work with me. You can do the same. Always be open to friendly, good, and timely communication with your clients. But be careful not to over-commit and you will be on the right path to training your client for success.

Divorcing A Client - March 14, 2015

First and foremost, before I get too far into my post for this week, please know that I do not take the topic of divorce lightly; not at all. But, like in a personal relationship, there are times when a client relationship ends in divorce. And so, speaking from firsthand experience, let me use my post this week to explain when a sales person (and their company) must divorce a client.


Abusive relationships come in all shapes and sizes, and certainly not just in our personal lives. In business too there are abusive relationships. At times we do not see it as clearly as others may, and when we do, something must be done to put a stop to it.


For four years my firm had what I would call a so-so relationship with a client (Joe). Joe could be difficult to understand at times. He played favorites amongst my team members, sometimes praising one person, while refusing to acknowledge another. He would make decisions and then a few weeks later would question why we took a certain approach with his project. He did not remember he made the decision. But, there were also times when we could do no wrong. On occasion he would shout from the mountain tops that we did a great job and he even referred business to us.


As we moved through our third year of business together and into our fourth year, his demeaner changed more dramatically, and the praise one day and criticism the next became routine. We sat in a meeting a few months ago and Joe loved everything we had done. Two weeks later he hired a third-party agency and everything changed. He no longer loved what we had produced, but now was questioning everything about the project. Then things really took a turn for the worst.


Joe started to play games. As one of his primary contacts he would call me, explain how he trusts me (and my firm), referring to me as his trusted advisor, and that we were to answer only to him. Three days later he called again, except we no longer answered to him, but now we answered to the third-party agency. Just like that, overnight it seemed, we were no longer his trusted advisors. We now answered to another group who did not have the history or experience to handle the workload. But, nonetheless, this was Joe’s wish.


When I voiced a “concern” about recommendations this agency made, I was now viewed as causing trouble and “complaining”.  Wow, I went from being a trusted advisor one week to nothing more than “whining” the next. Except, no matter what changes were taking place, we still were taking the high road and keeping an eye out for our clients best interests. He didn’t see it that way, and therefore damage to the relationship was escalating.


Since we were to now answer to a third-party agency, we did as we were told, because we needed to see the project through to completion. The agency was calling the shots so much so that we could not even have an audience with our own client. And so, we did as they asked, and the project ultimately came to a conclusion. Now Joe feels we have let him down. He is unhappy with the project process. He feels as though the relationship has changed and it is entirely our fault. He refuses to allow us to explain our belief on why things took a turn. And, he refuses to acknowledge that he had any hand in the relationship going south.


Joe was abusive. He constantly played games. It was his way or no way when it came to the relationship. Were we a little blind to this behavior? Maybe we weren’t, as in my firm and team members, but I was. I made a mistake by not bringing concerns to his attention sooner. I believed the quality of the project would offset his behavior. But, in the end, it did not.  And so comes the divorce.


My firm and my team members are not to blame. I take the blame. I turned a blind eye to Joe’s poor attitude and behavior. He was abusive. He played games. At times I witnessed it and at times I ignored it. I failed to be an ‘A’ level sales person in this instance. And for this I have apologized to my firm and my team members. However, I will not apologize to Joe. As in any abusive relationship, and subsequent break-up or divorce, I will no longer be the victim. Joe may never come to realize or admit his faults or role in the dissipation of our relationship. But, my twenty-plus years of experience tells me that we are just one in a long line of firms that he’ll chew through.

Confidentiality & Non-Compete's Part 2 - March 7, 2015

As a follow-up to the advice I shared with a friend from last week, he took the high road and explained his confidentiality agreement concerns to the interviewing company, and here’s what happened.


Jim started the interview off by immediately explaining to the HR manager that he had a binding non-disclosure agreement with his current company, and more specifically, he was uncomfortable proceeding in any conversation if they were going to challenge him on disclosing certain aspects of his current role. Well, they not only were okay with the position he was taking, they felt his honesty and trustworthiness were to be commended. Then, before he knew it, they were joined by the VP of Sales and the CEO. The HR manager quickly explained the scenario and that is when reality set in.


The first question the CEO asked of Jim was how the current owner of the company he is with was doing. While they are not close friends, they have been members of the same country club for years, and see each other socially at least once per month. The VP of Sales went on to ask about other people in the company. And then, out of nowhere, the VP of Sales disclosed that he recently moved to a new home, next door to one of Jim’s best friends. All Jim could think of was Wow!


These gentlemen could have exposed Jim to others that he knows personally and professionally. He took the high road and they could do nothing but show their respect. They even went on to tell their own story. You see, they too ask their employees to sign a confidentiality agreement, and someone who was recently let go has been violating that trust. A former employee thought he could get away with discussing client engagements, being detailed in his resume, and even bending the truth to make himself sound stronger and more engaged than he actually was.


But here is the worst part, the former employee thought he could move under the radar, which obviously was not the case. Little did he know, or believe, just how well connected the CEO and the VP of Sales were in the marketplace. They know so many people in a variety of roles from corporate recruiters to freelance recruiters to business owners. They did not go seeking out their former employee, but rather people began to ask questions. Calls and texts began to happen about “who knows this guy” and “is he who he says he is”. All the while, he was violating the confidentiality agreement he signed, and he had no idea he was about to cause himself a great hardship.


The former employee became cocky and his arrogance got the best of him. He continued to push his resume into the market and it eventually found its way online on a random job board. The problem was that this job board was a public forum and his former employer accessed it. They made a copy and forwarded to their attorney. The former employee is now in legal proceedings because of his violation.


These are everyday occurrences. Stories like this one have sadly become the rule and not the exception. My friend Jim took the high road and it paid off. But, all too often, former employees simply laugh at the formality of their previous agreements, and they take the low road. These are people that cannot be trusted. They do not deserve to be interviewed much less hired. And so I ask all ‘A’ level sales people to remember these stories to avoid becoming one themselves. Take the high road folks, it always pays off in the long run.