Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


No Thank You Can Cost You - June 27, 2015

For the past several weeks I have been participating in the interview process for entry-level sales positions. The candidates being considered for the open positions are current / recent college graduates. The majority of the candidates have similar backgrounds, are graduating (or just did) from very prominent, local universities, and all have four year degrees with rather high grade point averages. Yet, only a select few are standing out.


The candidates, while all very similar, are showing me what they are made of not from their resumes, but rather their post-interview correspondence. Can you believe it, I’ve interviewed a few that never sent a thank you, but left voicemails wondering where the interview process stood? Seriously, not even a simple thank you email for the time spent talking with them.


No thank you can cost you a future interview, future follow-up sales meeting, and quite possibly a sale.


While this is a short post this week, the advice I am sharing should be taken to heart, say thank you. Whether you enjoyed the interview process or not, or whether you want to continue to interview with a particular company or not, saying thank you is not only courteous, it can be a real differentiator in the decision process.


And oh, by the way, if you didn’t send me even a simple note of thanks for the recent interview, don’t call and ask why you’ve not been invited back. This post is your answer.

Rebuilding A Burned Bridge - June 20, 2015

We’ve all heard the saying – don’t burn a bridge – but can a bridge be rebuilt?


An old college friend was going through a pretty tough time about three years ago. His wife asked him for a divorce shortly after he experienced a death in the family while at the same time his company was being acquired with his position in jeopardy. Needless to say, he wasn’t in the best of moods, and his temper got the best of him. When questioned by a member of the acquiring management team about his sales performance, Bill took the tone and type of questioning very personally, and he snapped back at this management team member. When further questioned by his own, longtime manager, he commented about his displeasure with the line of questioning and walked out of the meeting. His employment was immediately terminated.


Bill, believe it or not, while going through a series of personal issues was able to land another sales position within a few short weeks with another pharmaceutical company in Charlotte, NC. He agreed to the terms of divorce with his now-ex-wife in a rather amicable proceeding and he quietly began to rebuild his life.


Fast forward to now. Bill has an opportunity to interview with a new pharmaceutical company in Raleigh, NC. His only daughter moved there last year for school and this would be an opportunity not only to advance his career, but also to be closer to her. But, low and behold, he must interview with his former manager for the position. This is the person for whom he turned his back on, walked out of the meeting, and had not spoken to since then. Did I mention they had worked together for 10 years successfully?


Bill feels as though he not only burned this bridge but that he may not be able to mend the relationship. My advice to Bill was this…say you’re sorry. It’s that simple…apologize.


Bill has an opportunity to mend his former relationship, but he must first admit his faults, and he must apologize. He needs to bear his sole, so to speak, and he must explain what he was facing on a personal level. Then, he must show how he has overcome these past professional indiscretions, and he must showcase how he’s grown.


There is no guarantee that the bridge burned can be rebuilt. And this does not always occur. But, coming to grips with his own shortcomings and mistakes, admitting as much to his former manager, may be what is necessary to move forward. If you’ve ever burned a bridge and felt that you needed to rebuild it, consider the steps it will take to make amends.

Doing Business With Friends - June 13, 2015

If you’ve been in sales for even a little while, you’ve most likely run into the scenario or possibility of doing business with friends. As a sales person you may feel like it is your lucky break or a guaranteed close. But, more than any other type of sale, one with a friend can be the most dangerous.


I was in a meeting with a client recently, the VP of Sales, and she asked me for some personal advice. She had recently entered into a consulting engagement with a new client of her own, and one in which the president of the company was a personal friend of her husbands, and things weren’t going so well. She was running into a situation where this gentleman was calling upon her to bend her company rules, do more work without being billed, etc. She needed some guidance on how to best handle the conversation with the client and to set the record straight on what is to be deemed their personal relationship and their professional relationship.


Having run into this scenario myself not too long ago, I shared with her the approach I took, and she seemed rather appreciative.


Having too close of a relationship with a client can cause communication issues at any point in time, but it hits even harder when the client is a personal friend first and becomes a client second. The likelihood is that this person has heard you tell stories (possibly horror stories) about the office or clients. Without realizing it, they may try to change your approach to business because of something you shared with them in the past, in an effort to better suit their own needs.


Moreover, your friend may also take an entirely different tone with you because of your relationship, which may skirt the bounds of professionalism. And, what’s worse, they may want you to give them preferential treatment over other clients.


So how do you avoid these issues?


Well, this easiest answer would be to not do business with your friends. Of course, that may also be easier said than done. So, my recommendation is to have a very open and honest conversation about the rules of engagement. Set the record straight up front about how your company operates and works with clients. Make absolutely sure your friend is fully aware of these rules, and whatever you do, make sure you have a witness to this conversation both from your company and from your friends company.


And, to ensure that the business relationship is handled smoothly, and with minimal interference to your personal relationship, assign someone else as the point person in the business relationship. It may be a subordinate if you’re in management, or it may be your manager, or it may be a peer. You should find someone that can handle this scenario in a professional and confident manner and your friend must accept that you are making the introduction and then stepping aside.


You should never allow a friendship to be diminished due to a concern in business, and you certainly do not want your career to be jeopardized by a bad decision in sales. A true friend will not only agree, but will expect nothing less.

Don't Ignore Advice - June 6, 2015

No one is perfect, but we should strive for perfection. This statement has been uttered for years in many sales and management level meetings. I’ve seen this written in mission statements and on posters hanging in customer service departments. So, what does this have to do with this week’s post title – Don’t Ignore Advice?


Striving for perfection often times means we need to learn from our past, put together a strategic game plan for moving forward, and try not to make mistakes. When a member of the management team offers guidance and advice, especially based on historical events, it makes sense that you take the advice, don’t ignore it.


I’ve recently been working with a fellow management team member on a client matter. He has asked for my advice and guidance on several occasions as to how best to handle a client that no longer wants to use our services. I’ve spent a fair amount of time counseling this team member in an effort to outline a solid game plan on parting ways with the client in an amicable fashion. And yet, recent correspondence to the client went against all advice, and now we must change course.


The advice I provided was not based on assumptions, but rather based on experiences. I’ve been down a similar road a time or two, and so I outlined a game plan that would allow the client to depart, try a different service provider, but would eventually come back. Unfortunately, since the advice was not taken, we are now faced with a possible lingering relationship, and one that makes us look needy.


I am disappointed but must use this as a teaching / learning opportunity. As a management team, we must come together to understand how best to engage or disengage with a client, especially when the future of any relationship is at stake. Taking advice from someone who’s “been there done that” can make a big difference in any business relationship. Listen to your seniors carefully, heed their advice, and manage your client relationships carefully.