Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Busy Time On The Horizon - August 29, 2015

With Labor Day just a little over one week away, it is now time to prepare for the busy season. As I’ve mentioned over the past few weeks, but also in many other posts, I live in an area where June, July and August tend to be a bit slower for sales. However, like clockwork, the flood gates will open on the Tuesday after Labor Day.


So, with the busy time on the horizon, let me share my tactical approach to managing this time period. Typically this busy season will last until the first or second week in December, before things slow down for the holidays. So, being prepared for what is to come, will certainly help keep the calendar manageable.


First, I outline the clients that use an annual budget to manage their technology or marketing expenditures. These tend to be the clients that have “use it or lose it” policies with their respective companies. These clients will begin their own budget processing and planning during September and October. Identifying these clients and getting on the schedules for review and project or service discussion is a priority. Trust me, these clients will absolutely say yes to a meeting, because they too want to be careful in their planning.


Next are prospective clients that have been considering my company. These are the prospects that are considered hot but have been waiting until this time frame to move conversations forward. Their summer has come to an end and it is now time to get fully back into the swing of things. I knew who these prospective clients were due to my conversations and touchpoints over the past few months. It is now time to talk with them about getting their project or services outlined so we can move forward before the end of the year.


Last will be my “all other” client category. These are existing clients that have proven to be good and fair. They appreciate the work we provide for them, although they don’t often have deadlines of their own, and so conversations tend to be proactive versus reactive. I fill in all calendar gaps with these types of meetings to keep my existing client base apprised of the “what’s new and what they should be thinking about” in our respective service market. Inevitably, these conversations due turn into opportunities, and when balanced with the other varying types of meetings occurring during this push toward the 4th quarter, the calendar becomes full and full of opportunity.


If your business and the clients you serve are similar to mine, now is the time to plan accordingly and carefully, as such planning can be a great asset to you closing business of the next few months.

Working Remote: A few pointers on being productive - August 22, 2015

Being provided an opportunity to work remote by your employer is truly a privilege and should never be viewed as a right or requirement. You’re lucky, your boss believes in your work ethic, and has the trust in you to do the job at hand regardless of your location. But, working remote can be difficult, especially if this is a new opportunity for you. So, how can you be the most productive when working remote?


First of all, selecting the right location or environment is key, and this is probably the most important. Working from home can be good, but working from home will most likely also contain the most distractions. Kids, dog, spouse, phone, delivery, or the convenience of snacks. All of these distractions may seem small, but added up they become a huge time suck. If you are going to choose home for the location, you need to pretend as though you’re going to the office. Keep your regular wake-up / shower routine in place. Find a spot in your home to call the office and establish this space as your only work location within the four walls. Don’t walk around with your laptop and plop down on the couch. If you can, avoid home altogether, and find a slower paced coffee shop or a “quiet room” at the library. There are distractions even at your office, but finding ways to minimize is the first major step.


Next, plan your day no differently than if you were in your office, such as listing out your to-do’s, planning for the phone calls of the day, and having the set of “must complete items” before calling it a day. Being organized when working remote is even more of a requirement than if you were in the office. Again, you’ll experience a few more distractions, so make sure you plan ahead for the time it will take to fulfill your obligations for the day.

This is not social hour. You are on the clock and so you must avoid the social temptations that come along with working remote. Grabbing coffee or lunch with a friend is great, but unless you would do this activity when working from the office, leave it alone. Avoid the temptation to be social with your personal contacts simply because of the convenience factor. Again, work must come first.


Lastly, check in with the office on a regular basis. Make sure you are getting messages from voicemail, be readily available when called upon by a coworker, and touch base with your boss just for the sake of touching base. This shows you are taking this opportunity seriously and not taking advantage of their trust. Many ‘A’ level sales people are much more productive when working remote. It is a sense of freedom that allows these individuals to take on the tasks of the day without hesitation. But, success can be diminished if you take the opportunity for granted, and don’t get the same amount of work done as you would if you were in the office (or more!).

The Height of the Summer Slowdown - August 15, 2015

I have written several times before about summer slowdown, a lull in sales during the summer months, seasonal selling even in professional services, and ideas on how to avoid these scenarios. While this doesn’t occur to some sales organizations in different parts of the country, here in Northeast Ohio it has become routine. But, it doesn’t have to be so.


I’m not going to rehash past posts, rather I’ve been asked for a few reminders, as it seems we are now in the height of the summer slowdown. It is mid-August and as I look at my own personal schedule, I’m working closely with my wife as we plan the final couple of weeks before the kids go back to school. We are trying to cram one more weekend away, enjoy one more cookout, squeeze in the back-to-school shopping, all while still trying to balance work, sales and client relations.


Recognizing this hectic, end of summer coming soon scenario, can open your eyes to what your own clients and prospective clients are going through. So, you recognize it, but what can you do about it and keep a consistent selling schedule?


First thing to keep in mind is that the client or prospective client is most likely going through the same thing as you. With that said, and knowing how tough schedules are at this time of the year, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a meeting. The client/prospect still has a job to do and can commiserate with you about scheduling difficulties. This is where being creative with the calendar will come in handy.


If you are like me, and your kids want to do everything under the sun before going back to school, then your creative scheduling will accommodate everyone. So, here are a few reminder tips on getting through this period, and I know they’ve worked well for me. First off, plan your personal activities and make sure you outline carefully where and when you need to be some place. Second, once you have your personal schedule in place, put the “housekeeping” work items onto the calendar. Try to have your work day end at 4:00 PM. Now, comes the fun part, reach out to each and every client and prospect you want to meet with, and work to fill in the gaps.


This may be easier said than done though due to this time of year, so begin each call with something along the lines of “if your schedule is like mine, a meeting may be quite tough to get on the calendar, but we still have to get some work done”. Generally I’ve found that clients and prospects respond well to this opening, and then your own creativity will continue, by scheduling early morning meetings. Clients and prospects will want to end their days a little early too, in an effort to satisfy work and personal needs, so target the 7:00 AM breakfast meeting (or coffee). You will be surprised at how responsive the client/prospect will be.


It all comes down to creative scheduling. You can lean on many excuses because of the time of year, but a true ‘A’ level sales person will fight through, not make excuses, and will continue to outsell their peers.

Social Media & Sales - August 8, 2015

‘A’ level sales people have always had a knack for being social, but now more than ever, they must be engaged in social media. Once thought to be passing fads, social media tools are so very important on an everyday basis. LinkedIn, for example, allows you to recruit new employees or make introductions to prospective clients. Facebook will give you some insight into an individual’s personality. Looking at who someone follows on Twitter will provide you some perspective on this persons views on business, politics, etc. which may assist in determining a cultural fit within your team.


Social media has many upsides, as mentioned above, but one of the most important to me is the ability to take a potential cold lead and warm it up. I’m sure you’ve heard of six degrees of separation. This old phrase can be generally cut in half when dealing with social media. It is now much easier to find a common connection to someone, you just need to work the system.


LinkedIn is an essential tool for any ‘A’ level sales person. You can research companies, find the decision maker, identify who this person is and how you may be connected to them through another person, and then reach out to your mutual contact to ask for an introduction. It is very simple, it just takes time.


In addition to being able to research companies and contacts, LinkedIn also affords the hiring manager the ability to search for candidates on their own without much assistance from human resources or a recruiter. A candidate’s bio is available for your review, and again, you can identify a common connection for warm introduction purposes.


There can be a negative side to social media as well. I caution people constantly on being extremely careful. Like you, others are watching what you too are doing on social media, what views you may express, and who you are connected to. This can be the reverse course when you are trying to sell, in that the prospective client is reviewing your bio and qualifications. Or, it may also be the prospective new employee scouting out what it might be like to work with of for you, in an attempt to gauge how they would interact with you on a daily basis.


We have many different resources at our disposal to learn the tricks of the trade when it comes to social media. I am not putting this post together to pretend to be an expert. However, recently I have come across several sales folks that simply do not believe in social media and the power it has in the sales process, or they only use selective pieces & parts without realizing the full power it has over their sales process.


Take time yourself to review, learn, explore, and experiment with social media, and I truly believe you will find new ways to increase your productivity. 

Hurry Up and Wait Syndrome - August 1, 2015

Client: Kevin, we need to meet with you as soon as possible, it is very important that we get started on our new engagement.


Me: OK, I can be there on Thursday (today is Monday) at 1:30.


Client: That doesn’t work for us, how about in 2 ½ weeks, that might be better.


Client: Thank you for your proposal, this looks just like what we need, and your estimate is right on budget.


Me: Sounds great, when would you like to get started on your project?


Client: Let me read over the proposal one more time and you’ll have the signed contract by the end of the week.


Me at the end of the week: Sir, please send me the signed contract, and I will schedule your project to begin.


Client three weeks later: Sorry, we have not made a decision yet.

Here are two examples of the famously known Hurry Up and Wait Syndrome. You know, the situations that present themselves as great opportunities, only to be stalled out by the client’s indecisiveness.  What can you do to avoid these scenarios? Is it your fault this happens? How can you move the client along in conversation toward a final decision?


In the first example, the stall by the client to meet is certainly not your fault, or in your control, but by a lack of understanding by the client on what is and is not considered urgent. When a client states that they need to meet immediately, that something is urgent, you should qualify by pushing the date slightly out. Give the client an option for meeting later in the week or the following week. Their reply will indicate how serious they are and just how urgent the need might really be.


In the second example, this falls more on the upfront selling process with the client, which you control, versus the client being entirely at fault for stalling. When you are in the sales process, you should explain how you are going to work with them all the way to the contract stage, and upfront gain a commitment on their actions. Try stating: “Mr. Smith, if we get to the point of reviewing a written contract together, and the contract meets or exceeds all of your requirements, and it is within the budget scope, will we have a deal? Will you be in a position to sign the contract at that time? What, if anything, will you need further in order to finalize the agreement, sign it, and move forward?” Such an upfront sales process will give you the leverage needed or the upfront commitment by the client to fall back on and remind them of their own process. Such an approach will increase the likelihood of closing the deal without facing the Hurry Up and Wait Syndrome.