Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


The Story of James & Melissa: Part 1 - October 31, 2015

For this week’s post and next I am taking a bit of a departure from my normal approach to writing and instead going to use a very real story. It is not a pleasant story, rather one that involves the divorce of a couple, based in part on two very different approaches to sales. This is the story of James & Melissa: Part 1.


James and Melissa were married fifteen years ago. James, at the time, was launching his own business as a general contractor. He’d been relatively successful in his family’s construction business in a variety of roles from laborer to project manager. But, James was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, and decided to branch out on his own.


Melissa, having already tasted a bit of success in her own residential real estate sales career, decided to continue her studies and expand her real estate license to include commercial. While James was starting his business she was very supportive, especially from a financial standpoint, so he could fill the roles of business owner, sales, and project manager.


Over the years Melissa went from tasting a bit of success to becoming incredibly well known, well liked, and respected as an expert in her market. She’s become a real force in the world of real estate sales. Much of her success hinges on her professionalism and relationship building skills. She is a true ‘A’ level sales person. I admire her for her accomplishments and her sales style. She puts her client’s needs before her own. And, I believe she’s been successful because she will never cut a corner in her sales process.


On the other hand, James has not been as successful as he once hoped, and this is based largely upon his sales techniques, which ultimately have led to the demise of his marriage. That’s right, his skills (or lack thereof) in sales have had a direct impact on his personal relationship with his wife and many others.


You see no matter where James is or the context of a conversation, he has to always be right. Many a joke has been made about someone being the smartest person in the room, well James is that person. He cannot be wrong, ever. And, unfortunately in business, this has led to poor working relationships with his clients, client disappointment on the outcomes of projects, and even being fired by client’s mid-project. Instead of listening and learning from each client experience, James must be right and the client must be wrong.


As I’ve written about for a long time, sales is a life choice, especially for an ‘A’ level sales person. And, more importantly, as a business owner you need to become an ‘A’ level sales person. This has not been the case for James. I believe that deep down he’s not a bad guy. He has his moments of likability. He and Melissa have two kids, a nice home, and good friends and family. But, there have always been the whispers behind their backs about his attitude, which on both a personal and professional level go straight to how he treats people. One moment of likability cannot outweigh the ten instances of being a jerk.


For a while Melissa was very hush-hush about her desire to divorce James. As the saying goes, “you never really know what goes on behind closed doors”.  Once Melissa began to open up with others about her reasons for leaving her marriage, to me something stood out, and that was the direct correlation of James’ personal life and his career as a sales person.


Next week I will expand upon this story and share my belief on why James and Melissa are divorcing. It is my hope that through Part 2 of this story that you, as a career ‘A’ level sales person, will learn from someone else’s life altering mistakes so that your own career will continue in the right direction. Remember this – sales is a life choice inasmuch as it is a career choice – and your sales career will impact many others besides yourself. Until next week…

40ish Business Days Left In The Year - October 24, 2015

A topic that I have covered on several occasions before seems to have come up once again. Recently I was asked, both by my own internal sales team, as well as my personal clients, to share ideas regarding the “end of year push”. As I write my post on a bit of a dreary October morning, I find a bright spot thinking about the fun ahead in my own end of year push.


As I’ve stated time and time again, if you are hanging your success hat on the next few weeks, it may simply be too late for you. An end of year push should never be a make-it or break-it timeframe, but rather a bonus period for a well-planned and overall successful year.


I was asked just yesterday by one of my newer team members, “if you’ve had a very solid year so far, then what is your push for the final 40ish days of the year?”

There are two holidays coming up, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a few busy weeks between now and then. I find this time of year to be one where I can reflect with my clients, and time when we can talk through the past projects and plan for the New Year and new projects. More and more I tend to have clients that run budgets on the calendar year with a use it or lose it policy, and so I “push” for an evaluative meeting to discuss budgets.


For many years I’ve taken an approach against using this time of year to entertain clients, such as holiday lunches, or by giving gifts. I continue to standby this idea simply because a good sales person, an ‘A’ level sales person, should treat the client throughout the year with gratitude, not during the time of year when “everyone else is buying lunch”.


My most successful fourth quarters, best end of year pushes, are when I treat the client as if it were any other time of the year, but paying respect to their budget process (as mentioned above), as well as with a “plan ahead” approach. Meetings will, without a doubt, include a holiday well wish, a bit of personal holiday themed conversation, and with all hopes have a happy tone.


The “plan ahead” approach though has separated me from others for a long time and my clients have been appreciative. During these remaining 40ish days of the year, I will meet with my clients with a calendar in hand, and discuss their overall plans month-by-month and/or quarter-by-quarter. I will identify opportunities where my firm may be in a position to help or provide services. We will put future meetings (or calls) on the schedule. And, we will outline goals & objectives.


Don’t do what everyone else is doing this time of year. Be different. Be an ‘A’ level sales person and help your clients prepare for the year to come. They don’t need another holiday lunch or coffee mug. They will truly appreciate your professional guidance so much more than a gift.

Not Everyone Is Created Equal - October 17, 2015

In my post from last week I indicated that not all sales people are created equal and more importantly they should not be. So then why do so many sales managers try to hire based on a “model”?


There are many Fortune 500 organizations throughout the world who hire the same type of person over and over again. They believe they have a formula for their own success, and in some cases, maybe they do. However, many of these same organizations have a rather high turnover rate once a sales person reaches the 5 year mark. Employee retention is less of a concern within these companies and I believe it is because they hire the same (type of) person again and again.


For smaller companies taking the same approach could spell disaster. Not everyone is created equal and in the world of sales I sure hope they are not. I have found over the years that the best sales teams are comprised of a group of individuals, each with differing backgrounds, different likes and dislikes, different political or religious interests, different sexual orientations, differences from one person to the next, all blended together to create a team.


During a recent gathering of ‘A’ level sales managers I introduced this topic to gauge reactions and I was very pleasantly surprised. In a group of ten, only one person disagreed with the opinion I shared in the previous paragraph. The other nine were excited to hear one another were in agreement. What transpired, however, surprised me yet was refreshing. Rather than a simple nodding of the head in mutual agreement and moving on, the conversation consumed the evening.


My message again this week is for the sales or sales hiring managers out there: go for diversity, do not hire clones of you or each other, and celebrate the variety that makes up your sales team. Encourage each sales person to use their uniqueness to advance the company sales efforts, and most importantly, teach your sales team how to flip leads to each other based on their individual talents. Again, an increase in revenue and ROI is sure to come.

No Perks For Jerks - October 10, 2015

There is a growing trend in human resource management pertaining to benefits provided to employees. While many of the concepts are not new, when combined on a per-employee or per-department basis, they are taking on new meaning. And, there are surprising reactions taking place, especially in the sales arena. Although not necessarily politically correct, the use of the phrase “no perks for jerks” is being whispered by many.


For years employers have offered a variety of scheduling options to employees, such as work-from-home, flex schedules, shared work schedules, etc. Additionally, there are company cars or mileage reimbursement programs. You may have options for gym memberships or other wellness programs. And, of course, medical (and related) insurance products are becoming more and more customized.


So you may be wondering why I’m on this topic? Well, more than ever, these various benefits are being used by sales managers (or sales intensive organizations) to motivate and reward their top sales folks, the ‘A’ level sales people on their teams. I am being asked on a fairly regular basis to counsel my personal clients on ways they can begin to implement new plans for their sales teams. While each must be customized to meet the individual working environment or culture, I want to share with sales managers a few ideas.


First and foremost, the most successful of sales teams are fully aware that sales people are not created equal. And, good sales managers should not attempt to manage each team member equally, but rather as the individual they are, and for the individual talents they possess. But, keeping a level of competitiveness in place also helps maintain the spirit a success-driven organization, a top performer only model, and weeds out the weaker sales people.


Initially, all sales people should be reminded that any and all benefits provided by the company are a privilege and not a right or guarantee. A culture of general appreciation for what is made available is a key factor in future modification to the benefits or incentive plan. Once the culture of appreciation is in place, a sales manager can then begin to make changes. Changes should be offered and made available to each and every sales team member, but only based upon performance.


For example, offering a shortened work week by allowing a rep to have Friday’s off during the summer, may be a great incentive, but should only be available to the rep(s) that hit(s) a quota of some sort. Or, once a rep has been with the company for a certain period of time, and if this rep has exceeded the goals set forth, the sales manager via the company may want to provide a different level of insurance or premium discounts.


The whisper of “no perks for jerks” should be kept in mind at all times. As a sales manager, when sales reps begin to fall behind or lack the necessary achievements for such benefits or rewards, their true personalities have a tendency to show. If and when the rep begins to act like a jerk because someone else is being granted one of these perks and they are not, this becomes an indication that they are not an ‘A’ level sales person and it may be time to go.


Use what is available in your benefit offerings to help advance the ‘A’ sales people and the results will be increased revenue and ROI.

Going Back To The Well - October 3, 2015

I was shocked recently, when meeting with a prospective client, on how little repeat business they receive. In fact, I really could not understand why until I met with their sales leadership, and then it became disturbingly clear. They are not teaching (or managing) how to go back to the well.

The prospective client has been in business for 8 years and revenue has grown between 18% to 22% year-over-year. The organization is structured with 3 sales managers each having 4 outside sales reps and 2 inside sales reps reporting. The foundation of sales for the company has always been to cold call from an inside sales team, send the outside rep to a face-to-face meeting, take the order, fulfill the order, and assume the customers will call in for repeat orders. This approach worked for a while, but something recently has happened to cause the owner to question this approach.

You see, my prospective client has 2 new competitors that entered the market over the past 18 months, and these new competitors are very aggressive with their inbound marketing techniques. Beyond having very solid websites, they are blogging constantly, and driving traffic to their websites via paid advertising, such as Google AdWords. But, what has become more of an awakening moment for my prospective client, is knowing that their own customers are being sold by these competitors on a repeat basis.

The competition has, for lack of a better term, found the weak spot in my prospective client’s armor. They have done very little reselling to their customers. In other words, they have not gone back to the well. They’ve spent time initially selling the customer and then the sales team loses touch. Whereas, these new competitors, are constantly going back to the customers to ensure they are happy with the products and services being offered, to inquire about upcoming programs or projects where they may be able to help, and to generally get “face time” to show the customer they care about the relationship.

The key to the competitors penetrating the market is their focus on the relationship. Going back to the well is just that – going back to your customer for whom you have a relationship. Of course, the customer knows you are trying to sell more, that is common sense. But, what my prospective client has been missing is the fact that their customers want to buy more, they also want to know they are appreciated.

Go back to the well and go back often is a theme I’ve embraced my entire career. While your customer or client may not buy every time, as long as they feel as though you care and respect the relationship, you are more likely to keep them as a customer or client, and going back to the well will reap rewards more times than you may imagine.