Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


I appreciate your expert opinion but... - December 26, 2015

It has been an interesting few weeks with one particular client. And, as I write this post, I am sitting on an airplane waiting on a small mechanical issue to be corrected, and then off I go on vacation. What do the two have in common? Expertise.


You see, I am in no position to be of any assistance to the mechanics on the airplane, even though I’d love to share a thought or two. I would like to depart as close to on time as possible. Maybe I could give some advice to the pilots on how to make time up in the air. No, wait a minute, I didn’t go to flight school. Heck, I’ve never sat in a cockpit. Granted, I work in technology, so how hard could it be.


Instead, I’ll just chuckle to myself, and I’ll let the mechanics and the pilots do what they do best. Besides, I’m putting my trust in their expertise, I mean that is what I am paying for, right?


Back to my particular client. Why did you hire my firm? Do you not feel we have your best interests in the forefront of the project? You are making a sizable investment into the project, so why is that you selected us? Wasn’t it because you thought my team were experts and could deliver a superior outcome? So why then are you constantly dismissing our expert advice and opinions and making poor decisions?


In sales we work very hard to identify what might be considered red flags. I would never intentionally bring a client in for a project that would not use us for our best work. So, what should we do? Handling these situations takes patience and tact and ultimately a willingness to walk away.


Clients that hire you for your expertise but then want everything done their way get what they deserve. That may not seem professional, but what is the alternative? You should take into consideration the toll it may take on your team members if you force them to continue with this type of client. It diminishes their and your value. You and your team have been at this for a very long time, building your professional resumes in a particular field, and for what, to have a client tell you they know more than you.


This is harsh commentary, however very real on an everyday basis. These types of clients should be dealt with professionally and swiftly. End the engagement. Dissolve the relationship. Fire the client if need be. These are clients that will end up firing you down the road for a lack of results even though you told them otherwise. They are their own worst enemy and the results of “their project” should fall entirely on them.


Oh yeah, and as I post this week’s blog, I am now sitting in another airport having missed my connection. I’m a bit disappointed that I won’t get to my destination on time. But, I trusted in the mechanics and pilots to keep me safe, and they did their jobs. I can handle the slight delay. They are the experts, that’s why I hired them.

The "Know It All" - December 19, 2015

This touchy subject has come up again – how to deal with a “Know It All”. There are two sides to this subject in sales. First is the customer / prospective customer. Second is the sales person. Both can act like “know it all’s” and both can become detrimental to a successful relationship.


On many occasions I have shared my opinion of the word relationship. A sales relationship is often similar to a personal relationship. There’s the dating and courtship process which leads to the engagement and then many times the marriage. When dealing with a “know it all” one side of the relationship may become turned-off or uninterested.


In looking at the customer / prospective customer side of the relationship, when they constantly act as a “know it all”, these individuals tend to burn bridges, are not respectful of the sales process, or end up buying less than needed for their specific need. Many times it is because their attitude is less-than-desirable so the sales person does not want to put up with them. They are a turn-off and so the sales person may simply rush through their own process simply to be done with them.


Likewise, when the sales person is the “know it all”, the customer / prospective customer will become quickly frustrated. When this type of sales person is attempting to move through their process, they tend to listen less, and they wind up talking more. They believe their words are more important and they sell what they believe is necessary, not what the customer / prospective customer ultimately needs.


Use your own personal lives as examples. We all have friends or acquaintances that can come across as the “know it all”. How do you engage with this person? How do you feel after conversing with them? Do you go out of your way to talk with them? Do you want to spend long periods of time with them? Or, although they may have their moments of likability, do you want to avoid one-on-one conversations?


Translate this personal example into business. Ask yourself if you have any of these tendencies. Evaluate your most successful sales and determine what characteristics were in your favor from the relationship side. And then act accordingly. Don’t be a “know it all” and try to avoid those that act this way as customers.

Selling To A Committee - December 12, 2015

Selling to an individual can be stressful. Selling to a committee can be downright frustrating. One of my newer team members recently was in a sales process where the prospect had a committee of eleven individuals. I’ve sold to so many committees that it seems like second nature, but to him it was rather new. He was concerned about “being outnumbered” or how best to manage a crowd. It dawned on me that many sales reps may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable in this type of sale, so here is my advice.


Inevitably there will be an individual on the purchasing committee that simply does not like you. And, just the same, there will be someone that thinks the world of you. The rest will fall right in the middle. Identifying these individuals early in the process is key to the success of the remainder of the meeting.


When presenting, asking questions, or sharing examples, give equal attention to the one that seems to be the “lack of caring” as much so as to the individual that is fully engaged. Second, when calling out those in the room, you will never remember each person’s name, but attempt to call on at least two others, besides the two already referenced, by their first name. This shows the entire audience you are giving it your best.


Make sure to make eye contact with every single person when you are speaking. Don’t ignore anyone, especially the quietest person in the room, as they may be a key factor in the decision process. Every individual in the room, even the one that came in late, should receive your business card. Do not let anyone leave without having your card. And, encourage each and every person to contact you with any questions at any time.


Be prepared with your deliverable's. In other words, if you were told that ten people will be on the committee and in the meeting, take two or three extra copies of your presentation or proposal. It is much better to have extras than to not have enough.


Last, relax and be yourself. Selling to a committee can be intimidating. You are basically standing in front of a room full of strangers and hoping they will buy from you. Often I’ve even pointed this out, stating I’m here to sell you, but with a bit of humor. They too may be uncomfortable with the process, so putting them at ease will go a long way in winning them over.


You may not win over every single person in the room, but go for it. If you come up one or two people shy of a unanimous decision, the majority may suffice, and you will likely win the business.

EOY Planning - December 5, 2015

Wow, this year has sure gone by quick. Those words have been flying around my office all week. And they are true, this year really has gone by quickly. Either that or I’m just getting old…probably both.


Every year since I began my career I enter the month of December with the idea that I will plan ahead for the start of a new calendar year. In the early years I’d procrastinate and then pay the price. I eventually learned my lesson and took the planning process seriously and have continued to this day.


I am often asked, however, if it’s really a big deal to plan for nothing more than a calendar change. What is really the difference in moving into the new month of January versus moving into the new month of September? Isn’t it just a date? And, if it’s just a date, why so much worry around planning?


The short answer is yes, it is just a date, but for many it is a fresh start. It is a fresh start to their annual budget, the money the customer/client can spend with you, or a fresh start to your customers/clients own list of projects. Since an overwhelming amount of companies now work on a calendar-fiscal year, January 1st is both a real start to the fiscal spending season for you, but also gives many the sense of renewal they need to forge ahead with their own business plans.


On a personal level, think of all of the New Year’s resolutions people make, and more importantly why they make them. With doing the research I am not going to pretend I know when this tradition came from. What I do know and what we as a society have been shown & told, is that the New Year is a time of personal renewal, a time to start things over again. And, this has also trickled into our business lives.


Our own company’s set annual sales goals based upon revenue and gross profit. They set goals on adding or releasing to the market new services or products. Goals by the company are then broken down by department, and for the sales teams and sales reps, these become our own goals for which performance will be measured.


And so, for the sales reps out there, don’t hesitate. Begin today, if you haven’t already, in preparing your EOY plans. Set your goals for the New Year. Work closely with your management on what is expected, and then prepare your own plan on hitting those expectations. And, finally, be proactive. Don’t wait for your manager to set your goal, rather set your own goals.