Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Device-App Management for Sales People - February 27, 2016

I work for a technology/marketing services company. You would think the topic of devices and apps would be pretty straight forward. I thought so too until I began to realize all of the various options we are using internally and all of the options available in the marketplace. And, I’m only talking about those available for the sales person. I’ve been struggling trying to decide if I should use an iPhone or Android? Should I use OneNote, EverNote or Trello for tracking notes and to-do’s? I’m using, but am I taking full advantage of the application features?


When you think about it, you could spend (as in waste) a ton of time trying this app or that app, on this device or that device. I read a statistic recently that more and more companies are shifting to a BYOD policy – Bring Your Own Device. With this occurrence comes the flexibility for a sales person to utilize what they feel is the best device or app for their own needs rather than dictation by their employer.


Over the past 6 months I have been asked about my own personal choices so many times that I’ve lost count. This is a short post this week, but I thought I’d share my primaries, and my personal opinion on each.


Trello: I’ve gone from being slow-to-use to now living in this app. I find the format for note taking, to-do lists, and sharing to be much better than anything I’ve use previously. The mobile app syncs quickly with the browser-based version and the interface is simplistic. 


Slack: We use this instant messaging app at the office within the entire organization, but I have personally come to like this one much more than anything we’ve used in the past. Keeping track of individual or group discussions is very easy. Managing “discussion rooms” allows our teams to keep ongoing conversations flowing with a history so we can go back in time to review a comment. And, again, the app for mobile devices very closely matches the desktop version, which allows me to stay in touch as conversations move forward while I am away from the office. Here is the one I went down kicking and screaming to use. For a very long time I thought it was overkill for my (and my organizations) needs. Boy oh boy was I wrong. The traceability and accountability I have to myself, my management team, and my employees is fantastic. As an organization we use this application daily and it allows me to manage each and every client opportunity and sales engagement from introduction to signature and beyond.


iPhone 6: This one may be a little more by default. Although I’m sure I could have chosen another device, I did not question my options when our management team were upgrading our phones. I went with majority rule. I have never personally utilized an Android device, but I must say I am rather pleased with my iPhone 6 for using apps related to sales. The user interfaces, as I mentioned above, are solid. They run quickly over a wireless or 3/4G connection. And, the screen is just the right size for typing notes. I don’t have any reason to change.


So, in an effort to answer the questions I’ve been getting lately, this is my go to list of apps as a sales person. Please share with me those that I should take a look at – thanks.

Hire Slow ~ Fire Fast - February 20, 2016

Sales people are a “dime a dozen”, so the story goes. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this saying over the course of my career. At minimum I bet it has been at least 5,000 times. Why?


From business managers to owners to customers, there is a belief that anyone can sell. While we, the sales managers of the world know this couldn’t be farther from the truth, it is a common theme. The other day I was working with an independent client where I’ve been brought in to consult on their hiring practices within the sales department. It took me less than one hour of meeting time with the sales managers and human resource manager to determine the problem. They had things in reverse order; they were hiring fast and firing slow.


The hiring practices around positions involving sales can be fairly cut & dry. There are the boiler plate questions and the personality tests. You can evaluate a candidate on their technical or product knowledge. And, you can interview them 2, 3 or 4 times in the office. You may even do a team interview and gather everyone’s opinions while making your hiring decision. All of this can be done in 1 or 2 days. That is too quick.


Hiring a sales person should be as methodical as hiring a top-level, C-suite executive. This person is going to become the face of your organization. They will be in constant communication with your customers. They will be responsible for making you money or costing you money. So, why the heck are you rapidly moving through the interview process? And, why then when they are failing as a sales person, do you take so long to fire them?


These are common questions that every organization and sales manager faces. It only comes from the try & fail approach that a hiring manager learns firsthand how to deal with these scenarios. Here are a few guidelines to help you hire slow and fire fast.


Hiring a sales person too quickly is like asking someone to marry you after the first date. You get what you get. In my experience you should put a sales candidate through the ringer. That is, a minimum of 4-5 face-to-face interviews over the course of several weeks. Interviews should be conversations internally within your environment. Take the candidate to dinner and watch how they interact with the wait staff. Have the candidate spend a day with your top sales person on customer calls. Require top brass to be involved in the interview and even attempt to intimidate the candidate a bit. You must see how the person handles themselves in all situations. Then and only then does their technical knowledge, education, etc. come into play.


When a sales person is on the decline there are typical warning signs. You should always reach out to the sales person early and often to help guide, attempt to correct certain behaviors, and to offer personal assistance. You, the manager, will know all too well when it is hopeless. By this point you should have already documented the sales persons performance and should include HR. Do not delay. Fire this individual before they contaminate the sales team and culture, because waiting only hurts others.


All too often a sales manager allows personal feelings and emotions to play into clear thinking and decision making. The best managers I’ve ever come to know keep business business and personal personal. Hire Slow ~ Fire Fast.

Do Not Dial 911: It is not an emergency! - February 13, 2016

This week I am addressing this post first to the client and second to the sales person.


To the client: have you ever watched the cartoon or read the book about Chicken Little? What about the variations and stories of crying wolf? Come on, you know, the sky is falling! Everything is a disaster. Something is always wrong. Look a wolf – nah not really. These may be children’s fables, but in business, many of the morals are the same. You don’t have to constantly hit the panic button. Do not dial 911, it is not an emergency.


Regardless of what industry you are in, whether you are buying products or services, the reality is that perfection does not exist. When something does not happen 100% exactly as you see fit, the situation does not constitute an emergency. Sure, there are times when a product that you desperately need to keep a machine in your plant operational does not show up as scheduled. Maybe we’d call this a border line emergency, but more so an inconvenience. And yes, when you hire a certain type of firm to provide a specific service, you expect a deadline and/or budget to be met. Missing the deadline and/or budget may be unplanned, unexpected, or even costly, but it is far from an emergency.


Why then do you take a tone that everything happening is earth shattering? Oh my, what am I going to do since that part I need won’t be delivered until 4:00 PM today versus 11:00 AM when I was told? I am not downplaying your concerns, but your actions, or better yet reactions, say a lot about how your service (or product) provider will treat you.


When you deliver your message to your provider that everything is going wrong, everything is bad, nothing works, fault, fault, fault, fault, well then you are delivering a message in a way that says, “I am a jerk, I must always be right, I am the customer period, you must give-give-give into me”. And, the customer service or sales person you are dealing with will soon begin to hear blah, blah blah. And ultimately, when something serious does happen, because no one (or no business) is always 100% perfect, you will be treated just like the little boy that cried wolf.


To the sales person: please understand that my somewhat harsh criticism of the client written above does not give you Carte Blanche to treat your clients rudely or that you should consider all that call in with a concern to be overreacting. Quite the contrary. You should treat every one of your clients with the level of respect they deserve. Let me repeat that – treat the client with the level of respect they DESERVE. Nothing less and nothing more.


Venting frustration about a client behind closed doors happens daily in my life, whether I am venting, or simply the sounding board for one of my team members. It is done behind closed doors for a reason – it is generally out of frustration and can be dealt with professionally – once the rep cools down.


Client relationships are just that, human relationships. And, while no business works to perfection 100% of the time, you should at least try. It is understandable though, when clients constantly hit the panic button or want to dial 911 on the situation you are managing, to want to give them a piece of your mind. There are better ways to handle these situations.


First, you and your team must realize what sets this client off to begin with, by making a list of ongoing reactions. Analyze this list and determine if the client is a panic first type of client or if they have a legitimate concern. If they are a panic first type of client, add them to the list with an explanation on their behavior.


Second, build a trend list, which can be coded indicators on what sets this client off. Two things can come from this – (1) you will know how to be proactive to this client or (2) how and when to be reactive. These short lists will give you “fall back” reasons on why something is or is not happening as the client expected.


Third, you’ll now see your repeat offenders come to light, and from these repeat offenders you will have more ammunition to make business decisions on keeping the client, terminating the relationship with the client, setting new guidelines, changing pricing or payment terms, etc.


As sales people and sales managers, we are constantly evaluating statistics and analytics about our clients buying habits, decision making processes, order values, and so on. But, sometimes we fall short on realizing how “soft stats” as I call them, come into play when making relationship management decisions. Let me close my post this week with an example…


I have a long-term, repeat client for whom we completed and launched a project earlier this week. We spent close to a year working on this project, from outline to proposal to project execution to project completion & launch, which was intensive. Generally speaking the project was great. Everyone on both sides worked together, as a team, diligently to make sure the project was a success. And, with all things considered, this particular project was a huge success. But, if you were to ask one of the client decision makers, he would disagree. Even though his team, including the president of his company thought it went extremely well, he finds fault in the smallest of details simply because that is his style.


We should have expected this behavior, right? We did. Having tracked this clients behavior for almost 8 years, we knew he’d hit the panic button when no one else would. We knew that the smallest of a technical hiccup would create a dial 911 situation. And, having known this prior to calling this project complete, we prepared. We had “all hands on deck” ready to answer his call. Like I said before, nothing is 100% perfect, but all of the team members (his and ours) would rate the completion and launch at about a 98% success.


Knowing how to deal with this type of client will help you achieve greater success. Call it a crystal ball moment; having some insight into the client before he or she even hits send on the panic, 911 email.

Don't Be Expendable - February 6, 2016

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Expendable as easily replaced or meant to be used and thrown away. Based upon this definition, is your firm (business) expendable? Are you expendable?


As a career sales person, these are two questions that I consciously ask myself on an almost daily, if not weekly basis. The first covers my “go to market” message and how I represent my business. The second covers the internal value I hold within my own company. Here are a few thoughts on both...


Having now spent the majority of my career in a consultative selling environment, one in which the relationship between my firm and my client is paramount to any service or product, I am often concerned that we would be viewed as expendable. We spend a great deal of upfront sales time evaluating what would drive us to do business, not just today, but over the course of months and years. We must bring value to our clients. We must bring our knowledge and expertise to the table. We must put our client’s best interests in front of our own. In other words, we must position ourselves being expandable not expendable.


If we are viewed by our client’s as expandable, we become a partner, one that will grow over time as the client grows. Being expandable means we may make a mistake from time-to-time, but as in any personal relationship, we are quickly forgiven and provided an opportunity to continue to grow with the client. Expendable means one mistake and we are likely out. This is not healthy business or healthy revenue for your company. Think about the old adage in sales: is it easier to build upon an existing relationship or constantly work to build new relationships? Obviously it is easier to grow upon existing, healthy relationships.


Oftentimes a sales person, new or one that is trying to recapture their magic, tend to grab sales that are quick. We call these “low hanging fruit” sales. But, these also tend to be the expendable sales. If it is quick, well then the client may be quick to terminate, especially if they don’t value the relationship. Taking a little extra time in the upfront selling process will reduce the possibility of being expendable, especially if you take the “we’re not a yes firm” approach.


In much the same way that you want clients to view your firm as expandable and not expendable, so too must you position yourself internally within the company. Making sure you have the firms best interest in front of your own is the first and most important step. I would expect you are in sales because you want to make money. You sell, you earn commission, and your annual compensation will increase. That is why we hire ‘A’ level sales people. They have a drive to make money and be successful.


But, it is only through the desire to sell the relationship first, and the service or product second, that you truly look for the best opportunities for your company. You show your fellow team members that you care about them and their own success. You don’t want to bring in a new client that views your company as expendable and in the process you are also showing your company that you are not expendable.


At the end of each day and each week you should ask yourself, “did I make myself / my company expendable?” The goal is to answer no. And, in the rare case you answer yes, reevaluate the scenario and identify a way in which you can change course. Being viewed as expendable is never good, so check yourself regularly to make sure you’re avoiding any situations where this has occurred.