Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Out Of The Mouths Of Babes! - March 26, 2016

You’re probably wondering what in the world this title means this week: Out of the mouths of babes! This saying is older than me. This saying has been around a very, very long time. And yet, no matter how old, this saying has meaning in 2016 especially if you are a parent. Children are innocent creatures with no filters. They speak the truth no matter where they are or who is around. So, what does this saying have to do with sales?


For generations, maybe as long as the profession of sales has been in existence, a sales person has been given a bad rap for being untruthful, dishonest, or a “bender of facts”. It has become a stigma that many a sales person cannot lose. And, in many cases, it is a stigma earned.


I have worked with and counseled sales people for over twenty years and I can’t begin to tell you how many of these folks were taught, that’s right taught, how to bend truths to sell their product or service. Sales people have gone to training programs taught on the basis of how to only share the minimal amount of information to close a deal, nothing less and nothing more, and boy oh boy can that come back to bite them.


When I first began my sales career there was a gentleman I admired for his success. His success, and I mean BIG success, was based on one simple rule that he set for himself: Out of the mouths of babes! What, or more importantly why, did this saying become a business rule for my mentor? Because, as he put it, if you always tell the truth and provide more information than may be required, your customer can never come back and question your intentions for selling them a product or service. Ultimately you will win more than you will lose.


Prior to becoming a parent, I would have this saying trickle into my thoughts every so often, and now it seems to be ever present. The meaning behind it always stuck with me though. I’ve tried to make sure sales people I encounter, either by management or customer, always abide by this rule. You should ask yourself if you abide by this rule (or if your company does). Are you in a position to never have ethics questioned in a deal? Does your customer recognize you as an honest, stand-up sales person? Or, do they view you as the typical order taker, and only do business with you out of necessity?


Becoming a real success as a career sales person means that you must always be honest with yourself and with your customers. Are you?

Recharge Your Battery - March 19, 2016

I was having lunch with a few colleagues the other day in the office. Someone asked if I was looking forward to my upcoming vacation, and before I had a chance to answer, another person commented, “it must be nice to go on vacation again, weren’t you just skiing?” Unfortunately, I was not having the best of days, and I let my agitation with this person get the best of me. I blurted out, without thinking, “if you put in even half of the time and effort I have since January 1st you too would want to go on vacation”. I quickly walked away and later apologized to everyone that was in the kitchen at the time of my outburst.


Stress! I have been under a tremendous amount of stress lately. I tried to watch some March Madness games last night at my neighbors and could not focus on the game. I found myself walking home and going to be at 10:00 PM. I was tired. I got a decent enough night’s sleep last night and felt good coaching lacrosse practice this morning. I guess I just needed the rest.


You see, I made a few adjustments in my role internally at my company as well as with my freelance schedule, and as the old saying goes – I’ve been burning the candle at both ends. As a career sales person I have never been a nine-to-fiver. And this couldn’t be more true of the past 80 days. I’ve always explained to sales people, you can work 30 hours per week or 65 hours per week, the key is making sure you are always exceeding expectations (your own and those of your boss). Being my own boss, I have much higher expectations for myself than I do of my team, and my goal has been to exceed.


And so this has been my mission. I consciously chose to set extremely high goals for myself for the first quarter. Knowing that I had a spring break vacation planned at the end of the quarter meant that I needed to exceed my goals by mid-March and I accomplished my goals. I sit here today feeling good that I exceeded my sales goal while maintaining a full schedule of other responsibilities. But, I still feel a little upset that I was short tempered with my coworker earlier in the week. I blame it on stress.


Sales people tend to be viewed as happy-go-lucky. “Hey man, how’s it going” – “great, couldn’t be better”. Sales people never own up to being stressed out or having a down month or quarter. Happy-go-lucky always. We are sales people, so we are good at covering our real feelings. And so it has gone for me, everything has been great, and for the most part is has. I mean really, while I’ve been stretching myself thin, I have also exceeded goals. But, in reality, I do need a break and so it is time to recharge my own battery.


A sales person should monitor their behavior on a daily basis. When feeling stressed out at work or at home it is time to take a break. A break may be as simple as taking a walk around the block at lunchtime. Or, if you’ve really been going hard at a relative non-stop pace, you may need to disappear and head to the beach for a few days. Whatever works for you, hiking-camping-skiing-shopping-a walking tour of Boston, do something non-work related and relax (or try your best to relax).


There are too many people in the business world that do not fully understand or grasp the concept of being a career sales person. They don’t understand the sacrifices made every day, every week and every month that we take on ourselves to ensure our company is generating revenue. They are unaware of the nights spent at networking events or traveling to visit out-of-town clients, time spent away from our families. And, to a certain extent, they don’t care. We chose this profession. With that in mind, avoid burnout, and take break. Recharge Your Battery!

Sales Stand-Up - March 12, 2016

What is a stand-up? What specifically is a sales stand-up? Should I employ a sales stand-up with my team?


In the world of software development (and similar types of industries) there is a process/belief/methodology known as Agile. Very similar to other concepts in management, like Lean, the premise of Agile is transparency in all steps of your business. This includes sales. My company employs Agile at the core of everything we do, and have for a few years now, which includes how I manage the sales team. The practice of Agile includes a brief daily meeting known as a “stand-up” and I have begun to teach this technique in my own freelance work.


So, let’s begin with the most important element to a sales stand-up, and that is transparency. The concept of transparency, at least on the surface, is rather straight forward. Each sales person is an open book on every single aspect of activity and performance. That is to say, each and every sales person must know exactly where every opportunity, prospect, proposal, PO, email, etc. is in the sales process for each and every client and prospect. Now, here is the tough part, the sales person must be 100% open and honest about these aspects of their sales, meaning they must not sugarcoat the chances of closing the business. And, all of this information is presented daily in front of the entire sales team and management team.


Being transparent seems easy and it is once you become accustomed to being an open book. Think about this for a moment: if you forget to make a phone call to a prospect, you answer for it openly to your team, by admitting you “forgot”. If you are being blown off by a prospect, you acknowledge this openly to your team. If you were told to pound salt and never call the prospect again, you acknowledge this openly to your team. Then and only then are you going to become truly transparent.


So, back to the original questions, what is a stand-up or sales stand-up? A stand-up by basic definition is a meeting. A quick meeting where everyone “stands up” in a circle, hence the name, and randomly gets 2 minutes to talk. The sales stand-up is done daily, first thing in the morning, and should allow each sales person an opportunity (again in 2 minutes or less) to share with the team (1) what they accomplished yesterday, (2) what is on the schedule for today, and (3) what they need help/support on from other team members or management.


Naturally trying to get a sales person to talk for less than 2 minutes can be a challenge. We’re sales people, we love to talk. But, this is not time for idle chit chat. In my office we pass a football from one team member to another. As soon as the sales person catches the ball the clock starts. A typical sales stand-up includes 7-8 people and we are done on average in 13 minutes. Most important thing – these meetings are driving success.


Going back to transparency, the fact that we move quickly through our sales “happenings” in a brief amount of time every single day, there has been a reduction in short notice “hey can you help me” meetings. Planning for all team members, especially management, has improved. Including non-sales folks when need be has also improved, because the others within the organization have advanced notice when they may be needed.


I’ll wrap up with this final note and that is team bonding. All too often sales people go, go, go and find they only communicate with their fellow team members in a weekly sales meeting or sometimes only monthly. Taking a few minutes every morning, even though the sales person is speaking briefly, builds comradery among the team members. Each person will come to realize they are not alone in the trenches. Give the daily sales stand-up a try. If you need more advice or guidance getting started, shoot me a note.

Diet & Exercise - March 5, 2016

It’s not what you may be expecting from this week’s title. I am not here to give you tips on how to lose weight, gain muscle or expand your workout routine. Not at all. This week I am sharing my theme of diet & exercise as it pertains to managing my existing client list.


I have been with my firm for going on 14 years and in that time I’ve worked with hundreds of clients. Going into 2016 I counted 115 active clients that I remain assigned to as the primary contact. Now, realistically, there is no way I can meet with and manage 115 clients. Not a chance. But, I also don’t want to walk away from these clients either. Instead, it is during this time of year, mostly the 1st quarter of the year, where I put myself through a diet & exercise routine with my client list.


Setting the stage you should think about what most health experts define as diet. Of course, there may be foods you should cut, such a tons of candy or ice cream, but moderation is more beneficial than anything when dieting. And, combined with a healthy moderation of foods, you need to exercise, as in working muscles you don’t often do, or trying a new routine.


Diet & exercise in your sales is very similar and I go through this approach every year. First, are there any clients that I should simply cut out, because they are known to be unhealthy? Second, which clients need to be “pulled back some” as in contacted in moderation. It is OK to have a beer every now and then, not a 12 pack at one time. Thus, it is OK to meet with a certain client once in a while, but there is no need to meet once per week. And, what client relationships need to be exercised? Once you’ve determined the diet side, that is moderation with some clients, the fun really kicks in when exercising.


Exercising a client relationship means you are building strength. There are a variety of analogies that you can fit into your own individual client relationship, like shedding fat first and then building muscle, but it means the same in the end. Once you put your client relationship into exercise mode, opportunities to continue with this client tend to abound. You’re building strength between you and them. You are building trust that you can handle their needs. It is no longer painful to deal with any topic with the client because you know the results will come from the time you put into it.


Put together your own diet & exercise plan and watch the results. But, be warned, just as with your health, you must maintain momentum and not fall backward into bad habits. Put down the chocolate, say no to another beer, shed the bad clients, strengthen your relationships with your good clients, and watch your sales career prosper.