Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Q&A 3 of 4 - May 28, 2016

Q: Mr. Latchford, what is your opinion of professional sales courses, such as Sandler Sale Institute or Dale Carnegie? Are these worthwhile or more brainwashing programs? What value could they provide me (I’ve been in sales for 5 years)?


A: The short answer is yes, programs such as these are worthwhile, and you will find value in attending. But, while yes is the short answer, there is more to going forward into any sales training curriculum.


Let me first share my own experiences and then I will provide you with my professional opinion on moving forward. I have been in sales or sales management related positions for over 22 years. I’ve attended, through previous employers, a variety of classroom based sales training programs. Some were taught at corporate headquarters by MBA professors in marketing and finance. I’ve been a part of Dale Carnegie sales classes taught at company conventions. I’ve been provided classroom and “ride along” training by corporate run sales training departments. And, I eventually took it upon myself to complete the Sandler Sales Institute program and became Presidents Club. I’ve read well over 150 business (sales, marketing, management and finance) books as a means of continuing education. And, I read news blogs, watch videos and listen to a variety of “talks” on an almost daily routine basis.


In my professional opinion, a classroom program such as Sander or Dale is valuable, but in the same sense as any educational program – you only get out what you put in. You must be open minded and aware that not all sales training is created equal. And, most importantly, these programs are designed to teach sales to a variety of industries and individual personality types. You cannot become a robot and attempt to do as the teachers do. You must learn the tactics and techniques that are proven and then apply them to your selling style and respective industry & market.


Having both an open mind and willingness to learn is the key to success. I often rely on said tactics and techniques garnered during my time in Sander. I attend refresher programs every few months. But, I am wise and know that I must take the information and ideas shared, and make them my own.


Over the course of my career I’ve met many a sales person who felt classroom programs were a waste. They tried to emulate the teacher in every facet of what was being taught from body language to tone of voice. They deemed the programs a failure. If you want to take one of these programs you must be willing to know how to adapt the learning to your environment. You must take the knowledge being passed along to you and make it work for you. I found it helpful to take 10-15 minutes after each class to make notes on how I could apply what I learned that day to my own career. In the evenings I would re-read what coursework along with my notes and place each lesson into a real life scenario I was facing at that time. These steps helped me move from a classroom student to a situational student.


Are they worthwhile, absolutely and I would encourage you to proceed, but make it your own experience. 

Q&A 2 of 4 - May 21, 2016

Q: Hello Kevin, I’ve had a pretty successful sales career in the professional services market for almost 10 years. I married 2 years ago and just became a father. While I used to feel like I had a grasp on my schedule, even when busy, now I feel as if I’m always running out of time. I’m worried something will get missed or slip through the cracks. How do you manage your busy schedule and what tips can you offer for juggling a lot of “to do” tasks?


A: First of all, congratulations on married life and parenthood. Those are two of the best things I have going for me and I wish you the very best too. And, if you think life is hectic now, just wait until you have two, three or more kids in the mix.


As a business leader, sales manager, husband, father of three, volunteer to many activities, and someone that enjoys staying active, my schedule can be overwhelming to say the least. Over the years, as I have added more and more responsibilities to the day, week, month, I’ve needed to monitor myself so I do not become so consumed with these responsibilities that something winds up being overlooked. No matter how busy you are, you don’t want something to slip through the cracks, because you may not be able to get that “thing” back. So what have I done and do now? I use my calendar like an ultimate lifeline.


I’ve found there is no real secret sauce to managing my time except keeping track of it. I’ve had coworkers comment in the past that my life is an open book in Outlook. They can see everything I have going on and sometimes have asked me why I include personal items in my work calendar. I do not believe in managing multiple calendars. I want to know, through one spot, exactly what I have to do today and tomorrow and next week. And so, my answer this week is fairly short, sweet and to the point…become an open book with your schedule.


With Outlook you can mark items as private and only you will see the details. But, no matter what, put every single activity in your calendar, and monitor these activities closely. Here’s what I do: I block time for all work meetings both internal and external. When meetings are external during the business day, I add drive time to and from so no one else can book a meeting in that time slot. I block calendar time for my daily “to do” items, such as invoicing, conference calls with my attorney, etc. I put in my doctor and dentist appointments with drive time to and from. I put in my volunteer meetings with drive time to and from. I add my kids school schedules, practice schedules, game schedules, recitals, band concerts, and pretty much everything they have going on.


One major additional step that I do, which I don’t think everyone remembers, and that is to match my calendar to my wife’s calendar. I need to be on the same page every day with her. She needs to know when I can or cannot pick up one of the kids due to a work commitment. I need to know when she has an appointment and needs me to be home for a delivery. We both need to know that our children and other personal “to do’s” are covered.


Once you make your life an open book and have all of your activities, meetings, tasks, etc. all in one place for others to see, you will then be able to hold yourself accountable for your time, and others will be in a better position to help you manage your time too.

Q&A 1 of 4 - May 14, 2016

Over the next few weeks I am dedicating my posts to Q&A. Each week will be my answer to a popular question I am asked frequently. I hope this information will help you sell or manage sales. Thank you for following SaturdayMorningSales.


Q: Kevin, I’ve often heard sales professionals in Northeast Ohio (as well as other parts of Ohio and the US market) talk about seasonal selling. Specifically, these sales professionals discuss concerns and workaround planning for the summer months. Do you believe seasonal selling is a real thing? How do you handle this time of the year?


A: Thank you Michael S. from Elyria, Ohio for submitting one of the most frequently asked questions I get year-over-year. I absolutely believe seasonal selling exists and have experienced this issue directly for many years. Not only does it exist in Northeast Ohio, but it also exists in many other parts of the country where there is a dramatic change in weather. And, to be specific, I am not talking about a seasonal product, but rather trends in buying & selling behavior.


Using Cleveland as the basis for my answer, we must first talk about Cleveland weather. Here we are, Saturday morning May 14, 2016, and I am waking to 37 degree temps. It is cold and damp and it’s May. Not only is it cold and damp, but the forecast is calling for snow flurries and snow showers tonight and into tomorrow morning. This is the perfect starting point to my answer. While most of the country is enjoying springtime weather, we are experiencing borderline misery.


Business people in the decision making seat feel exactly as we do when wanting to go outside and enjoy spring. There is a slight feeling of depression in the air. All we want is to escape the cold, the gray skies and the snow. We want green grass, warm air, and a chance to enjoy the outdoors for a little while. And so the seasonal selling season is soon upon us. Once those temps warm, people flee their offices for time off, and getting those decision makers to talk or meet becomes a real challenge.


June through August poses a variety of challenges for sales professionals. When you throw in graduations, kids moving to and from college, as well as family vacations, getting a decision maker to commit time creates challenges with their calendars. Beautiful days are numbered in Cleveland, as an example, and so the decision makers want to take advantage of the time they have and work remote, take half-days, entertain their own clientele and employees, and they don’t want to be bothered with, well, making decisions.


Planning ahead and working on scheduling activities for June through August, beginning in April and early-May, can be the most critical step to minimize downturns due to seasonal selling. Finding opportunities to meet with the decision makers in unique locations where great weather can be enjoyed by both of you will help up your chances of getting and keeping the appointment.


Having an agenda that proves worth and value to the decision maker is the next step. You cannot expect this person to meet you for lunch at a waterside restaurant on sunny Friday afternoon if you have nothing important to bring to the table. You must be diligent with your strategy of “delivery news of importance”. It may be a new service you are immediately offering and you want them to be the first to know. Keep in mind, you’re asking this person to possibly sacrifice time on their own, so make it count.


Lastly, do not become discouraged if things slow down, because they will. Use your time wisely when someone cancels or does not want to meet until September. Plan, plan, plan and then plan some more. Typically, the Tuesday after Labor Day is when the seasonal selling season ends and sales life, as we know it, gets back to normal. I have always found the slowdown a time to reflect on my year up to this point and what I need to do to accomplish my annual goals. I build lists. I research new prospects. I plan for networking events in the coming months. I will look outward all the way to December and lay down the roadmap to successful sales. And, I too will enjoy the outdoors, because when the winter months come and my calendar is full, I’ll be able to look back on time well spent with family and friends. Enjoy it while you have it…the weather that is.

Teach An Old Dog New Tricks - May 7, 2016

There’s an old saying: You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks. I’ve never believed that to be true and as an old dog I am continuing to learn new tricks.


I am very fortunate. During the day I work for a firm that specializes in website design, development and marketing. I am surrounded by many talented people that are younger than me. I always say, “I learn something new every day”. And I do. But, in my role as a leader of the organization, much of what I learn from the younger team members does not necessarily get applied. I am not a designer or programmer. So, how do I learn new tricks? I read, watch and listen.


Reading, as I’ve been preaching lately to my children, is an absolute must in life. In order to stay on top of my industry and my role, I must make time to read. From a sales leader’s standpoint, I find it necessary to know what my competition and clients are doing in the market. And, every so often I come across a solid leadership, management, finance or marketing book that provides enlightening approaches to dealing with many of the rigors I face.


Watching comes into play on a daily basis. With the ease and speed of uploading video to YouTube, I can source information in quick, digestible chunks. I try to watch 3-5 video segments per business week regarding my industry or similar industries. I rely on my coworkers and colleagues to share ideas on trends or people they value. I find this to be a great way to learn at least one new idea (or trick) to apply that week or the following. My goal is to at least “try” it and sometimes these new ideas (tricks) work out and I keep them in my routine.


And finally, I listen, and I mean listen intently. I have a driving routine every morning when I head into the office. I listen to the same talk show on the radio for news and interviews. It is my starting point for the day of learning something new. Don’t get me wrong, I love music, and do need some downtime when driving. But, I find my daily journey of learning new tricks really begins with being prepared for the day ahead, and what better way than a routine of news.


Can an old dog learn new tricks? Absolutely, I am proof, but you must be willing to learn. Accept that learning is a part of your day, week and month. Do not be hardheaded, but rather open minded. You too will learn new tricks, and when you do, you’ll become a better sales person and sales leader.