Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Learn More From Defeat Than Victory - August 27, 2016

Google the phrase: “Learning more from defeat than from victory” and you’ll find thousands of relevant links. Most point to a variety of stories from which this phrase has been used, from heads-of-state to military leaders to coaches. Each and every story is different yet shares the commonality that through defeat or loss is a lesson learned that should offer guidance on how to succeed or be victorious.


My son recently began his high school journey. He is being welcomed positively with open arms, positive encouragement, all while being grounded in the messages being shared. Again, the theme of learning from defeat is a story shared. I’ve read and reread the message that was shared with him and his new classmates. The story is new but the theme is old. Reading it I was reminded of my own failures or defeats, yet here I am still standing, stronger and wiser than ever before.


Being a career sales person can be tough on the sole and spirit. As I’ve often stated, there is no such thing as perfection, only the attempt to be perfect. Along the way there will be will be awesome deals won, providing an exceptional feeling of pride, while delivering large commission or bonus payments. But, along the way, there will also be losses, the deals you wanted or expected that simply did not come to fruition.


The difference between an ‘A’ level sales person and a ‘B’ or ‘C’ level sales person is the power to learn from loss or “defeat”. It is easy to tell and re-tell the stories of success or “victory”. It is humbling to be able to stand tall and tell and re-tell the story of loss. But, when you accept that loss is a part of the sales career journey, you’ll soon realize the lessons learned will ultimately provide a pathway to success.


Over my years in business, as a sales manager, trainer or consultant, I’ve come to meet and study a variety of sales people. Some have been successful beyond imagination while others have been as middle-of-the-road as they come. I use my journal to make and keep observations handy on what drives success. Those with a higher successful closing percentage tend to be those that learned from their mistakes, lost deals or bumbled sales calls. Like me, these individuals paid attention to what transpired during those sales losses or defeats. Like an athlete following a loss, they study their game films, look for mistakes or miscues during the sales process, and plan accordingly for the next sales meeting.


Successful sales people do not point blame toward others or situations that may have been influencing the sales process. Blame is for the weak and truly becomes nothing more than a series of excuses and lies to oneself. Accepting defeat is a necessary step toward becoming victorious. A win, a closed deal, the signature on the contract, the victory will lead to another and another. Through defeat lessons on how to become victorious are learned.

Politics, Social Media & Sales - August 20, 2016

I am going to make this week’s post very brief. I’ve been asked several times recently for my opinion on how personal views and personal posts on social media platforms may impact a sales person’s career.


First of all, c’mon really, it’s 2016 already. Do I need to remind you that even when your best of intentions to use social media securely is in place, your very presence in social media opens you up to public criticism. All it takes is a “share” or “like” on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn and your post has the potential of being seen by a whole lot more people than just your “friends”.


Sales people are vulnerable by trade. Sales people are the face of their company. And so, when a sales person shares a tidbit of information from a personal perspective, it may open them up to opposing viewpoints which becomes a reflection on the company.


I cannot remember any political climate as heated as the current presidential election. Opposing views are being shared millions upon millions of times each and every day. Some people are using social media to spew hatred while others simply want to open up a reasonable debate. Regardless of your feelings or the urge to respond, keep politics out of your posts in social media, or you may see a negative reaction in your sales career.


My message is simple: always be careful what you post and be mindful that viewpoints differ. You never know who may come across your writing and may take your opinion or stance on a topic in a negative manner.

Like Boating On Lake Erie - August 13, 2016

I am both a boater and a career sales person living in Northeast Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie. What, you must be wondering, does one thing have to do with the other? The weather conditions, at times, are not in my favor for boating or sales. Allow me to explain.


There’s one thing a boater on Lake Erie knows and that is she can change her temperament without notice. One moment you’re enjoying a nice, flat lake and the next there are four foot swells and 20 knot winds out of the northwest. Or, oftentimes, I’ll look out of my office window at a beautiful lake calling my name, but come Saturday morning when I want to take my family for a ride, the lake is choppy.


Sales can be like boating on Lake Erie. Of course, there are plenty of times when the weather (or customer relationship) is just fine. But, there are also the times when things aren’t going so smoothly. Rough waters if you will. It seems we can predict our sales forecast about as well as the weather forecast. Boating is about the relationship between the boater, the vessel and Mother Nature. Sales is about the sales person, the service or product and the client.


When it comes to sales we all have the best of intentions, like wanting the weather to be perfect on Saturday for family time. We can plan ahead, looking forward to a great day, go get the boat cleaned-prepped-fueled up on Friday evening, just to be faced with terrible conditions and an immediate change of course come Saturday morning. It’s disappointing but unavoidable. It is the reality of being a boater.


Sales is no different. Relationships with our client’s experience ups and downs, but how YOU react to a change in weather, so to speak, can chart a new course or sink your ship. Client relationships are not perfect. We should always strive for perfection, but the reality is that there’s no such thing as perfect. A perfect day on the water is conceptually one that is enjoyable with good weather. Conceptually we want relationships with clients that are smooth sailing with little to no disruptions. Unfortunately, again, this is not reality.


Handling client relationships is about being prepared. An ‘A’ level sales person is prepared to “live in the moment” or “chart a new course” just as a boater must do when faced with severe weather changes. Clients can have a bad day and simply want to vent about your customer service. They may be unhappy with the quality of a product or service. There may have been a billing mistake and they caught it on the wrong day. You, as the sales person, must be able to react.


Planning ahead is not easy, rather it requires a sense of confidence that when you chart a new course, or change plans with how you’re managing the client relationship, you ultimately want an outcome that is enjoyable. Remember, you are a sales person at the core, so you will need to sell your ideas and plans to the client to return them to a place of appreciation.

Fire The Client For Their Own Well Being - August 6, 2016

This may sound like a similar topic for which I’ve written about before, but this time I’m taking a slightly different point of view. In prior posts, as well as with my consulting work, I often discuss the selfish reasons for firing a client. Some reasons include: they are not the right fit for You any longer; they can no longer afford You; or You have grown larger and they are simply too small. But, there are times where firing the client is best for them.


On two occasions this week I’ve had to send break up letters to long-time clients. One has been my client for nearly ten years and the other for seven. Such decisions never come lightly, and I struggled with putting thoughts into carefully crafted words, but in the end it was the right thing to do.


Years ago we seemed to be a match for one another. Both the client and my firm were growing. We provided our expertise and the client was attentive and appreciative. However, over the years, we were forced to make dramatic changes, and we grew larger in capability. Our industry changes on what seems to be an every six to eight month schedule. Not every client needs to keep up with the frequency of changes like we do, but stagnation should also not set in. Unfortunately, while my clients have grown, growth has been slower, and so their willingness to adapt to change has also been slow.


I can always make good cases for keeping up with technology, marketing trends, and changing to enhance the business position. There are also times when the clients slow pace of growth prohibits making changes or even keeping up. In my recent two cases this week, these are not bad clients, just clients that cannot (or are not willing) to change and grow. They are not staying current and so keeping their well being in mind, I have terminated our relationships.


At first the clients were upset. How dare we fire them. Who do we think we are? Like I said before, these are not easy decisions, and the messages are not easy to craft. With careful wording though I was able to explain my reasons why I was ending the relationship and I also provided guidance on selecting a new service provider.


When you plan to break up with a client you should plan carefully. Remember: you never know what the future holds and you certainly don’t want to burn a bridge. Putting the correct message in front of the client is the first key step. Second, make recommendations on how or who they can replace you with, and make sure you are comfortable with these recommendations. Lastly, always remember that you can either look like a “great person” or a “total jerk”. Be calm, be patient, and most importantly, be sincere.