Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Referrals Without Directly Asking - September 24, 2016

I have been a believer of referral business since I began my career. Nothing is more gratifying that having a current or previous client provide you with a referral. It is a true testament as to their happiness with the service or product you are providing them. And, referral business is so important, there are books and training programs surrounding this very topic.


Successful sales people in pretty much every industry will tell you that referral business is a must. It is THE key to becoming successful. Yet, many will not share how they obtain referrals. There is a real knack for obtaining quality referrals. Many in the sales training industry teach various methods on how to ask for the referral or how to build a “referral program” which is aimed at compensating for an obtained referral. But, I believe there is a way to obtain a referral that doesn’t cost you anything and you don’t have to blatantly ask for it.


Obtaining a referral without directly asking is the same as navigating the sales waters to go from a cold lead to a warm introduction. The goal, of course, is to gain an in with a prospect by having someone introduce you. Think about personal introductions: Jane, I’d like to introduce you to Keith. Keith is an old friend. The statement that Keith is an “old friend” is the testament. What Jane hears is that you value your friendship with Keith enough to not only make an introduction, you are stating that he is an old friend, which places emphasis on your personal feelings for Keith. You just made a referral. You’ve said to Jane that it would be worth her while to meet Keith (for whatever reason).


Obtaining a referral in business is similar. When you identify a prospect that you feel is worthwhile and worthy of your time spent trying to sell, you need to expedite the introduction process. Here are the steps to gain the referral without directly asking for it:

  • ·         Identify a mutual acquaintance, friend, colleague or client
  • ·         Send this person a note by email or even text asking not “if they know Joe” but “how they know Joe” – this accomplishes two tasks – first you will confirm their knowledge of the person you wish to meet and second how they know them
  • ·         The next step is the most critical. You need to phrase your follow-up question so naturally that your client (or whoever fits this spot) doesn’t even think twice. Question: Craig, sounds like you’ve had a great business relationship with Joe for a while. His name has popped up on my radar more than once. In fact, I’ve tried to get in touch with him a few times to talk shop. I believe he’d be a good fit for my company, maybe not as good you (insert laugh), but a good fit. What do you think?
  • ·         Although I’ve had conversations basically end here, more times than not my client (or whoever fits this spot) immediately offers to make the introduction. I thank them and even encourage ways on which to make the introduction.


Referral business can be a difference maker in moving from a ‘B’ level sales person to an ‘A’ level sales person. Being tactful, and sometime stealth in your approach, will ultimately drive your referral business higher and higher. Don’t sit back and wait for referrals to come your way…drive them directly.

Careful With Criticism - September 17, 2016

Just because you place the word “constructive” in front of criticism, it’s still criticism. Since well before I began my career, maybe even back in my high school days, I learned that it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. This is so true, especially when providing feedback to a salesperson.


I was having lunch with a client recently. In attendance was the owner, the vp of sales, and two of their sales team members. The conversation went along quite well until we were done eating. That is when I inquired as to how the sales folks were doing. Before they could answer, the vp of sales chimed in, and in a rather unflattering way began to critique her sales team member’s performance. She did not come across professional, polite, or even anything close to it. Instead, her so called constructive criticism was just criticism.


Demeaning a team member serves no purpose. Criticism may be earned, and when handled correctly, can serve a valuable opportunity for the person to learn from others more experienced. But, true constructive criticism should never be considered a loss, rather an opportunity to learn.


The woman I sat across from at lunch went on and on about how her team screwed up, missed big opportunities with new customers, and berated those team members for not learning from her teachings. Quite frankly she was rude and ignorant. I was utterly shocked that she was spewing her thoughts so candidly in front of the company owner – her boss.


The owner asked me if I had or could offer any insight. Seeing as though I was in good with the owner, and really did not need to win over the vp of sales, I offered by own constructive criticism. I did so only after I asked questions about each sales situation with follow-up questions on the how’s and why’s of each individual sale. I gave some feedback, but in my tone was empathy for the sales person, and through the conversation I was able to showcase possible reasons for losing those deals. I continued, even when giving my own thoughts on the sales processes gone wrong, to ask poignant questions for each person. All the while, I could see the vp of sales growing angry in my apparent intrusion into her world.


At one point, near the end of the lunch meeting, she demanded I mind my own business. My client, the owner of the company, very politely asked her to apologize to me and move on. Later that evening I received a call from my client’s phone number. To my surprise, it was not the owner, but the vp of sales. She called to apologize and not because she was told to do so. She came to realize that she was not being a good manager. She was struggling to communicate effectively with her own team members. She blamed some of her own losses in sales for skewing her judgment and she asked for help.


We’ll see how this plays out as I begin to counsel her. One thing to take away though, your sales team needs your help. They need to feel appreciated, even when they lose a deal. What you say and how you say it can make your sales person a better sales person…and you a better manager.

Wellness For The Sales Person - September 10, 2016

It doesn’t matter if you are in inside or outside sales, the overall stress of being in sales can take a toll on your health. Over the past decade the topic of wellness has become mainstream in business. The concept was originally introduced to very large companies in an effort to manage rising healthcare costs. Once only available if you had hundreds or thousands of employees, wellness programs can now be found in almost any company of any size. And, with wellness programs comes, well, wellness.


I oftentimes think about the comments my wife and kids have made when I’ve come home stressed out over losing a deal. Or, then the opposite occurs and I have success, and they can very easily see the excitement. These ups & downs, highs & lows can leave me worn out. There have been plenty of sleepless nights over the years. Days where I barely ate breakfast, skipped lunch, and continued working well into the night all in an attempt to close a deal.


Several years back I had a slight health scare, a 1:00 AM ambulance ride to the ER, only to find out what I should have already known – I was out of shape, eating poorly, overweight, and carrying way too much stress. Sure I had hobbies and I enjoyed getting outside, but nothing regimented, more of the every so often type of activities. In talking with my doctor, a nutritionist, and then a trainer, I was able to put an exercise routine together along with changes in my daily routine (such as dieting), that all paid off.


Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no poster boy for perfect health, not by a long shot. But, I am in better overall shape than I’ve been in years. Taking the concept of wellness seriously, working to manage and reduce the stresses I face in business and as a parent, and making sure I balance my work and personal time has helped me in more ways that I could have imagined.


Sales is my career. It is more than a chosen profession, rather it is a lifestyle. I’ve come to realize that my own wellness has made me a better salesperson. I have more energy which leads to confidence. I’ve learned new ways to manage a busy life in and out of the office. I can get more done with less effort by balancing wellness and time management. And, I believe I carry myself differently than other sales people who do not consider wellness an important part in their own lives.


I encourage you to evaluate how you handle stress. Keep an eye on your overall health as you get older. And, make wellness a part of your daily life. You will see the results in yourself and in your sales.

Your Personal Opinion and Declining Sales - September 3, 2016

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a very brief, yet hot topic post about politics, social media and sales. I did not expect any phone calls or emails, but boy oh boy did I get them. It seems my post opened the door, so to speak, for a variety of questions ranging from generic about social media being personal to “how dare my customers hold my political view against me”. So, I’m going to use this week’s post to expand a bit on my commentary, and hopefully this post will answer many of the questions I received.


To sum up personal viewpoints and opinions with regards to sales, whether you like it or not, people will do business with you if they hold you in high regard. Unfortunately, while this is not always fair, it is reality. To illustrate please allow me to provide you with this example.


Robert is a former colleague. We worked together many years ago, and while I’ve not seen him in some time, we stayed in touch by email every now and then. Over the past ten years Robert married, became a father, and moved into a new home in a new neighborhood. All seems pretty normal. Except, Robert and his wife began to change, and this too is normal. They became more successful in their careers and became parents. Like many, their own personal outlooks on life changed, and so the story goes. However, both Robert and his wife went from being somewhat conservative to a bit more liberal in their political views. Both educated in Catholic grade schools and high schools, they have shunned Catholic schools, and are very outspoken about the public education system. They are vocal on big box stores being evil empires, this environmental group is superior to that environmental group, etc. etc. Again, no big deal, right?


Well, both Robert and his wife take to social media like moth’s to flames. They seem to take great enjoyment in writing about their opinions and viewpoints. And, while many do similarly, they do not shield themselves behind privacy or security settings. Rather, they are very public, so much so that local newspapers have quoted from their musings. Obviously, when being so vocal, and publicly vocal, you will open yourself up to opposing viewpoints and criticism.


It appears that more than a few of Robert’s clients are not on the same page as he is with some of his opinions. In fact, over the past fifteen months Robert has experienced a 21% decline in sales in what was once considered a protected sales territory. And, not too long ago, human resources had a sit down with him to discuss the policies on use of social media. Robert read my post and called me angrily about it. He does not agree that personal opinions and viewpoints should play a role in one’s career, especially in sales.


To summarize and wrap up this post, here’s my response to Robert: “Old friend you have got to snap out of it. People want to do business with people they like and are oftentimes like them. You may not agree that sales should be personal, but it is. You have no one to blame but yourself and your wife. You’ve chosen to be outspoken in a public manner and your clients don’t like it or in some cases agree. As much as its your right to your opinion, they too have the right to disagree, especially when your opinion goes directly against their business. Robert, you recently wrote an op-ed on that big box store that just opened down the street from you home, blasting their business practices, hiring policies, etc. Yet, your number one customer sells products to this company. Of course they aren’t happy about your opinion.”


So many things came to mind…think before you speak (or write)…it’s not just what you say but how you say it…and remember you chose sales as a career, accept the up’s & down’s that go along with it.