Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Time To Move On - October 29, 2016

Here I go again, writing about the significance of understanding that sales is about relationships, and the reality of relationships is that at times you have to let go and move on. I’ve watched colleagues for years work on their sales skills by reading a book, watching a video, or attending a seminar. These are some very bright, well educated individuals. However, they take the text book definitions and attempt to apply lessons learned without understanding some of the key principals – relationships are learned through experience.


Think about this for a moment, you don’t learn how to date someone, propose marriage, and walk down the aisle through a lesson in a “How To” book. You date someone, then you date someone else, you make mistakes, you learn from your mistakes, and then you apply the lessons you’ve learned through these experiences. That, my friend, is relationship management.


What some of my colleagues lack at times is the perspective I have from being a parent. Having children ranging in age from grade school to high school, I’ve become a believer in “little kids little problems, big kids big problems”. And, through my parenting experiences, I feel as though I am yet again learning life lessons that I can apply in business and in sales. Sometimes simply being an observer of my children offers me reminders of lessons learned through experiences in relationship management.


Over the past week or so I’ve been witness to two scenarios with my children that remind me of a golden sales lesson – you have to learn when it’s time to move on. In the first scenario my youngest daughter found herself in a rather uncomfortable situation. One of her close, longtime friends was not being kind to someone else over text and social media. My daughter tried to explain to her friend that she was being mean. Unfortunately, her efforts were futile and while she should have walked away she did not. She was punished by my wife and me, and now she realizes that it is better to walk away, move on, and possibly even change the dynamics of her friendship, in order to do what is right.


Another example is based around a young man that attended grade school with my son. This young man has moved on to high school and is beginning to make new friends and build upon his new high school life. However, in doing so, like many others moving on in life, his own mom does not believe he’s having a good experience. In fact, she believes his older, grade school friends are turning their backs on him and leaving him out. She has turned to making false accusations toward other young men and other families. She believes her son is being excluded intentionally and refuses to acknowledge that these boys are growing up and moving on with their lives. She refuses to move on and in her refusal she’s not accepting that her son needs to also move on.


In our careers, in sales, just as with personal relationships with our friends, significant others, and our children, lessons must be learned with experiences applied. In other words, my reflection this morning while having coffee reminds me that my children must learn life-lessons even when they’re difficult lessons, and then apply these experiences in the future. Sometimes it is best to move on. In sales one must always realize that lessons are learned more on the street than in the classroom. Sure, foundational ideas can come from a book, but nothing can replace the experience of learning hands-on. Lessons will be found in wins and losses. You’ll earn new client relationships and lose some. And, some must be lost, must move on, in order to grow.


My daughter, as well as the young man now in high school, must move on. They must seek new relationships in order for themselves to grow. Sales people need to grow, add new client relationships, and yes, sometimes this means moving on or allowing others to move.

Age & Memory - October 22, 2016

Age and one’s memory are topics that can be funny and, at times, very difficult. For so long we as a society have pondered the relationship between getting older and becoming forgetful. And, in no way, shape or form am I attempting to make light of such a situation. I have watched individuals very close to me suffer from forgetfulness, so I am sensitive to the topic.


In business the age of a relationship between you and a client can also become a matter of forgetfulness. It seems the longer (age) we work with a client, there are times when we forget some of the details of our business. I’ve had a rather tough week in this regard, dealing with a longtime, valued client that has become forgetful of our business dealings.


My client is a bit upset because a project is taking longer than any of us had planned. The use of a third-party for a functional piece of work impeded our progress. In fact, my client selected the third-party, and the third-party has caused a three-month delay in the overall timeline of the project. While we worked diligently to keep our client apprised of the situation and the delays, what appeared to be understood was forgotten. And, so we face an upset client that wants to shift blame to my firm rather than accept any part of the responsibility.


What has frustrated me more so than this one matter is the forgetfulness of the end goals of the project. I feel as though the age of my business relationship has put in place “assumptions”, as in my client assumes we’ll do this or that, or they assume we understand what they intended beyond what their words stated. And, topping it all off, I have two executives representing the client side of the relationship that oftentimes are not on the same page, and are forgetful of independent conversations they’ve had with me or others in my company.


In much the same way as dealing with a loved one who may be experiencing memory issues, you have a responsibility to both your company and your client to gently remind them of conversations. I’ve been accused more than a time or two of being somewhat longwinded in my email correspondence. I'm maybe a bit over-the-top, so to speak, in details. However, when called upon for a gentle reminder, I tend to have something available in an email that helps shed light.


Clients, just like a friend or family member, don’t like being told they’re wrong or they forgot the details of a conversation. But, if and when handled properly, the gentle reminder goes a long way. Reminders don’t have to be a “I told you so” moment, instead they can be a “here is the recap email I sent you three months ago, take a look, and then let’s get back together so we’re on the same page”. I will say that over the many years of my career, this approach works more times than not, but never 100%.


Frustration sets in, as mine did this past week, when a client remains adamant that they are right, you are wrong, and there is no further discussion needed. When push comes to shove you may have no choice but to deliver the cold, hard facts. The fallout may not be pleasant, but the alternative is worse. You must always take a step in reminding your clients of forgotten details otherwise you will lose revenue, lose profit, lose employees, lose clients, or lose all of the above.

Accepting Rejection - October 15, 2016

I can’t believe they said No!


You’ve got to be kidding me, he got promoted and I didn’t?


They chose another (company/product/service) and not mine, it’s their loss.


Being told no, being rejected, can garner a reaction that sometimes is telling about how you handle not just other difficult lessons in life, but success as well. Rejection is inevitable. There is no perfect, 100% close rate in sales, just as though no professional quarterback can go an entire career without throwing an interception.


Understanding and accepting rejection is not a comfortable topic, but I’ve been in my career long enough to know that there are also more up’s than down’s, if you know how to accept rejection and move on. There are many who’ve chosen sales as their profession, but who have poor attitudes when it comes to loss. Some become angry while others blame the customer or client. Some gloss over a loss or rejection and never take any time to consider reasons why they were not chosen. And yet others hold onto the loss for far too long, constantly reminding themselves they lost a deal, and dwelling on possible shortcomings in their own process. All self-destructive attributes that in no way lean in the direction of success.


One of the first steps any sales person should take in building a successful sales career is accepting that rejection does happen. It may be something you did in the sales process. It may be a price-sensitive issue. It may be the client simply never wanted to choose you in the first place, but was required to get a competitive bid. Regardless of the reasons, being rejected is a fact of the sales life. Accept it and move on.


That is the key – accept it and move on. However, there is an “in between” stage between accepting it and moving on. This is the reasoning stage, as in there was a reason, and you need to uncover what the reason is or was. The process of uncovering the reason you were rejected may take a little extra doing, it may require you to call the customer and ask, but it is a necessity. Through rejection or loss there are lessons to be learned. And, through these lessons, wins or gained business will come.


I am not suggesting that rejection is easy, something you should be comfortable with or take as a norm, rather be willing to accept that it is a part of one’s sales life. Accept that you are being presented an opportunity to learn, so that win’s become even more valuable in the future. 

The Cost Of Being In Sales - October 8, 2016

I’ve had the pleasure recently of mentoring several college seniors readying themselves for graduation and their entry into the world of sales. It excites me to see their level of enthusiasm and their passion for wanting to start their careers. All bright minded individuals, they also each have unique backgrounds. Some have parents that have built their own careers in business while others have families that work in construction or industry.


During our round-table discussions and one-on-one sessions, I would often steer the conversation around topics of preparedness, being mentally tough for sales, interviewing techniques, cold calling skills, etc. etc. Through them all there was one topic that raised the most eyebrows and created the most interactive level of conversation: the cost of being in sales.


One young lady shared a story she read in a business magazine which described how a sales person, a true expert in sales, can name their price. She took that to mean that in sales, with some experience and a relative amount of success, you can get a high paying job easily. When I introduced the idea that there is a cost to being in sales, this poor young lady almost hyperventilated.


What is the cost of being in sales? The answer is a simple, single word – sacrifice – but the concept of sacrifice is very difficult for many to understand. And, more importantly, is the cause for many a sales person to change professions.


I began the exercise by having each person in my group define sacrifice as it pertains to being in a sales career. The majority spoke about salary, as in entry-level terms for compensation. One described a recent interview where he was informed there would be no vacation during the first year of employment. Another chimed in about the pathway to an outside sales role, ultimately where she wanted to be, having to go through an inside sales training program. She dreads the idea of cold calling for 8 hours per day 5 days per week. She looked at that as sacrifice.


Each of these young, soon-to-be professionals had a general idea about sacrifice for their new career, but each barely scratched the surface. I then shared my definition of sacrifice. I did this by describing not only my own experiences but those of many an ‘A’ level sales person I’ve come to know.


Sacrifice, the cost of being in sales, is about long days and long nights. Constant learning: reading, watching, listening, attending, with no graduation date in sight. Learning is a lifelong endeavor that must be a part of the sales person’s daily program. Sacrifice is about traveling, sometimes for days on end, living out of a suitcase and not seeing your spouse or children. It is about missing your mom’s birthday dinner because you could not miss a conference on the other coast. Sacrifice is about relocating, sometimes frequently, because your employer wants to promote you. Sometime relocation's are to places you never considered moving to. Sacrifice is about putting 20,000 miles per year on your car (or more) for the sake of making meetings face-to-face rather than over the phone or over the Web.


There is a cost to being in sales, but such a cost (the sacrifices) can be viewed as an expense or as an investment. For those that view the cost as an investment, the return on investment can be enormous. The sacrifices made today can afford you luxuries later. Skipping happy hour with your buddies next Thursday may allow you the ability to skip work on Thursday five years from now so you can attend your daughters first piano recital.


Sacrifice is about paying your dues today to reap rewards tomorrow. Are you willing to pay the cost of being in sales?

Better Friends After The Breakup - October 1, 2016

Throughout the past few years I’ve written a variety of posts pertaining to hiring & firing of both sales people and clients. Yes, it is a touchy subject, and yes it oftentimes does not end pleasantly. But, every so often, as in personal relationships, two people or two companies can end up being better off once the breakup takes place. In fact, the breakup may strengthen the relationship.


I was reminded of this recently when I was asked to assist with the parting of ways between a sales professional and his employer. Gabe, the sales professional, is a truly personable individual. The “really good guy” in the group. He is pleasant and easy to talk to. He tries hard to make people comfortable in the business setting and on the telephone. Unfortunately, sometimes one just has a black cloud over their head for a while. Sales became more and more of an obstacle course. As one obstacle would be pushed aside by a closed deal, it then seemed as though ten more obstacles appeared.


For Gabe’s employer, patience in sales performance became an obstacle for them too. I counseled the company for some time on how to work on change plans and growth plans from the sales team side of the business. Unfortunately, the topic of Gabe began to dominate planning meetings. It was never an exciting topic because he was hitting home runs, rather it was a disappointing topic due to poor sales performance. All the while everyone complimented his personality and desire to remain steadfast in selling for the company.


Eventually a decision had to be made, one that meant Gabe needed to leave the company, and he could do so of his own choice or be terminated. Not surprisingly, because Gabe was not bread with a sense of entitlement, he chose to resign. He recognized the struggles he’d had for many months, and although not one to quit, Gabe also was a realist. He knew that by staying it was nothing more than a matter of time before he would be terminated. He had missed quota too many months to make up ground.


Gabe took the high road. He was overwhelmingly complimentary of the company. Without hesitation he contacted his clients and prospective clients. Without going into detail he shared with them that he was parting ways, but that the decision was more than amicable, and one that would allow him to pursue new opportunities. He made introductions to other team members, and he then followed up on his own time, to make sure these clients and prospective clients were being taken care of.


There are many who would part ways with their employer and never speak again. Instead, Gabe has stayed in contact. He has made an introduction to a new prospective client and he’s referred a sales candidate to the company. If he has hard feelings, you’d never know. Not everyone is cut from the same cloth as Gabe. My hope behind this week’s post is simple, learn from Gabe on how to be humble, you may find that you’ll be better friends after the breakup. And, you never know when your paths may cross again.