Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Thankful: Actions Speak Louder Than Words - November 26, 2016

Here we are once again, Thanksgiving time, and as in all of my years past I am taking time to reflect on what gifts have come into my life. Of course I am thankful for my wife and children, my parents love and support, my co-workers, clients and friends. I am thankful for the lifestyle I have and for the enjoyment I can take in hobbies and my children's activities. And, I would expect you feel the same.


However, in the business of sales, being thankful needs to be much more than words, gratitude must be shown in actions. Now, I’m not talking about running out of the office and taking a client to lunch. Such activities, the client entertainment during this time of year, are so overdone. I’ve written several posts about this topic in the past. What I mean by actions speaking louder than words is simple: show your client how grateful you are for their business.


Here is a personal example: I have a clothing manufacturer as a client that primarily serves the outdoor worker and outdoor enthusiast community. I’m confident this client knows how grateful I am for their business. I say it often face-to-face and in notes (written and Email). I also purchase an item of clothing from them every time I visit and I proudly wear their clothing whenever meeting with their team. In an effort to show my true gratitude, beyond what should be considered the norm, I made a monetary donation to an environmental organization for which my client supports, and I did so in their name.


On another occasion, with a not-for-profit client serving underprivileged children, I enlisted the help of my own kids. We worked with friends and neighbors to collect toys, games, video consoles, clothing, etc. and donated these items to this organization to show our support. I am not only grateful for their business, but grateful such a place exists in Cleveland in support of children that do not have what other children have in terms of these day-to-day items.


Giving to charity or one’s community is certainly a personal choice. In reflecting upon all I have in my life, and realizing my career in sales is a large reason I am where I am today, I cannot ever sit back and think I did it all on my own. Without my clients trusting in me and my company, I would not be where I am. Saying thank you goes a long way. Showing gratitude in my actions will last long after my words fade.

Co-Selling Works - November 19, 2016

There is an old quote from Abraham Lincoln that I often translate to sales, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client”. In other words, in legal practice, you can’t always go it alone. You may need assistance or guidance from time-to-time, especially if your own “life” depends on it. And so goes the same in sales. I translate the Lincoln quote at times to mean “He who tries to close the deal by himself has no one to blame if he loses the deal by himself”.


The world is full of lawyers, some good, some average, and some just plain bad. The world is also full of sales people, some good (the ‘A’ level sales person), some average, and some just plain bad. What makes a lawyer good or a sales person ‘A’ level? It is a simple answer to write down, but not necessarily simple to act upon: the willingness to ask for help.


This is often a hard lesson in one’s career to learn, yet those of us who’ve been at the sales game for a while, have learned the lesson the hard way. We’ve all been there. We’ve all tried to be the cowboy who rides in on his white steed and saves the day by closing the deal all by ourselves. It is an awesome feeling when it happens. But, what a terrible sense of failure when it doesn’t. And, to make matters worse, many of those times when it doesn’t come your way, there may have been an alternative by asking for help.


I was asked recently by a friend to speak with his now adult daughter. She has been out of college for about a year and a half, in a sales role, and is struggling internally with how to approach management. She is fearful that she will be turned away or that by asking for guidance or help would be a sign of weakness in the eyes of her superiors.


Taking a small step back in the story, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share that Colleen has been rather successful in her short time as a sales person. She has learned quickly how to cold call, write proposals, and is embracing consultative selling more and more each week that goes by. She has had a small taste of success, but now has had her first real taste of failure. Colleen lost a fairly large deal she believed was well within her grasp. And, she is struggling with the reason why.


Colleen, for all intent and purpose, did everything right. She counseled the client off and on through the pre-sales and sales process. She brought in experts for review calls with her prospect. She went so far as to tell me, “Mr. Latchford, I dotted every ‘I’ and crossed every ‘T’, I just don’t know why they didn’t go with me”. I pushed her a bit in reviewing the steps and then it dawned on me. She didn’t ask anyone in her organization for help, as in anyone from her management team.


It was obvious from the beginning of the sales process that Colleen, although accomplished already, was young in her career. I’m not talking about her age, but rather her experience in her role. She did almost everything right, but she never asked anyone from the management team to be involved in her sales process, not even from an introduction standpoint. In her mind, she should have been able to close the deal on her own, and was fearful that her VP of Sales or the President of the company would find it disappointing that she’d need their help, or that she couldn’t handle it on her own. She couldn’t have been more wrong – and it cost her the deal. The prospect wrote a pleasant thank you, but explained the competitor made it a point to introduce senior leadership as a part of the sales process.


Asking for help is NEVER a sign of weakness. Rather, asking for help is a sign of maturity. Your senior leadership team does not need to be inundated with mundane requests for help ten times per day, but will never say no when it really counts. Colleen learned a hard lesson by not asking for help, but I'll bet she doesn't let that happen again. Don’t be afraid to approach your superiors, that’s what they’re there for.

Post Election: Block Out The Noise - November 12, 2016

I must say that I’ve never witnessed behavior in a business setting like I’ve seen over the past few days. It doesn’t matter the volume level, I call it all noise. From quiet whispering to outright screaming matches and everything in between, there has been quite a bit of hostility in people’s tone of voices.


The presidential election has brought out the best in some people and the worst in others. Voting in general is a privilege and it should not matter who one votes for as their candidate of choice. It is a personal choice. But, as much as it is a personal choice, taking a stance publicly and vocally can impact your position with your management team, in a negotiation with a client, or in the eyes of your co-workers. Being a part of the noise may not serve the purpose you may ultimately want.


Please don’t get me wrong, free speech is a wonderful thing, something we should all celebrate and champion. However, in the career of sales, one that likely pays your bills, keeping your opinions to yourself may be the better option over contributing to the noise. I’m sure by now you’ve hear the term “sales chameleon”. The sales professional needs to blend in with his or her surroundings in order to win the deal or win the day. So often sales people agree with this approach, pride themselves are being “good chameleon’s” and yet at times do not know when to bite their tongue.


Over the years in my career I have witnessed individuals commit professional suicide over their opinions and remarks. I’ve written many posts about sales being a game and how to play the game of sales. Blocking out the noise is a part of being an ‘A’ level sales person. And, it doesn’t have to be a presidential election, it can be commenting on your favorite NFL team when standing in front of a diehard fan from the opposition. I’ve been in meetings in Pittsburgh when the topic of Browns vs Steelers comes up. Instead of running my mouth, I’ve poked fun at the rivalry or simply let comments pass. Why stir the pot if it just needs to simmer.


So, this week I’m keeping the post rather simple, and just offering a little piece of advice based on the past few days of observations. Here you go: Sales is a game and ‘A’ level sales people know it is a game. You must recognize that even though you may have a strong opinion about a political, religious, sports, or business topic, it is sometimes best to stay quiet. There is no need to contribute to the noise. And, if you are wise and can block out the noise, others like your management team, co-workers, clients and prospective clients will take notice, and you will be regarded as a steadfast sales person. Keep business business and personal personal. There’s always a time and place to voice your opinion and the workplace isn’t always the best place.

Managing Emotions - November 5, 2016

While there are a variety of career options where emotions come into play, there are none more so than in sales. You’ve heard the term emotional rollercoaster, well that is a phrase that perfectly describes the life and times of a career salesperson. Managing emotions can be difficult, but when done so, can separate the ‘A’ level salesperson from the rest of the pack.


No one is bulletproof when it comes to managing their emotions. Emotion in one’s personal life, like their career, can be a heavy weight to bear, and sometimes creeps in and ends up on display. It may be the death of a family member or the birth of a child. It could be watching your hometown team make it to Game 7 of the World Series or it could be the 9th defeat in a row for your beloved NFL team. It also could be the loss of a client or the win of a new deal. Regardless of the event or activity, sometimes emotions build up, and you simply let those emotions show.


I awoke rather early this morning, feeling overwhelmed about my life this past week, having ridden a rollercoaster of emotion from last Saturday through last night. I attended a funeral for an old friend who was just 46 years old when he passed away a few days ago. I received news that another friend and former colleague celebrated the birth of her son. I worked closely with a long-time client that was more than a bit upset with my firm over what amounted to be miscommunication. I identified a great, new business opportunity through a partnership program. I received news that a family member was diagnosed with breast cancer. And, I attended parent-teacher conferences for all three of my kids, all with very positive feedback and remarks on their progress year-to-date. It was one hell of an emotional rollercoaster this past week.


My wife also woke up a little early today. Like me it was a long week with emotions all over the board. However, she did not have the client high’s & low’s to deal with, nor the amount of activity on her calendar as I did. She commented about how well I’ve handled these up’s & down’s this week, speaking directly about being on an “emotional rollercoaster”. She asked how I was holding up and if I felt exhausted. I had a simply reply: “I haven’t stopped to really dwell upon one thing or another, I’m just taking everything in stride”.


Throughout my career in sales I have been faced with a number of challenges. Managing a hectic calendar, juggling personal matters with networking events in the evenings, and growing my individual sales funnel all have prepared me for the unexpected. I’ve learned over the years to put each and every life instance into perspective. There are few things in life that I have complete control over. I cannot manage traffic on the highway, and so from time-to-time I may be late for a meeting. I’m not a doctor and therefore cannot help a friend or family member that has fallen ill. And, just the same, I can try my best to remain healthy, but I also cannot hide from the common cold. There are so many scenarios that play out in my daily life that I simply cannot control or even foresee, but I’ve come to accept anyway.


Recognizing that unexpected things happen in life is step one in managing emotion. Second, putting each unexpected item into perspective, that is ranking each on a level of importance, helps me prioritize my daily schedule. Third, I make sure that my family comes first, company second, and everything else after. And, lastly, if I feel emotion taking over, I try to walk away for even just a few minutes.


Managing emotions will help you get ahead in both your professional and personal life. Sometimes you just need to accept that emotion is human and showing emotion happens.