Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Reflection Over Resolution - December 31, 2016

I’ve talked and written about New Year’s resolutions in the past. They are generally not for me. I understand the meaning behind them, the fresh start to the calendar year, and the opportunity to begin anew. I get it, I really do. However, I still believe that what you promise yourself and others through a New Year’s resolution are things you should be doing all along.


Think for a moment about all the times you or another that you know say, “my resolution for this year is to lose weight and be healthier”. Or, how about this one, “my New Year’s resolution is to be a more patient person, not lose my temper so quickly, and to be willing to hear others out before infusing my opinion”. Again, why does the flip of the calendar push us to make resolutions. More so, why do so many make these resolutions based on in-the-moment emotion. Take for example the idea of losing weight and being healthier. The jokes are abundant on this topic because people are coming off a glutinous holiday time where they ate and drank as they pleased and now feel guilty about the pounds they put on. Beyond this situation, many cannot relate the idea of their desired weight loss and healthier lifestyle to other factors, such as their blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar levels, stress factors, etc. It’s the New Year and this seems like a doable resolution.


Now, don’t get me wrong, like I stated before I do get the idea of a New Year’s resolution. But, I believe more in using this time for reflection. Beyond choosing an item or two of change arbitrarily and calling it my New Year’s resolution, I take time throughout the holiday season to reflect on the good things that have come my way. And with the good, so too must I reflect on the not so good. It is through my belief in reflection that I will strive to be a better person – husband, father, manager and sales person. Reflection will point me toward being a better version of myself where a resolution will likely address one small factor. How can I better the whole versus just a part?


Most of the time when I debate someone on the topic of reflection over resolution the typical response is I am aiming too high. Really? I generally win the debate when I use the weight loss resolution example.


Other: My New Year’s resolution is to lose 15 pounds and get healthier.

Me: Why?

Other: Because I’ve put on a few extra pounds and I want to get thinner.

Me: Why?

Other: Because my pants are starting to fit a little snug and I need to lose weight.

Me: Why?

Other (becoming frustrated): What do you mean why, I just told you.

Me: Ok, but what will you losing 15 pounds do for you?

Other: Kevin, are you dense, I just said I’d be able to fit into my pants better.

Me: Oh, ok. (And then I walk away)


A short time later, still frustrated, Other stops me at the New Year’s Eve party and wants an explanation on just exactly what I was getting at by continuing to ask the question Why. This is where reflection comes into play. You said you wanted to lost 15 pounds because your pants were starting to fit snug. However, you never explained how you gained the 15 pounds in the first place. Did you indulge in a few too many craft beers? Did you stop exercising all together? Is there a medical concern your doctor found that caused you to gain weight? Are you under stress at work? Are you having marital issues? Is a family member facing an illness? All of these questions can point to the trigger that caused you to gain weight in the first place. Reflect upon the year past and consider the reasons or the factors that played into the weight gain. Then, should you still want to call it a resolution, layout a roadmap for losing the 15 pounds while addressing the root cause(s) of the weight gain initially.


Translating this into my sales career, I too have put on a few pounds over the past year, and I plan to lose the weight. I’ve been working toward becoming a more patient man, but I have a way to go. I consider myself a good husband and father, but can be a little short tempered at times. I enjoy craft beers, good bourbon and I love to cook, yet I may overindulge from time-to-time. I try to be a faithful man in my religious beliefs, but I’m far from what I would call ideal. I know I can do a better job on my attendance record at church. I like to read, try to read for enjoyment, but oftentimes make easy excuses to skip that book I’ve had sitting on the shelf for 10 months. Addressing these types of things will make me a better sales person because they will make me a better person overall.


Reflecting upon my shortcomings will lead me into the process of laying out a roadmap for addressing each item. You may call these resolutions; I call them reflection points. What’s the difference? Going back in this post a little bit, resolutions tend to be statements made when the calendar year flips. I’m going to lose weight! I’m going to work on my patience! I’m going to be a better husband, father, manager and sales person! And, while these statements have power, they lack the game plan.


My advice as I close out the calendar year 2016 is simple. Find some alone time with a notebook. Jot down your thoughts or statements as if you were making resolutions. Then ponder each and ask yourself Why. Why is this a resolution? How did I get to this point of making it a resolution? What were the causes throughout the past year that have come to a head now? Once you’ve written down the various items you would call resolutions, have reflected upon the reasons why they are resolutions, then and only then will you be able to draw your roadmap for accomplishing each. Oh yeah, one more point, be realistic. Unless you starve yourself, you won’t lose 15 pounds in a month or two. Realistically, you’ll lose that 15 pounds in five to six months and become healthier along the way. Reflect and plan accordingly. Happy New Year – I hope 2017 is a safe, enjoyable and successful year for you.

I’ve Been Sold: A Major Purchasing Experience - December 24, 2016

We have all made major purchases in our lives. Homes, cars, boats, vacations, etc. all come to mind. Some purchases can be pleasant experiences while others can be more burdensome. Then there are purchases that, regardless of the price tag, were excellent buying experiences. Here is a personal example of one such buying experience.


Taking a step back, allow me to explain how I came to making a major purchase. My wife, kids and I like to travel. Living in the Cleveland area can sometimes get old, especially when the weather is gloomy for long periods of time, so we try to visit Florida once or twice per year. Occasionally, because we also like to ski, we’ll take a trip to Pennsylvania or New York or once in a while out West to Utah. What it really comes down to is spending quality time as a family away from the daily routine.


So, this past week we went to Southwest Florida to sit on the beach, get away from the cold of Northeast Ohio (especially since we’ve already had one major snow storm), and to give the kids a little break from school. My wife and I also had the idea that we’d check out the timeshare program that a few friends are a part of that offers national and international travel opportunities. Well, be didn’t just check it out, we bought in.


The sales process started when we arrived at the hotel and were greeted by the representative that would set up our buying experience. She applied no pressure whatsoever and instead offered guidance on the process. Everything was set, from the car service, to childcare, all down to the minute. I was already pleased with the process, but then it got better.


As a career sales person myself there are certain attributes that stand out when I am being sold. None could be more important than knowing who you are meeting with and being prepared. Now, we were not made aware of who our sales rep would be, but Roger knew who we were. Sure, I had completed a questionnaire with some basic information on myself, my wife, and my family, but Roger did more homework. He was assigned to me because the support staff read my LinkedIn bio and he was more of a match than the other sales people in the organization. Like me, Roger had moved a few times early in his career, then became a successful business owner through his sales skills, all before retiring to Florida.


Roger doesn’t have to work, but his wife doesn’t want him sitting around the house either. Because he was successful before retirement there is a certain amount of pressure removed from his sales approach. The (very positively) lack of pressure combined with the homework he did before I came through the door immediately brought my guard down and I was much more open minded to the sales process.


What impressed me more about Roger was his relaxed nature. I could hear other sales people at times and they were a bit more animated. Everyone I met seemed nice and professional. But, it was Roger’s approach that sold me. He knew his product and he knew how it would match my family. He knew buying into a timeshare program would be a major investment for me and he was prepared to outline various buying options. He wasn’t afraid to acknowledge when he did not have an answer to a question, rather he did the homework right then and there, or he brought someone into the meeting who had the answer. Most importantly, he knew how to be a professional sales person, which put my mind at ease.


There is something to be said about being prepared, doing your homework on your customer, knowing your own company/product/service, and carrying yourself in a truly professional manner. It means you can sell to a career sales person and they will enjoy the sales process. Thank you, Roger. Now I’ll start planning my next vacation.

Time To Leave The Nest - December 17, 2016

Okay, I must admit, the title for this week’s post is a little odd for a sales related blog. But, I’ve been reading several pieces recently about kids preparing for college. While I still have a couple of years before my oldest takes off, I have friends whose kids should be receiving their college acceptance letters soon. And, a few of the pieces I’ve read recently talk about the old idea of leaving the nest. You’ve done your best as a parent, provided guidance, and now it is time for your children to prepare to be on their own.


In much the same way there comes a time when the torch of sales management needs to be passed along. It should go without saying that you don’t promote someone into a management role and abandon them, but like the parent, you should guide to the point where they can leave the safety of the nest and be on their own.


I’ve been quite fortunate over the course of my career to mentor younger sales people toward success. Whether in a big brotherly way or as a manager, I’ve always tried to instill certain values in my sales people, so they too can appreciate being career minded sales professionals. Every so often I’ve had the opportunity to mentor and guide others into management roles. Some of these individuals have gone on to greater success than my own while a few weren’t necessarily cut out for being in a management role overseeing others. How do you know when the time is right to encourage the new sales manager to leave the nest?


I have been working closely with a freelance client over the past month while at the same time facing this situation directly. I’ve been able to use my own, direct experiences to help guide my client. It is almost one year since I promoted a senior level sales person to the role of VP of Sales. Similar to my client, I was much more day-to-day hands-on, and recently have backed off. In essence, I went from being turned to almost every day of the week for guidance, to now being utilized for 30 minutes once per week for a simple review session. The time has come that he leaves the nest.


I’m certainly not implying that he is or should leave the organization. Quite the opposite in fact. My VP of Sales, like the sales manager at my client, has achieved a level of success that confirms we made the right promotion decisions. However, what I am inferring is my VP of Sales no longer needs me to be his day-to-day (or even once per week) supervisor, but instead he can now stand on his own, make his own executive level decisions, and grow into a mature (seasoned) sales manager.


The signs have been there for some time. I could see his maturity growing for months as each sales opportunity was getting bigger and more complex. The key to where we are now is the ability to manage his own sales while mentoring others. It is a balancing act to say the least. A truly competent and successful sales manager is someone that can juggle their own calendar while assisting others in their sales efforts. It does not come easy and requires a lot of patience. But, once this milestone is reached and maintained for a few months, then and only then are you ready to leave the nest. Sales management skills are in place and it is time to increase responsibilities. 

More From The Old Movie Post - December 10, 2016

Last week I ended my post with a question: how do you guide a millennial sales person toward success? I expected a few answers, but I was overwhelmed with responses. It took only a day or two to receive emails, voicemails, and a few conversations by phone, but many evenings compiling the feedback. Here’s what I’ve got in summary format.


First and foremost, having heard from a few millennials on this topic, they don’t want to be lumped in under one umbrella. The term millennial has been getting a bad rap a bit these days. Those that reached out to me, by age fall into this category, but they are far too eager and aggressive for success to be lumped in with the rest. They, like others I’ve talked to, prefer to be referred to as younger sales people.


Second, what seems top-of-the-list for both the younger sales people and those above them in management is the expectation of instant success (aka a sense of entitlement). It seems many of the comments I received were concerned about not necessarily “paying dues” or “coming up the ranks”, rather the younger sales people with a sense of entitlement wanted success, but expected it to come much easier. They, in essence, were open and willing to cutting corners in sales processes in order to get the customer to say yes.


In the digital era we’re in, with marketing via electronic media at your fingertips, it would seem many younger sales people believe it should be easy to obtain a lead, a prospect, and ultimately a client. I, myself, have been in an engaged review of inbound versus outbound marketing. Many younger sales people believe inbound marketing is the answer to becoming a wildly successful sales rep, but they forget that regardless of whether the lead comes to you or you to the lead, you must understand how to correctly and professionally communicate, foster a relationship, and meet (many times face-to-face) with the prospect in order to gain the needed trust for the prospect to buy.


I referenced having done reading and research on millennial employees. In almost all cases there is a sense that millennials want success, are willing to work hard/smart, and at the same time want a work-life balance. The downside is again, the expectation or sense of entitlement that is displayed behavior, and sales managers are becoming frustrated. In sales, in particular, there can be an extensive amount of training required to fully understand a service or product. Each company has “their way” of selling and going to market. Younger sales people must understand and grasp the concept that sales is not a 9:00 to 5:00 position. I recently witnessed a fairly successful, younger sales person state he's yet to work more than a 40 hour work week. It is typically 40 (or less). Yet, this person is seeking guidance on how to tackle additional responsibilities, and grow their book of business. Younger sales people must realize that nights and weekends can become opportunistic times for reading, researching and planning.


And finally, even when incredibly well educated and bright, many younger sales people lack respect for those that have gone before them. Sales today is not much different than sales 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Human interaction and relationships can be complicated no matter what product or service you sell. Understanding how to engage in conversations, read body language, gain perspective into what may drive the buying decision, etc. all comes with age (ie experience). All too often the complaint with younger sales people is their lack of willingness to learn from superiors.


Success can come easily at times, quickly at times, and when one least’s expects it. Quick hits can be a nice, albeit, little boost to your confidence and revenue goals. Sustainable growth, which leads to a sustainable sales career, comes through patience in process, a genuine willingness to learn, an understanding that you may not be the smartest person in the room, and a desire to want the long-term, sustainable sales career, not just a quick buck.


Young sales people are the future of the profession. For the few out there willing to take the cautious yet necessary steps, methodically one-by-one, the sustainable and successful career is yours for the taking. For that younger sales person seeking the shortcut, with the sense of entitlement, do us all a favor now and find a different career path.

Lessons From Old Movies - December 3, 2016

It’s funny that the topic of a few old movies came up this week, because this is the time of year where I thoroughly enjoy watching old movies. Once a year I sit, typically by myself (my wife & kids don’t enjoy these movies), and watch White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, Wall Street, Glengarry Glen Ross, and several others. I know what you’re thinking, “a bizarre mix of movies, huh”. Well, these are a bizarre mix. You see, some of these are old favorites with White Christmas probably being my most liked, but the others are just movies I feel the need to watch once a year. My wife even went to far as to call me an “old soul”.


I feel a bit of nostalgia when I watch these movies. Even though I work in the digital arena most days, there’s something about these older movies, especially those from the 1940’s and 1950’s, that allow my imagination to run wild a bit. I can almost imagine being in my career during this time. There are several reasons for why, so I speculate, but the personal interaction element is the single-most.


For the past few weeks I have done a fair amount of reading and have participated in several presentations about working with millennials. Generally speaking, these topics have been around employing millennials, what they want from an employment perspective, etc. However, none focused much on the expectations an employer should have from hiring/employing a millennial, and none especially touched upon those entering the field of sales. So, I went out in search of information on my own, scouring the Internet. I read a blog article here and there, but none really pointed me in any direction with guidance for the sales manager.


What I did find was a bit disheartening. The young generation of sales people seem less concerned about meeting with prospects and clients face-to-face, rather expect the sales process to be easy, quick, and financially beneficial. There is a lack (or perceived lack) of interest in a young sales person wanting to develop a personal relationship with the client.


I guess the reason I like older movies, those that pre-date the cell phone, really comes down to this: if you wanted to engage in a conversation with someone, you had to do it face-to-face. There was no hiding. And, when I think of my own sales career, I truly believe I’ve been successful because I have always relied on my ability to communicate one-on-one, face-to-face where building a relationship with a person was step one to the remainder of the sales process.


I’m keeping this post brief this week, in essence ending here with a question, and hoping you’ll participate by answering. My post next week will be the follow-up. How do you guide a millennial sales person toward success?