Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Communication: Just The Basic Facts - January 28, 2017

Throughout my career, and actually well before, I’ve relied on the communication tactic known as Just The Basic Facts. No, I’m not referring to a Pink Floyd lyric, rather the approach one must use when dealing with communication confrontation. Stick to the facts and the truth will set you free (or something like that).


While my recent posts have been dealing with communication, I have been using a very recent and relevant example to emphasize certain points. It is an unfortunate recent and relevant example. A client who has no patience, does not understand how to manage her emotions, does not think, speak or write rationally, and who does not rely on any facts whatsoever.


As you may recall, I have taken extreme abuse from this client, something more than I’ve ever experienced in my 20+ year career. False accusations have been guiding her rants due to her lack of knowledge, her lack of understanding why she hired us in the first place, and her poor business acumen. It really is a shame because her former employee, the assigned project manager, was a true delight to work with and she was very knowledgeable.


Regardless of the ways in which I and my firm have been treated, I must remain steadfast in my communications, since she still is considered a client at this time. Sure, I could raise my voice, or I could throw vulgarity her way in an email. What would that get me? Nothing. Instead, I’ve maintained my composure (see last week’s post), and I have buried her in facts. Facts cannot be disputed. The facts are documented in a legal and binding agreement for which she signed. The facts of what was and was not included in her specific project were witnessed and documented by others in her own organization as well as my own. Facts are facts whether she likes it or not. And, because we deal in just the basic facts, she can only use her foul mouth to attempt to sway us into believing she is right about any of our business dealings. Again, I say, what a shame.


Sales is a fantastic profession and one I am proud to be a part of. Like any chosen profession though, there are up’s and down’s. I’ve tried to mitigate the down’s. Occasionally, there may be a dispute between a company and customer, between a boss and an employee, between two employees, between parent and child, or between spouses. Getting angry and venting may occur, even in the best of situations, but when you manage emotion, keep your composure, and work on just the basic facts, both parties will come to an amicable understanding. When the one side doesn’t want to work with facts or simply does not believe in facts, well then they unfortunately lose.

Communication: Maintaining Composure - January 21, 2017

Sales, regardless of product, service or industry, is about human relationships. And, we all know human relationships can be complicated, just ask any married couple. There are times when relationships are pure bliss (aka the honeymoon phase). Then there are times where the relationship feels strained, that no one is listening or willing to talk, just scream and yell. Naturally in a professional environment you’d think no one would stoop so low as to scream and yell, but human emotions can take control of the most level headed individuals at times.


I promise, the timing of the example for this post is purely circumstantial, it really is. I’ve been planning this post for a few weeks as I’ve been attempting to answer questions and concerns from private clients and colleagues, but this very real example just happened yesterday. And, I have a feeling this may become an example for upcoming posts as well.


When I look back on last week’s post about record keeping and sharing, and then I dwell on a telephone call with a client yesterday, I am baffled by how ridiculous some so called professionals act. I’ve been thinking to myself, if they act like this toward me, just imagine how they treat friends, family or employees. It seems my client, after terminating her employee who was a project manager, now has no recollection of why she hired my firm. To make matters worse, even though I documented the sales process in terms of notes, summaries, and a detailed proposal, she is now claiming that we are not delivering what she wanted to buy. Unfortunately, I cannot turn back the clocks and ask her to be more active in conversations, instead of relying on her very talented and knowledgeable project manager.


On a review call yesterday, she screamed and yelled. She called me names. She called my company names. She called my employees names. She acted out as if throwing a temper tantrum. She screamed and yelled for nearly 25 minutes before allowing me to utter any sentences. I must say, with over 20+ years in my career, this takes the number one spot on my list of Did That Really Happen In Business list.


Now, for those of you that know me, you’d probably think I gave it right back to her. I tend to stand my ground with my held high, but I am also rather blunt. When push comes to shove, I will push back. I believe it to be an appropriate position when being confronted with falsehoods, lies and accusations. But, in reality, these are words. Words may sting a bit, but will only hurt if they are true. If they are not true, well then they are just words.


Maintaining one’s composure is the right thing to do, not just in this scenario, but always. You can and should push back when pushed, but with composure. Keep your head on straight. Don’t lose your cool. Do not lower yourself to meet the behavior for which you are being treated. And, no matter what, do not scream and yell back. Keep your composure.


I simply asked my very angry and unreasonable client why she was yelling at me. I wanted to know if she recalled the details of multiple conversations throughout the sales process. I very calmly asked if she had been involved in meetings since signing the contract. I gently pushed through a series of questions if she remembered assigning her own employee as project manager and instructed us to work directly with this person. It is a real shame that some people cannot separate emotion from business. It is my hope, always my hope, that when these types of situations occur (even if only once in 20 or so years) that people will breath deep, calm down, reflect on the sales process and what they were purchasing, and then be open to conversation and collaboration versus, as in human relationships, divorce.

Communication: Keeping & Sharing Conversation Records - January 14, 2017

Note: Over the next few weeks my posts will cover various topics around communication. I have been asked by a few personal clients and colleagues to answer their questions or comment on their concerns. So, here we go:


By now you’ve certainly read about having solid communication skills whether you’re a seasoned sales vet or a newly minted college grad. But, being able to verbalize clearly or give an A+ presentation to a huge audience is not all that is needed in the area of communication with a client or prospective client.


There’s one issue that tends to creep into the sales process more than you can imagine: the client (or prospective client) hears only what they want to hear and not entirely what you’re saying. Sometimes you’ll have a client (or prospective client) that will be open to you gently correcting their “misunderstanding” and then there will be times when you are the devil, as in how dare you tell me I’m wrong. This is where keeping and sharing records with your client (or prospective client) pays off.


I’ve taken some sense of pride over the years in both my ability to be an effective communicator and I believe this has to do with how I obsess on keeping written communications with clients as much as verbal. For all the times that I, and many other sales managers-coaches-trainers, have said that a sales rep cannot rely solely on email, that one must be able to communicate face-to-face and over the telephone, there is still always a place for email (or print). Typically, this tends to come into play when you want to ensure your notes are on track with the client (or prospective client). It can be something as simple as a note with a few bullet points asking, “are my notes from today’s meeting accurate, just want to make sure”. Or, it could be something slightly more formal as in a summary sheet typed, printed and delivered (email or face-to-face), highlighting the previous conversations so as to again ensure accuracy before committing to a formal proposal or contact.


Now, I must admit that this tactic is not full-proof. There have been times when I’ve gone above and beyond the norm to provide summaries in email or hard printed and the client still comes back months later to dispute a detail in the “wait I thought I was getting X but you sold me Y”. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I’m still a believer that sharing your notes, dropping a few emails back, or even the printed documentation is a great way to cover your butt…you are also covering the clients (or prospective clients) butt too. Keeping records and sharing records keeps you and the client on track, on the same page, and ultimately helps ensure the project, service, or product is what you said it would be.

Treat The Janitor The Same As The CEO - January 7, 2017

There are a lot of sayings, new and old, along the lines of treating the janitor the same as you’d treat the CEO. For example, do unto others as you’d have them do unto you; or never judge a book by its cover. While nothing here is overly profound, and you’ve likely heard them a thousand times, they tend to ring truer than ever as we enter 2017, especially for sales people.


We’ve become a rather relaxed society in terms of business etiquette and business attire. More and more we find companies moving to a casual dress code, and with this dress code, there also tends to be a more casual atmosphere in the office. Many companies today have gone to a condensed work week, employee-favored work from home policies, and in some cases unlimited time off. Obviously with these types of environments and policies in place, employers have increased trust in their employees. One must be trusted to get their work done, otherwise they may not last too long.


There are two sides to my post this week. The first is how you should treat others in this type of environment while the second is how you need to act if you too wish to be treated like the CEO.


As we enter 2017 and the relaxed business climate seems to becoming more frequent, this does not in any way, shape or form mean you can be relaxed when calling on a prospect or client. Regardless of “their” environment there is still an expectation of professionalism for “you” when calling on them. Being casual can mean a lot of different things to different people. You don’t necessarily need to be in a suit & tie when calling on a company that allows shorts & flip-flops in the office. But, a sense of professionalism should withstand the casualness in front of you, so I would recommend khaki’s and a golf shirt, as an example.


When you engage others in conversation or when you are approached at a networking event, you should be mindful that you never know who this person is or what position they hold. Moreover, it is a basic approach to human decency that you should respect others, but selfishly you should also be mindful in a casual society that the woman in the t-shirt and yoga pants meeting you for coffee may be the chief marketing officer that you’ve been trying to get in front of for 6 months.


Being mindful of these old sayings kept me on my toes recently. During the Christmas holidays I met with a few friends for lunch. Joining us was a “friend of a friend” and so I thought nothing of him joining the group. We were all calling it a half-day in our respective organizations so we could have a beer or two. Knowing we’d all be coming from work, it didn’t surprise me when some were in suits and others were business casual. However, the friend of a friend was wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and a baseball cap. He looked as though he just rolled out of bed and rushed to meet us. Turns out he was taking the day off and doing a little shopping. Oh yeah, he’s the CFO for a global Fortune 100 company. The moral of this little story: don’t judge a book by its cover.


And then there are those out there who don’t want to be judged either by the appearance. It may be they can be casual or required to dress up. They may be younger by age in an older working environment. My advice to you, those that fall into this group, is to treat others as you’d like to be treated. Be patient and relax. Do not try to force yourself into a work related social setting just to be included, instead be patient and wait to be invited. Most importantly be yourself. Do not put on an act and attempt to be something you are not simply to gain popularity, respect or to garner another’s attention. If you are a janitor and wish to be treated as an equal to the CEO, be a decent human being, and always treat everyone you encounter as if they were the CEO.