Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Blending Tactics - February 25, 2017

I sound like a broken record at times. I continue to preach about sales tactics from my point of view, which in most cases, is based upon a successful track record. Recently though, I’ve been accused of being “old school” when describing what works and what doesn’t work, because I don’t often cover topics related to social media, texting, etc. Being told that “that’s your opinion” or “your point of view on sales is outdated” generally doesn’t sit well with me. One person even went so far as to say I was “out of touch with the reality of today’s digital marketplace”. Of course, this same person has less than 20% of the sales opportunities I currently have with clients and prospective clients. And, it has now become a bit of a hot topic in my office.


There is no right or wrong way to deal with sales communication. Sales, however, cannot be built upon a single approach to communication, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any ‘A’ level sales person that says so. It requires a blending of tactics. In the recent conversation’s I’ve been a part of, I have been accused of being singularly focused on the cold call, in that I believe it is the only way to open doors. This could not be further from the truth. But, the lessons learned by a sales person in the cold calling process are invaluable and will last them their entire career. Yet, so many younger or newer sales people roll their eyes at the idea of cold calling, and then try to circumvent this tactic and find short cuts.


I consider myself the king of the phrase “touch points” in my office. Touch points with target clients requires more than just picking up the telephone. It requires email, traditional letters, telephone calls, face-to-face meetings, and yes even a text message here and there. I’ve even used Facetime and Skype over the years to blend digital communication with face-to-face meetings.


I’m not an old curmudgeon that believes we need to go back to door-to-door sales or faxing order sheets to customers. I’ve been there, done that, but do believe again there are lessons learned that make me an ‘A’ level sales person today. From my so called “days of old” I learned patience. Quick sales lead to quick losses. I have watched many a sales person become victim to this scenario more times than I would like. Yet, some continue to seek the quick hit answers to what may be a longer sales process.


As I ponder over this post, some frustration overcomes me. I am reminded of an uncle I was quite fond of growing up. Rick was a very smart guy. He was the guy that would be reading two, three, sometimes four books at a time, ranging from philosophy to crime drama to business how to’s. He could rebuild an engine on a ’69 Mustang as easily as he could whip up a five-course gourmet dinner. He was a great guy too. Fun to be around would be putting the description mildly. He was the ultimate sales guy.


Unfortunately, Rick was always looking for an easy sale or a quick buck. Throughout my childhood and into my early career, Rick started and closed eleven different businesses. Nothing had staying power because Rick never followed traditional sales tactics. It wasn’t that he didn’t understand traditional selling, rather he knew the tactics quite well, instead he chose to skip this step or that step. He refused to make cold calls and deemed them too much of a time investment. It would take too long to fill his pipeline. He constantly tried different approaches to gaining clients, but ultimately failed in his efforts. Rick is retired now and doing okay. He lives a modest life in Baltimore near family and friends. On the surface, he seems content. Under the surface, he has regrets. I know because he’s told me. He wishes he would have been much more patient, stayed the course, learned from those that had successfully gone before him, and “desperately wishes he would not have cut corners or tried to always find short cuts to success”. He never learned and mastered the basic tactics of selling which never led to the blending of tactics to increase his overall sales.


In the world of sales, regardless of what product or service you are selling, there’s really no such thing as old school versus new school. There are basic principles of sales, proper pathways to success, blending of all tactics throughout the sales process, and patience. The greatest of all sales tactics is patience.

Revisiting The Elevator Pitch - February 18, 2017

Every company has one, but not every employee of the company knows it, but the sales person better…the elevator pitch. Ah, yes, the token statement of “who we are, what we do, why/how we do it, and who we do it for” in sixty seconds or less. The elevator pitch has been around for fifty plus years and is as important today as it was back then. Unfortunately, many companies no longer have and utilize an elevator pitch, and it is obvious.


The purpose of the elevator pitch is simple: imagine you are in the elevator with a C-level executive and you have about a minute until the doors pop open. He/She asks the simplest of questions, “so, what do you do?” And here lies the need for the elevator pitch. You can impress this executive and possibly open them up for a longer (or follow-up) conversation if, and only if, you can explain yourself before the elevator door opens and they walk off.


I heard a colleague recently say that the elevator pitch has changed, it needs to be shorter, you no longer have sixty seconds. Well, that is not entirely true. Yes, it is a fact that people’s attention span is shorter these days, especially when holding their smart-phone in hand. However, a good sales person can shorten or lengthen the elevator pitch with ease, once they have a firm sixty second grasp on it. You see, if someone takes the time to ask you what you do, then they will take the sixty seconds to hear you out. The key to those all-important sixty seconds is so very simple yet difficult too. You need to know exactly who you are (employer), what you do, why and how you do it, and who you do it for, and you need to perfect this statement. And, there lies the biggest problem, perfecting the statement.


No two sales people, or company employees, are alike and they should not sound like each other. They will come across robotic. However, the elevator pitch is about talking points. It is about making sure everyone in the organization has the same general understanding of who we are, what we do, how & why we do it, and who we do it for, which culminates in why the company remains in business, and then they can stylize the elevator pitch to make it their own.


Does your company have an elevator pitch? Do you know it? Can you present it in sixty seconds or less? Can you answer follow-up questions if asked? If you’ve answered yes to these questions, fantastic and congrats, but if not give me a call. I would be happy to guide you toward the next chapter of success in your sales career.

Stay The Course - February 11, 2017

Over the past few weeks I have shard my thoughts on communication. After completing these posts it dawned on me that much of what I write about is behavior. In other words, since sales is all about human relationships, one’s behavior can influence the success rate in sales, but more importantly the success of the overall relationship.


Oftentimes sales people get a bad rap for what many define as deceptive sales tactics. There’s bait & switch, the “used car salesman approach”, or simply being dishonest. However, these are very few and far between. Regardless of the poor behavior displayed by the few, run with the many, and stay the course. You’re probably now saying, “what the heck is he talking about?”


Being a career sales person, I too have been insulted by a prospect or client who believed I was “up to no good” in my sales approach. I’ve even been accused of a bait & switch only to be vindicated by the client’s own employees. Honestly, and I don’t regularly use terms like this in my blog, but it really sucks. There is no worse feeling than being falsely accused simply by being a sales person. Being lumped together with the misbehaving sales people is simply not fair, but unfortunately is a part of the sales game. And so, based on advice given to me by my mentors many years ago, I work to stay the course.


There is nothing profound about this approach. Staying the course is simple, in fact so simple that many try to read into it, but finally come to realize how basic this ideal is in selling. Be honest with your client (prospective client), be honest with your employer, and be honest with yourself. There’s no need to scream this from the mountain tops: I AM AN HONEST SALES PERSON. Nope, you just need to live these words. And, when you are honest with your client, your employer, and yourself, you are in essence staying the course. You cannot become distracted in the sales process and the client cannot make false accusations (although they may try). Because, even when they do, your track record of honesty, combined with your excellent communication skills (including documentation) will shine through.


As children we’re all taught that honesty is the best policy. Sometimes, and really not too often, being honest will lead to tougher conversations. Your client may not want to hear the truth about their situation or current products (etc), but sugarcoating the situation or not being honest will steer them in the wrong direction and you have gone off course. It is better to be upfront and honest, to stay on course, so that there will not be false pretenses as to why the client is buying or why you are selling.


My last note is this…staying the course may cost you a deal or two over the course of your career, but trust me, it was meant to be. It is better for your client, your employer, and yourself to lose a deal based on honest selling tactics, then to win a deal on falsehoods. Those always come back to bite you in the butt.

Communication (Wrap-up): Be Kind - February 4, 2017

Over the past few weeks I’ve touched upon a few ways in which to deal with communication. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about communication between vendor and customer, husband and wife, or father and son (etc. etc.). Communication ultimately is about human relationships. Some of us are good at managing relationships, some are okay, and some people just struggle because they have flaws in their personality. As I wrap up my posts pertaining to communication I am reminded of advice from my father. Two simple words: Be Kind.


My father is an accomplished attorney and lobbyist. He has been involved in a series of mergers and acquisitions over his 45+ year career. He is an excellent negotiator. And with all of these attributes, his best advice for communicating with others, “kill ‘em with kindness”.


We can call it human nature or something similar, but when dealing with human relationships and communication, no one is perfect. That is just a fact. We all can be short tempered or lose our cool every once in a while, just ask anyone that has been married for more than a week. However, if you manage your career (or life) with these instances being the exception versus the rule, and you simply remind yourself to communicate with kindness, well then you are less likely to end up on the losing end.


I’ve shared my ideas about communication in documenting all of your notes and conversations. When delivering the information back to a client, do so in a sincere manner, that you’re just wanting to make sure everyone is on the same page, and not with an attitude that you are forcibly reminding them of what they are or are not buying from you. When you deal with an abusive client, by email or telephone, do not stoop so low as to attempt to match them with insults. There is no place for disparaging remarks in an honest and open relationship. Sure, there are times for constructive criticism, but not for criticism alone. Bite your tongue and be kind in your tone. Maybe the other person is just having a really bad day or received bad news about a loved one. Give them the benefit of the doubt and hope they’ll understand by you Not losing your cool that maybe, just maybe, they were out of line. And, when push really does come to shove, and the other person in the relationship has no sense of reason, your kindness will shine through in the form of professionalism. Again, no need to lower your standards.


Not to bring religion into a post, but I am reminded of the “Golden Rule” – treat others as you wish to be treated. If you want to be treated with respect than you need to treat that person with respect. If you wish to be treated with kindness than you need to be kind. And, when the other person doesn’t necessary abide by these lifelong rules, you will come out ahead, simply by being a better communicator and a better person.