Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Collaborative Selling - August 26, 2017

There are a variety of ways to sell a product or service and you’ve probably been taught more than one. For nearly twenty years I have been focused on relationship selling and consultative selling. A few years ago I found that blending the two and engaging the client more than not in the sales process leads to a different approach with higher levels of success: collaborative selling.


Collaborative selling is quite similar to relationship and consultative selling. The idea that the sales person converses with and doesn’t necessarily talk to the prospect reigns supreme in all of the approaches. When using relationship selling techniques, the core concept is to give the prospect a personal feeling for what it will be like to do business together. When using consultative selling, you are building a trusted relationship while serving as an expert advisor because in the instances you do know more than the prospect. Collaborative selling takes the key components of both approaches and brings the prospective client into the mix of the selling process. That’s right – they are helping you sell themselves.


Especially in professional services, and in most cases, the prospective client does know more about their own company, its history, and their clientele than you do. While they may need your help to overcome a problem or to expand their business, you need them too to help navigate through the knowledge they and others in the organization possess. So, if you need them to be a part of the engagement, why not have them be a part of the sales process.


My personal success with this approach is based upon the idea that I want long-term relationships with my clients. I don’t want one project or engagement, rather I want a client that will retain my firm for years of services. Knowing this is my primary goal brings me closer to the client throughout the sales process. I talk with them and not to them. I ask more and more questions. I ask for their help. I want them to share their knowledge and experiences. And, along the way, I will chime in with my expertise to say back, “I am listening and I can help”.


Collaborative selling takes a little longer and requires a little more patience than other approaches. You are not just building a relationship to close the deal, you are developing the foundation of a relationship that must work together for a longer period of time, a trusted relationship, that will achieve results. You are showing the prospect that you are their consultant with experience while at the same time letting them know they too are a valuable part of the engagement, and success is only achieved collaboratively.


And, finally, the prospective client should have a hand in outlining the proposal. Notice I did not say write the proposal, rather outline the proposal. In most cases of collaborative selling I will work through a series of summaries with the prospect in advance of the formal proposal, including pricing, so they have a say in the direction of the initial engagement, the timeframes, and ultimately what they can and/or are comfortable spending. Keeping in mind the goal is to work with the client long-term, I am generally more open to working with the client on their initial budget, knowing that I will retain them for a longer billing period of time.

Job Shadow - August 19, 2017

I participated in my first job shadow when I was in eighth grade. For a class assignment, I shadowed my father, a corporate attorney, for two days. My assignment was to observe and document what his day consisted of, such as meetings, luncheons, etc., and not so much any specific context of a particular meeting. I shadowed others in high school and college, both for class assignments, and for personal experience. And, now that I’m twenty-five years plus in my career, I’ve been shadowed a few times too.


Job shadowing can be fun for both the student and the employee. You get to show off a little bit, sharing stories, and in many ways trying to convince someone that your chosen profession is something they should consider for themselves. There is also another form of job shadowing, one that can take place between two employees, that can be enlightening and quite valuable to organizational performance.


Take the queue from the traditional job shadow, a sales person can and should spend a day or two shadowing their sales manager, but also the president of the company. When a sales person has an opportunity to watch and learn what takes place within their own organization, beyond their smaller perspective or daily grind, it enlightens them as to why their own role and decision making is so important. Sales people, by the nature of their chosen career path, enjoy the engagement of others. Conversation is a key to a sales person’s skill set. What better way to learn more about their own company and potential career advancement opportunities than to shadow those ahead of them. Conversing with these leaders while watching intently on what they do every day to drive company success can be more enlightening, and ultimately helpful, to a sales person than any other form of training.


Another approach to the job shadow is to do so during an interview process. How often do you bring in prospective sales candidates for a half or full day and allow them to shadow you? Not only will the candidate get firsthand experience on a “day in the life of”, you too will get firsthand experience of the candidate. You’ll have an opportunity to witness how this person interacts with others in the organization for whom they will be required to work with should you hire them. You can gauge their level of interest in what you do and how you do it based upon the type and volume of questions they ask. You’ll also glean some insight into their personality, more so than in an interview, especially since you will be spending so much time with them going forward. Will they be a cultural fit for the organization?


Consider the reasons you’ve either participated in or hosted a job shadow in the past. Now, consider what value this approach will have for your business today, and for your business in the future.

Recharge Your Sales: Work Remote For One Week - August 12, 2017

No matter how long you’ve been in sales, every so often you need to recharge your sales approach, otherwise burnout may set in. I’ve long been a believer that everyone should take time off, go on a vacation or stay-cation, and simply unplug to recharge their personal batteries. Sales people oftentimes get the bad rap for having flexible schedules, client entertainment, etc. The truth is though, sales people rarely ever turn off. Heck, I once sat on a beach in Florida, struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me over some frozen drinks, and a month later signed a contract for my firm to provide marketing services to his company.


Sales people, like anyone else in the company, do not have an endless supply of vacation days. Between driving all over the place to meet with clients, juggle personal schedules with networking events, and oh yeah, making dozens of phone calls every day, a sales person’s business life can become hectic. Taking a break without actually taking a break may be just what is needed for a quick battery recharge.


Every so often I will plan an entire week of work from home. When planning ahead I make sure my wife and children have their regularly scheduled routines in place so that any time spent in the house is for me and the dog. My kitchen table becomes my office. Calls to the office forward to my cell. I schedule one or two client meetings, maybe a client breakfast or lunch, but otherwise leave the calendar somewhat open. And for what?


I’ve found the alone time, except for the dog, therapeutic. I am more relaxed and when I am more relaxed I tend to feel less stress and tension. I plan ahead for the next few months and documents my plans. I read, write, rewrite, and send hundreds of emails in one week that I’ve been trying to do for over a month or two. I make more phone calls in two days than I can typically make from the office in one week. Unless I am seeing a client, I wear shorts and t-shirt, I take time to go for a walk with the dog, I go out of my way to make myself an awesome (healthy) lunch, and I set time aside to reflect on the past few months and what is ahead.


What I don’t do is take this time for granted. I do not waste this time. I do not watch television or surf the internet. I take business as serious as if I were in the office, but I do it from my kitchen table. I still go to bed and wake up at the same times. But, I am not worried about traffic. I recharge while getting work done.


This approach to managing myself and my sales teams requires trust. I must trust that work will get done. I must trust the person is mature enough to handle this autonomy. I must trust that when the person returns to the office that we move forward without having skipped a beat. 

When It's Time To Stop Sugar Coating - August 5, 2017

An organization that I am quite familiar and fond of, and one I counsel on various sales, sales management, and marketing related topics, lost a management team member a few months ago. Neil had been with the organization for over five years in various roles and in management of the sales team for the past year. He left to pursue a new opportunity out of state.


When Neil announced his departure, many were surprised. He was well liked and viewed as an up and coming leader of the organization. He had ideas for growth. He was a regular participant in company meetings and team building activities. He represented the company at many events in the marketplace and still found time to join coworkers for happy hour. On the surface Neil was the ideal employee, team member, manager and friend.


Unfortunately, there was a bit of a dark side to Neil too, but not what you might be expecting. Don’t jump to any conclusions here, he was not committing a crime, or leading a double life. Neil was in way over his head in business and clearly jumped ship before anyone found out. He was lying to himself, to his sales team, and to his clients.


The company must share a small amount of blame too for this situation as they promoted Neil to a sales management role before he was truly ready. Neil had tasted success but was not “worldly” in a business sense. He was still young, he had not worked for another company in the past, and so he could not relate to past experiences to help guide his own direction. Instead, Neil relied on books that he would read, or speakers he’d go and listen to, all cheering on his short-lived accomplishments, and ultimately building a false sense of knowledge.


Neil made poor hiring decisions masked in excitement. Haley was a nice young lady with a good education. Neil sold her a bill of goods on her new role with the company, a role she was not entirely qualified for, and more importantly a role she ultimately did not want to be in. Neil portrayed himself to be a “coaching style leader” yet he was not leading by example. We’ve come to find out that he was more talk than action and lacked a lead by example approach. And, the icing on the cake, Neil began to lie to his clients, making promises that were not based in reality. Some had to do with the timing or pricing of delivery, others based around success of service that had yet to be provided. All the while, the company was kept in the dark, until after Neil left and the stories began to unfold.


Most human beings want to see the good in others. Humanity is based, in most cases, upon the ideology that while there are bad people in the world, most are good. Neil was not a bad guy, he just made bad decisions, and he did so because he lacked experience and lacked the character it would take to own up to such a lack of knowledge. The management team sugar coated these issues for the immediate few months following Neil’s departure. They did not want to paint him in bad light and they also did not want to look like sore losers since he left.


There came a time where too many issues arose, promises made to clients and fellow employees, were just not right, and the team needed to be told just who Neil was. The ownership of the company needed to stop sugar coating Neil’s history and behavior and deliver the message clear and concise. I helped them craft the statement. Here it is:


Neil was a young man who joined our organize about five years ago. Neil reached success within a relatively short period of time for which he was rewarded. His rewards came in the form of a promotion to sales manager. Neil was liked by us, by you and by our clients. Unfortunately, our mistake as the ownership, was to promote Neil too soon. Neil’s mistake was he got in way over his head, kept a smile on his face, and spiraled downward. Neil made several poor decisions, most of which we can put behind us, but some we cannot. The most serious mistakes were the lies he told to our clients to close deals. We, the owners, are meeting with our clients now to make amends. However, in doing so, we have taken on full responsibility of Neil’s actions, as he was acting on our behalf. That means he was acting on your behalf too. Our intent is not to tarnish Neil’s name, rather we must set the record straight. Neil was a good sales person at one point in time, but not a good sales manager. We, the owners, apologize to each of you for allowing Neil to continue down a path of representing all of us. Our vow to you is to learn from this mistake and to work to avoid any similar issues in the future.


Stop sugar coating it and deal with your team straight. They are adults and deserve to know when those they work with are excelling and when sometimes they are being mistreated (and don’t even know it). The lessons learned from Neil will stay with my client for a long time. Neil’s demise doesn’t make him a bad guy. He is immature in the ways in which business is conducted. Hopefully Neil will learn his own lesson, not sugar coat things, and speak up when he needs help.