Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Stop Emailing - September 30, 2017

Okay, okay, you’ve heard it before…stop emailing. We live in a society where we are too quick to text someone versus calling them. I’ve been laughing at my son recently as an example. He met a new girl that he is very interested in. They’ve been communicating over social medial and texting a lot. But, finally, he had to call her. He even Facetime’s her. He’s found out what I’ve been preaching to him for some time, communication is much stronger when you actually talk to someone. You must hear their voice. You need to look someone in the eyes. Communication is better done live.


In business, as in our personal lives, there comes a time when email just won’t cut it. Too often people don’t proofread their emails before they hit send. Spellcheck is not entirely reliable. And so one’s message may not be entirely clear or convey the overarching meaning they want to deliver.


Believe it or not, while people are busy, they want to talk. They want to be heard. They want their message to come across clear without confusion. And, no amount of emailing can convey the same message as someone’s live voice. Stop emailing and pick up the telephone.


Long before email existed the telephone was a primary tool for a sales person. You could have a conversation, hear objections, answer questions, discuss concerns, and ultimately use your own voice to convince someone to buy. Email cannot replace your voice. Tonality and how you say something is as important as what you’re saying. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe email has its place, but so does the telephone.


Unfortunately, we also live in a society that has learned to hit delete very quickly. We get spam email. We get jokes from our neighbor. We get solicitations and newsletters. We hit delete, delete, delete. And, because of the nature of email today, we also have become conditioned to skim versus read. The true meaning of the message is not being digested as it should be. But, a telephone call can overcome these issues.


Try it before you dismiss it. Pick up the telephone today and call your clients. Talk to them. Ask them how they are doing both personally and professionally. Let them hear the sincerity in your voice. Make them believe in you and your company. Do what email cannot do…tell the story of why they should be doing business with you.

Repeating History: sometimes its a good thing - September 23, 2017

An old saying: those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. History has a tendency to repeat itself and oftentimes this statement is associated with bad or poor performance. However, history can be repeated and can be a good thing.


Not that long ago I was told by a younger (in terms of career not necessarily age) sales manager that I was “old school” and that my way of selling should remain a part of the “history” of the company. He took a firm stance that his way, a more modern way, of selling was necessary for the growth of the company. History, as he firmly put it, should not repeat itself. And, as he was taking this position, my fellow executive management team members and I watched his performance slip along with his direct reports. It would seem that his firm stance about history not repeating itself was biting him square in the butt.


You see, I am not so foolish as to believe “my way” of selling is the “only way” of selling. I am open to change. I believe I’ve evolved and have grown in my own sales career quarter-by-quarter, year-over-year. But, at the same time, I am also not so foolish to ignore where my firm has come from, how we’ve grown as an organization. History, as I strongly believe, can and must repeat itself when and where it’s been most successful. In other words, I believe we can use our experiences from the past, from the times where we’ve achieved great levels of success, to make our selling decisions today. You should not abandon where you’ve come from, make dramatic changes to your selling approach, unless what you’ve been doing has not been working.


My now former sales manager has moved on. He believes that the grass will be greener on the other side (see last week’s post). He believes that he can move into a new organization and make changes for the sake of making changes and ignore where his new organization has come from. His naiveite is going to catch up to him and cost him another position if he continues to ignore history.


History tells stories. History, when analyzed carefully, can highlight the times where you were at your very best and at your worst. You can draw up a game plan based on this analysis. There is no reason to change simply for the sake of change. Instead you should use your history, or your company’s history, as a guideline for when and where to make the necessary changes. History does not have to repeat itself in negative terms. Embrace your history and allow it to repeat itself when success comes into play.

How's The Grass? part 2 of 2 - The Employee - September 16, 2017

As a follow-up to last weeks post about the client, this week I’m going to touch upon the employee who departs for greener pastures. But, first, a little personal story.


Close friends of the family moved their son from one school to another last year. He was entering seventh grade. They had no problems sharing their / his reasoning. He did not like his classmates at school one. He felt the teachers were against him at school one. He was having a hard time concentrating in class at school one. He had too many run-ins with teachers and the principal at school one for getting into scuffles with other kids or talking back to adults. Everyone around him at school one was to blame for every little problem he encountered. So, on to school two he went, and sure enough everything went off without a hitch in the beginning. He made a few new friends at school two that seemed a better fit. The principal and teachers were new and so he was not getting himself into trouble. His grades seemed to be better as well. And then the honeymoon period, so to speak, was over. He settled into school two and he began to get into a bit of trouble. It would seem the other kids were at fault for his talking back to teachers. The other kids were tempting him to start trouble on the playground. School two was harder than school one, so he said, which caused his grades to decline slightly. It was the other kid at school two that started the fight for which he received in-school suspension (the other kid did not). My, my, my, wasn’t the grass to be so much greener on the other side?


As it turns out, our friend’s son in this story was the issue all along, but because his older brother was a model student, his parents did not see that he was not bullied but rather the bully. Employees are like this boy at times. Everything goes well for a period of time, the honeymoon phase if you will, and then over time their performance slips. It is never their fault, rather everyone else’s around them. Instead of owning issues, they pass the buck. And so the story goes.


Being an employer can be great at times and very frustrating at other times. Employees are people too. They have relationships of their own and life “happenings” that impact them day-to-day. An employee is not a robot that is at your beckon call. However, with that said, the employee too has obligations to you as the employer. All too often, especially in sales, an employee leaves a company because they believe they are not being treated fairly, they are being undercompensated, or they are wooed away by another company with the promise of the grass being greener.


When an employee expresses displeasure or takes the ultimate step of resigning, conduct an exit interview, and blatantly ask why they feel the grass will be greener on the other side. It may shed some light on your own organization or it may shed some light on the thought process of the employee. The grass is certainly not always greener on the other side. Caution should arise when interviewing and managing employees, especially sales people, who use this phrase. It is typically a sign that they will jump for less-than-valid reasons and you’ll want to avoid these types of hires.

How's The Grass? part 1 of 2 - The Client - September 9, 2017

Nowadays, if you ask someone how the grass is, you may get an answer about the legalization of marijuana. But, for this post, let’s get back to the old saying that “the grass is not always greener on the other side”. I’ve experienced two scenarios recently that have provided me much food for thought in writing my blog. This week I am going to focus on the client that left because they believed the grass would be greener on the other side.


After a 9 year business relationship, as several previous posts have eluded to, I had a client leave me. There were several factors that weighed in their decision process, but admittedly, none more so than the addition of a new management team member. Regardless of our long-term relationship, she felt the need to come in and make her mark on the organization early on, and in doing so my firm was dismissed. Her approach was to make the owner and his right hand, those I had been working with weekly for years, question decisions I (and my firm) have made in our services to them. She had them, in very short timing, believing that it was time for a change and that said change should have been made a while ago, and that she had just the right firm to change over to.


Now, Cleveland being a small community, it didn’t take long for me to find out that she has several personal and extremely close relationships with management of this other firm. Pausing for a moment, let me point out that I am not at all bitter, rather I sincerely feel bad for my former client. They hired someone they believed would put their company’s interest before her own and in doing so sold them on the concept that the grass would be greener on the other side. Now, back to my story, she did not disclose to her new employer just how close she was to this other firm. Might this change have been in the works before she even got the job? Maybe.


The decision by my client was quick and abrupt. One day we were knee deep in work and the next we were dismissed. In fact, the owner didn’t even have the courtesy to call me and breakup, rather he sent me an email from the airport just prior to departing the country on business. It’s like breaking up with someone over text, kind of a chicken sh%t move. (Ok, maybe that was a little bitter.) Nevertheless, without much thought, my once active, long-term client was no longer my client.


It’s only been a few weeks since the change, but through the grapevine I am hearing that my client may be second-guessing their decision. Or, at the very least, wondering if they overreacted too quickly without much forethought. You see, as it turns out, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side.


In the time since my client left, the new firm has shown their lack of technical capabilities, in that they’ve never had such a complex client before. They’ve never built nor managed an e-commerce platform that competes on an international stage. And, they are uncertain on how to best maintain the platform. Moving on, they are also making the same marketing related recommendations that we were making for the better part of one year, and showing the client no signs of any unique skill sets. So, why then did the client make such a change?


Relationships and human nature kicked in and emotion drove a decision that the client likely now regrets. Think of it in personal terms for a moment. We’ve all been in relationships with a significant other that for some reason did not work out. Whether it was days, weeks, months or years, we’ve had a regret or two, and wondered what if. Why did the relationship come to an end? Was it you? Was it me? Was it us together? And, was it abrupt without much thought only that the grass must be greener on the other side?


I’m not suggesting that this old saying is right or wrong in every situation. There are certainly times where a departure of the same old-same old is necessary and the grass truly is greener on the other side. As a career sales person, it is my job to be focused and see clearly the warning signs of when such a change may be coming. And, it is my job to counsel the client on how such a decision may impact the relationship going forward and their business.


Would I invite my client back? Maybe. But, the ground rules have changed, as they’ve shown their true colors. Only time will tell.

Context - September 2, 2017

We live in a rather political climate where oftentimes we hear people say, “you took my comments out of context”. Sales people have long been accused of taking clients comments out of context, or vice versa, the sales person says their comments were taken out of context. Why does this seem to happen frequently and how can it be avoided?


Sales meetings with clients can sometimes be tricky. Each side has an agenda and sometimes will share just enough to make their points. Sometimes too much information is shared. In either case, making sure both sides have a mutual understanding of what is expected as the outcome from the sales process is key, and it may require extra effort beyond a conversation.


In past posts I have shared ideas on documentation, especially in the form of email follow-up’s, which more times than not works to solidify an understanding. Summarizing the conversation, expectations, next steps, deliverables, etc. all can be covered in an email. It is imperative that a sales person make this a requirement in their daily sales process.


I was recently asked by a few newer sales people what to do when this approach may not be enough. There are times when the conversations with a client are on the extreme side when it comes to details, especially when you are selling an intangible service, and not a manufactured product. A comment can quickly be taken out of context which may result in misquoting the project/service or worse a loss of revenue.


In such cases where conversations can be lengthy, very detailed, and require multiple steps to layout the “game plan”, take others on the sales call with you, and also ask the client to bring others into the conversations. Note taking is valuable throughout this process, summarizing the notes afterward an absolute must, and open communication with the client a necessity. When you have multiple people involved from both sides of the table, summarizing eliminates the possibility of taking something out of context. You enable many, instead of one, an opportunity for review, Q&A, and feedback prior to the engagement.


Remember, asking others for help in the sales process should not be viewed as a waste of their time, rather a time savings for when the engagement begins post sale.