Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Be Humble - October 28, 2017

A good friend, someone I admire greatly and who also happens to be a priest, recently told me, “no amount of money or possessions will ever replace humility”. He said this in response to me sharing how I’ve been frustrated by the selfishness of some people around me in business over the past year or so. I was venting a bit when he reminded me that I should not change who I am rather stay the course. Continue to be humble, praise others for their hard work and efforts, and try not to allow frustration and jealousy to set in. I’ve been dwelling on his words, the words that have kept me awake for several nights over the past few weeks, and in context have come to realize that those I truly admire, in addition to this specific friend, are successful professionals who are educated, family-oriented, well liked, and above all humble.


Pondering his words brought to mind two real examples of people I know that are successful in their sales careers and yet worlds apart as human beings. The following are the profiles of these two individuals for you to ponder. Names changed to protect the guilty.


Susan is a 45 year old mother of two. She has been in sales for nearly 20 years. She has a bachelor’s degree and always attends continuing education programs when available. In her career she has always put her client’s need before her own, even if that meant passing on a deal here and there. She has had the opportunity to hire and mentor many younger sales people and is always quick with compliments. Her philosophy is to build up those around her, making the team stronger, instead of just herself or one other person. Susan not only gives of her time with her team members, peer mentoring so-to-speak, but never shy’s away from a volunteer opportunity at her children’s school. And, somehow, she also volunteers with several charities. Her husband, much like her, is full of compliments. He seems to always be amazed at her accomplishments with the ability to keep going.


Mary is also a 45 year old mother of two. Mary is divorced, but has shared parenting with her now ex-husband, so she can spend time working on her career. Mary has a MBA in addition to her bachelor’s degree. Her sales career, statistically, is overwhelmingly impressive. She far exceeds quota within her company and has been the top sales person the past four years in a row. Mary is a bit of a lone ranger when it comes to the sales team. She has always been very focused on the win. Closing a deal takes priority over everything else around her. Clearly this approach has worked given her stats. While Mary has been successful in closing deals, making presidents club year over year, she does not like to nor want to mentor her younger team members. In fact, internally within her own organization, she comes across cold and unapproachable. Success, being Mary’s priority, does not afford her much time to spend at the kids school or watching them in sports. Her mantra is: focus on the deal, always on the deal, it will lead to success and then I can afford to do anything else outside of work that I want.


Susan and Mary work for the same company, and in fact, for the same EVP of Sales. Two months ago the EVP of Sales was promoted to president of the company and it was time to name his successor. Mary, as confident as always in her career believe she was a sure thing, and had no problems sharing her confidence with others. Susan even believed Mary would be selected based on her performance and drive.


Susan is now the EVP of Sales. You see when it came right down to it, the executive team felt Susan had one major characteristic that Mary did not. Susan is humble. Her success shines, it always has, through those around her. She is a team player. She wants her team to be successful. She works to teach younger team members humility. She leads by example. And Mary? Well, she is selfish. She has always been selfish. Money, success and power can come and go. Being yourself, being who you are meant to be, and being humble, will carry you through the best of times and the worst of times. Oh yeah…and Mary quit…walked out…and still hasn’t found a new position. 

W's & L's / Win's & Learn's - October 21, 2017

I try not to jump on any bandwagons, but today I’m going to do so, on the topic of “there are no losses, only learning opportunities”. This seems to be a hot topic right now, as I’ve come across this theme with LinkedIn articles, blogs I follow, and multiple posts on Twitter. Maybe it’s the political climate we’re in or a business attitude shift left over from the last full moon. Whatever the reason it’s being talked about, it is a great topic for any sales leader to cover.


The idea of winning or learning has been drilled into me since I was a child. The theme was reinforced by the Xaverian Brothers who taught me in high school and on the athletic field. Then reinforced throughout my college days and right on into my career. It is simple to say, but sometimes not so simple to digest: you win some and you lose some – but you don’t really lose – you learn.


I’m not going to get all philosophical with this post, rather I am going dwell on one aspect, and that’s how to prepare for a learning opportunity (loss). No one wants to lose, especially in sales, because it means a loss of revenue and a loss of income (commission and/or bonus). I mean c’mon, no one wants to willingly walk away from earning money, right? Of course not. But, learning from the loss will ultimately guide you to many more wins over the course of your career. That is if you know how to learn from the lost opportunity.


As silly as this example may sound, it has stuck with me for a very long time. When I turned 16 years old and received my drivers license, like many teenagers, I thought I was all high & mighty. I was a sophomore in high school and was very interested in a young lady that was a senior. Oh boy did I like her. Well, not only did I have my eyes set on dating her, I thought she would absolutely say yes to me. My cousin, who was a few years older than me, pulled me aside before I asked her out and shared a concept with me that’s stuck all these years later. He said, “you know you’ve got some steep competition out there, so even if she turns you down, don’t despair, just learn from the experience and immediately ask someone else. Keep asking until someone says yes, then learn from the entire process, not just from the one yes or one no.” She said yes by the way.


His words, not just what he said but how he said it, ring true in my ears some 30 years later. Being told no is not the end of the world. Being able to analyze why someone may have chosen to say no to you will help guide you to a yes the next time. In sales, as in many life situations, being told no is part of the course you’re on at that moment in time. I’ve tried to always enter into a selling situation with eyes wide open. I try to consider being told yes and what the next steps might be in the closing process. But, I also consider what comes next if I’m told no.


Being prepared for a no can ease the pain of the actuality of that word. Then, if you are told no, take time to reason with yourself. Why were you told no? What did someone else do to get a yes? Can you change something in your sales process or pitch next time to increase the odds of being told yes? What can you do today to increase the likelihood of getting the yes nod tomorrow?


When it comes right down to it, many sales people measure themselves and others by wins and losses, but only a true ‘A’ level sales person will measure in the W’s & L’s that truly matter – win’s and learn’s.

To My Wife-Happy Anniversary - October 14, 2017

She knows I love her. I tell her often and try to show it even more often. I care deeply for my wife. She is the mother of my three great kids. She is my rock and my support at home. But, I’m not sure she knows just how much her support means to me during the work day.


As a career sales person I have had to make sacrifices along the way. I’ve missed a kids activity to attend an evening work function. I’ve brought work home from the office only to sit at the kitchen table after dinner trying to stay on top of email and contracts. I’ve handled conference calls from a hotel room during a family vacation. And all along my wife has been their supporting me, never criticizing my career choice.


We all know that sales is not easy. Having a network of support is an absolute must to becoming an ‘A’ level sales person. It can be a family member, friend, even co-worker, but must also be your spouse (or significant other). I was recently sharing the story of a sales person that worked for me who’s spouse was not at all supportive. It was a real shame because Brett had solid sales skills.


Brett spent about a year in a sales role under my management. He knew the business and he knew how to communicate. Brett did not lack capability, but he did lack personal support. Brett’s wife did not like his career choice of salesman. In fact, she never gave him a pat on the back or a “congrats” when he closed a deal. She was, however, very quick to criticize him openly for losing a deal. She had no problems questioning his abilities as a sales person. She told him, in no uncertain terms, that she felt he was not a good husband or father because he did not close every single deal he bid on. She never understood sales herself so she made him question his career.


My wife has been the opposite. She has been my biggest cheerleader and never a critic. She offers her ear when I need to vent. She leaves me alone when I need quiet time. She reminds me that I am a good father and husband. She supports me today, as she did yesterday and the day before that, and my choice of sales as a career.


Every sales person needs to have someone standing behind them. Thank you to my wife for 18 years of marriage, through good times and bad, ups and downs, and for always being my real support when others weren’t there.

Hire Fast / Fire Faster - October 7, 2017

My human resource friends have long used the phrase: hire slow, fire fast. In today’s business climate I tend to disagree with this approach. My post this week is based solely on opinion and personal experience.


When it comes to sales people, the real-deal ‘A’ level sales people, if I take my time and move slowly through the hiring process, I’m likely going to miss out on the best talent. Sales people, the ‘A’ level sales people, are always in demand. Most can call their shots, whether they are not actively seeking a new opportunity, or are hot on the job market, they are in demand. You know them when you meet them. They exude confidence and can back up the career story with proof. You want to hire them after the first interview. And, you know you’d much rather have them on your team than on the opposing team.


Hiring fast does not mean you’re jumping the gun. It doesn’t mean you “might be missing out” on someone else. It means you’re using your experience as a sales manager to make a judgement call about a candidate. You also do not need to short cut your interview process, but it does mean you may need to consolidate the calendar into a tighter window.


When you come across a candidate you feel strongly about, being expeditious in the interview process may also play favor in your hiring negotiations. Candidates don’t want to linger and wait. Even if they are safely employed elsewhere, your excitement about their candidacy may win them over, and they will want to reward you with a yes to your offer.


As such, being fast on the firing trigger must remain a key component to your management processes, as well. Nothing can hurt an organization more than allowing a poorly performing sales person stay too long. If their behavior becomes toxic, they must go. If you’ve tried to no avail to change their ways, they must go. Leaving someone in place too long can cause more damage because it tells others you are more willing to allow such behavior or poor performance rather than your willingness to address it for the betterment of all.


Hire fast and fire faster. In the end you will have the ‘A’ level team you’ve always wanted.