Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Goodbye 2017 - December 30, 2017

As we get older and we put more mileage on our own engines, we can all look back and say some years were better than others. I, for one, am neither happy nor sad to see 2017 come to an end, but I am prepared to say goodbye to it and hello 2018.


2017 on a personal level was a pleasant year. My children are growing, maturing, and accomplishing so much in their young lives that, well, I cannot begin to sing their praises. I feel truly blessed that my family was and is healthy. The year was without any personal tragedy or loss. In many ways I’d sum it up as a pretty average, maybe above average, year.


On the business front 2017 was not terrible either, yet it was not the year I had planned. I did experience loss in the form of a few long-time clients. I lost a few good team members too, especially one who moved overseas. Adjustments were made on the fly, ones that proved to be the right call at the time, but it was stressful nonetheless. I am generally pleased with 2017, but again I can’t help but wonder what could have been if the changes did not happen.


I am looking forward to 2018. I hope for better times ahead both personally and professionally. I hope my son learns to drive carefully, obtains his driver’s license, and is blessed with no driving incidents in his young driving career. I’m hoping my daughters remain steadfast and focused on their academics and extracurriculars. I hope my wife and I continue to be healthy as we focus on the parenting of teenagers.


And, as I ponder what is to be as a professional sales person in 2018, I hope for success. I hope for continued success as my business grows, my employees grow, and my clients grow. I hope we continue to find ways to provide return on investment for our clientele as the industry speeds forward unlike anything before. The key to all of my personal and professional wants is hope. I do believe in my and my teams skills. We have what it takes to have a great year and it is through my hope that I envision the year ending successfully. I too hope you have a great 2018. Thank you for reading SaturdayMorningSales and Happy New Year.

Did You Waste Time This Year? - December 23, 2017

I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “what a waste of time” something was, such as a concert, a presentation, a sporting event, or a meeting. It happens. We don’t have a crystal ball so we cannot predict the future. When I ask the question “did you waste time this year”, I am not referring to these minor happenings that are practically inevitable, my question is much deeper. As 2017 draws to a close, looking at bigger picture happenings in your sales career throughout the past 11 ½ months, did you waste time by not being present in the moment? Did you waste time by ignoring market conditions? Did you waste time by not reaching out to your customers more often? Did you miss opportunities to advance your sales because you were off wasting time when you should have been working?


I am not suggesting that you skip a vacation or come into the office when feeling sick. All too often, especially with ‘B’ and ‘C’ level sales people, they lie to themselves. There is a feeling they are busy, the workload is pushing manageable, and sales are okay, when in fact they are having their doors blown off by the ‘A’ level sales person. This is about time management. It’s about prioritizing your life, making time for your spouse, your kids, your hobbies, and still kicking ass in sales. It is about always living in the moment and being aware of the world around you. It is about NOT wasting time.


I developed my own time management exercise years ago, blending different approaches and professional sales trainer ideas, and I call it the quadrant. Weekends are mine. I have a wife and three children. I have responsibilities to them, other family, my friends and my faith. But, Monday through Friday is about my career choice as a sales person. My quadrant begins at 5:00 AM on Monday morning and ends at 5:00 PM on Friday evening. In each of the four categories – sales / management / professional development / personal – I list my weekly activities and responsibilities. Each and every week I evaluate my calendar, my hourly, daily and weekly schedule, and I look for ways to engage and not waste an ounce of energy or time.


During the holidays, this time of year, many sales people are feeling stressed and anxious because of their performance, or lack of performance, from the previous 11 ½ months. Many wait until now to self-evaluate, ponder their performance, and plan for the new year. However, this should be a regular (at least weekly) occurrence.


My challenge to my own team and to you is this: have you wasted time this year? No, you cannot get it back, but you can learn from this exercise. Identify those times where you feel you wasted time, missed an opportunity, or did not work to your potential. Explore ways you can avoid this happening again. Commit to better time management skills. Exercise the quadrant to your advantage. Have a great holiday season and a better 2018.

Lead By Example: Show Success-Do Not Show Off - December 16, 2017

Pompous. Arrogant. Egotistical. These descriptive words are my enemy. I’ve had these words used against me in my career and they’ve really hurt me. Naturally, I want to be liked, and I want my employees and peers to view me in good light. I would much prefer to be known as humble, sincere, or leader. It has been a number of years since I was referred to in the negative, as far as I know (lol), so how did I overcome such poor views.


There was a time, much earlier in my career, when I thought materialism was a sign of success. It may have been my choice of watering hole, vacation spot, the car I drove, or simply the logo on my shirt. More so, it was my attitude added to these things, that portrayed me in not so pleasant ways. Thankfully, this was a very short stint in my overall career.


I guess one could say that I was wise enough to see my poor behavior and make the necessary changes in my habits. I’d say I was lucky. I was mentoring a young man in his early sales career and I wasn’t much older myself. We were driving back to the office after a sales meeting when he said he was impressed by me as a sales person. Well, thank you. Except what should have been a compliment resonated with me in the fact that I was not really the person he was describing. James was full of compliments: nice car; that new suit looks great on you; I wish I could take my girlfriend to dinner at XYZ restaurant, maybe when I’m more successful like you; must feel good to have this, that, and the next thing; I can’t wait until things come easy for me like they do for you.


Things did not come easy for me, not in the least. At that point in my career, only a few years out of college, I was living in Ohio, the fourth state in less than four years. Nothing had come easy. But, it was my outward attitude that made James believe I was much more successful than I really was, and in fact, this bothered me. This was a turning point in my life and my career. Within a week I began to focus on my attitude, trying to be a better, more humble human being. I dropped the act. I started to show people who I was, who I really was, and became more open about struggles and challenges. Nothing came easy, and if it did, it was likely not a real success story. Ultimately, what it came down to, I stopped showing off, and learned how to show real success.


Twenty years has passed since James helped me more than I helped him. Not a week goes by where I don’t thank him. To this day I pride myself on being a sales and business leader that tries hard to show success based on effort instead of showing off. Sure, I take my family on vacation. I have more than what I’d call the basic essentials in life. But, I try very hard not to flaunt these possessions, as it is my goal to show achievement to my team in the form of new clients, new engagements, and general business success. Showing success has nothing to do with ego, showing off is nothing but ego. Be successful, my friends.

Recovering From A Tough Year - December 9, 2017

There are times throughout the year where I consult (on a freelance basis) to sales organizations on topics of performance, hiring, planning, and other sales related topics. Last week I engaged with an old client whose sales team has had a very tough year. Having had a few of those myself over the course of 24 years in sales, I was able to counsel them from the heart. The key to my message was “nothing lasts forever”.


Sales is a career that has many up’s and down’s. It is certainly not the only career choice with an emotional swing, but one of the few that has an emotional swing that occurs on a near frequent basis. It’s one thing to lose a deal here and there, where the emotional swing is downward, while hitting a few homeruns and the emotional swing goes up. But, what do you do to motivate an entire team with a years-worth of disappointments or losses?


My client gained a few new customers this year, four to be exact, but also lost nine. They started the year with high hopes and great anticipation that the year would be full of wins, adding clients and not losing clients, and expanding market share. However, the loss of a longtime sales rep to illness was unexpected and certainly not planned for. Client losses did not come all at one time, rather spread across the calendar year, but with little-to-no reasoning or explanation as to why the client was leaving. The sales team did not take advantage of opportunities presented to ask why and now it may simply be too late.


On a bright note, the company is stable overall, and has two new consumer facing products being launched mid-next year. Knowing the company has a survival mentality in the C-suite, it was time to put the sales team in their place, in a positive way.


Through my counseling, based on the theme that nothing lasts forever, we explored the reasoning that went into the annual plans that obviously fell short. We outlined plans for 2018 and talked about setting more realistic expectations. We discussed personal goal setting (see last week’s post) in addition to business goal setting. And, we talked about why the company will be successful in spite of the sales team members. Nothing lasts forever – even some jobs.


The sales team members needed to come to terms with the fact that their own motivation dwindled throughout the year. Not one person stepped into a leadership role, rather it appears everyone was too worried about losing another client. Instead of pushing ahead, the sales reps simply wanted to protect their individual territory. They became more reactionary instead of being proactive with ideas for their clients.


At the end of my engagement we seemed to all be on the same page and in tandem with the plans set forth by the C-suite. Somewhat surprisingly, and in a positive way, each sales rep owned their mistakes and missteps. They recognized their shortcomings and outlined business and personal goals. Each has made a commitment, not just to themselves, but to each other to support the goals of the entire organization with an eye on their own individual goals. And, management has agree to hold the team more accountable, by being more proactively involved in day-to-day and week-to-week management of the sales process.


Nothing lasts forever. Start the year with a fresh perspective, keep your eyes on the prize each and every day, and 2018 will put 2017 in the dust.

Share Your Personal Goals - December 2, 2017

Wow, the end of year is already upon us, and if you’re like me, you are well on your way for 2018 planning. Each and every year of my career I take time from mid-November through mid-December to reflect on the year wrapping up, and to give serious consideration about how I might want the year ahead to go. Planning and goal setting has always been important to me. And, setting a few personal goals into the mix of my business goals has been a mainstay. More importantly, I don’t keep these personal goals to myself, I share them with my team.


As sales people we all tend to set similar goals: revenue generation, profit margin increases, new client development, market expansion, and the like. Oftentimes, sales people relate personal goals, when asked, to these business goals. For example, a personal goal is to exceed my quota by 11.5%. To me this is not a personal goal. This is still a business goal.


Personal goals have a direct and immediate impact on your personal life. Personal goals impact your significant other, your family, your home, etc. and they can relate to your business goals, yet they are still separate. When viewed as a combination, the business goals become the means to achieving your personal goals, so why not share.


For many years I have encouraged my team members to outline not only their business goals for the new, upcoming year ahead, but also share at least a few of their personal goals. And, when I say share, I do mean share. Share some amount of detail as to why these are personal goals, what impact these personal goals will have on your life, why is that personal goal important to you, what will that personal goal mean to your family, and how can your fellow team members support you with this knowledge they now possess about your personal goals. Allow me to use a personal goal for 2018 as an example.


I was fortunate this past Tuesday to make and confirm a reservation for a family ski trip during Christmas of 2018. That’s right, one year from now, yet the reservation had to be made on Tuesday. In fact, the resort was sold out in less than 10 minutes for this specific week, and I was lucky enough to get a place. Planning ahead for a family trip over one year away is a key to my goal setting for all of 2018. Here’s why – my wife and I have a preview of school calendars for the next 3 years. My son will be a high school junior next year and then planning for college. Outside of Christmas vacation next year, my three children do not appear to have corresponding schedules for the foreseeable future, and so we decided this would be the time to take this ski trip.


Obtaining the lucky reservation for Christmas 2018 was only the first step in making the trip a reality. In order to make the trip happen, I need to hit my business goals. My business goals are to increase sales for the company as a whole, as well as increase my own book of business. I need to expand the sales team with new personnel, those ‘A’ level sales people I frequently talk and write about. I need to engage my own client base to increase their use of my firm. And, aside from my primary company, another business goal is to expand my freelance consulting.


I will not be purchasing plane tickets until late next summer or early fall. I will know then if I am on track to hit my business goals. If I am on track then the trip is a go. If I am not, well, the trip may not happen. However, I’m forging ahead into the new year with this trip as my primary personal goal. I want, no I need, my team to know about this goal. I need them to hear the sincerity in my voice as I explain what this trip will mean to my family before the kids get older and start college. I will need their help. I will need their help selling, meeting my clients expectations, and help keeping the business goals overall on track.


I encourage sales managers to take this approach and encourage your sales team members to set and share personal goals. Listen intently on what those goals are and why. Ask yourself what you can do to help your team achieve those personal goals. You do have something to gain, hitting your business goals, because most people will achieve their personal goals only by hitting their business goals. Happy 2018 Planning!