Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


The Anti-Role Model - February 24, 2018

Going all the way back to grade school we’ve been asked about our role models. We’ve written papers, given presentations in front of our classmates, and for some we’ve even sent thank you notes. Through college and into my career I have been asked to talk about my role models. They’ve included my father, coaches, and some I’ve been proud to call mentors. And, likewise, I have asked others about their role models. Who are they and why?


The term role model also has a tendency to get thrown around by famous actors and sports figures. Fans put their favorite basketball player on a pedestal and idolize the person as a role model. Why? Musicians make it big by winning a television singing competition and next thing you know high schoolers are calling that person their role model. Why? What makes these public figures role models?


When we evaluate our time as students, athletes, professionals, parents, etc. we are guided by the role model principle in that we should look up to these individuals as role models because we want to be like them, emulate their behavior, and hope for success (differing definitions of course) just like them.


Have you ever been asked about your anti-role model?


I have long believed, as a sales manager and mentor, that while discussing the positive attributes of one’s role model is worthwhile, uncovering the negative attributes of someone’s anti-role model can be even more beneficial. Who do you not want to be? Who do you not want to act like? Who’s behavior is questionable regardless of their level of success? What would make you want to run the other way if you saw the person walking toward you?


As a student, in sports, in your community, in your career, in your church, local politics, civic leaders, there are many that simply should not earn the respect they sometimes garnish. I oftentimes think of the professional athlete that is held up in the public eye as a great person but has a substance abuse problem, has been arrested for domestic violence, and has little regard for the fans that pay money to watch him or her play a game. Another comes to mind in a former coworker, a sales person, who would cut corners and lie to customers simply to get the sale. He never did any follow-up work after the purchase order was obtained. He burned bridge after bridge in an attempt to pad his pockets. There was no sense of loyalty and once all bridges were burned he would find another company to sell for and repeat the process. Outside of his professional environment he treated his personal relationships much the same, dating multiple women at the same time, and even two becoming pregnant by him at the same time. He abandoned them too and moved. He jumped for money, period.


In recognizing these people as anti-role models, we can build a list of characteristics that we want to avoid. A positive role model can help you define who you want to be while an anti-role model can also help you define who you want to be. Sometimes it can be helpful to remember the old saying: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Anti-role models are easy to spot. True role models tend to be humble which makes them role models.

Big Data / Small Sales Team - February 17, 2018

The term Big Data is being used on a frequent basis in business today ranging from marketing teams analyzing product penetration to sales teams comparing and contrasting customer buying habits. The misnomer is that big data is for big organizations. It is not. Regardless of your company size, and for this post the size of your sales team, analyzing “big data” can be for everyone.


From the sales managers seat I am a big fan of big data. To me big data is like a bedtime story. Sometimes there is a happy ending and sometimes I wake up in cold sweats in the middle of the night. No matter what the information (story) is, you can use it to your advantage.


First let’s talk about gathering big data. We all have prospect lists, client lists, order histories, meeting histories, etc. This information is likely stored in our CRM, Outlook, ERP or some other internal system at the office. And, the beauty of this information, it can be exported for reporting purposes. Determine what you are seeking, such as buying cycles, or types of clients that have purchased product x, and then pull your reports.


Then begin the bedtime story. A happy bedtime story is one that showcases your successes in the form of positive trends. You can identify certain buying attributes of your prospects and clients. You can look at calendar or seasonal trends. You can determine that certain types of clients are better suited for certain types of sales people. Whatever the data tells you, you can positively manage your sales processes and teams based on it.


We also have the bedtime story that can be nightmarish. The data points downward. The data tells you that you’re losing market share. The data tells you that you’ve been managing the wrong way or that you have the wrong people selling for you. You wake up in cold sweats wondering if the data is wrong. But, what if the data is correct. What do you do?


Data, hard cold factual data, does not lie. The metrics in front of you are not trying to trick you. Numbers are numbers and facts are facts. You should learn to accept big data as a compass helping you point your way toward success. Report often. Analyze often. Use the information that is at your disposal. Don’t dismiss big data as something out of your reach, rather grab a hold of the information, digest it, and use it to your advantage.

Feelings of Inadequacy - February 10, 2018

Throughout a sales person’s career there may come a time or two where they may feel inadequate. I don’t mean junior level or inferior to a more seasoned sales person. I am referring to the feeling as though they do not belong at the table, in the sales call, or even worthy of calling on such a prospect. It happens. It is the “second guessing” of one’s capabilities. And, typically, it happens without notice.


I am in no way, shape, or form going to make light of someone that may suffer from a panic or anxiety attack. However, being overwrought by a feeling of inadequacy during the sales process can bring the best sales person to their knees. Where does this come from and why does it happen? More importantly, how do you get past it?


While I am not a psychologist, having been faced with these feelings a time or two in my own career, I can attest to just what went wrong and how I corrected the situation. Also, I should point out, this is a topic I’ve been asked to address for some time, but one that can be very sensitive.


For me and for those sales people close to me that have shared their stories, the feeling of inadequacy tends to rear its ugly head when we are feeling exceptionally well and on top of our game. As if nothing can go wrong, deals are closing left and right, and then out of nowhere you have one in front of you that shuts you down. You get this sense that either you are not the best fit for the sales role, your company cannot deliver, the clients expectations are beyond your capability to deliver, or simply the client is too good for you. It tends to come out of nowhere and makes you question your entire sales skill set.


At least for me, as I look back on these situations, it was a grounding effect. My ego was likely getting in the way of being clear-headed. And, what I found to be the common link was that many of the closed deals leading up to this moment were simply “layups”. They were good deals, but they were easy. My sales process became a bit robotic. I didn’t necessarily need to bring my best to the table in terms of proposal writing or even prospect communication and yet I was closing, closing, closing. Well, then comes the deal that shook me to my core. The deal that would require me to put in a lot of early mornings and late evenings. The deal that needed much more attention to detail, time spent with the prospect, and my absolute best. It was the deal that both thrilled me and scared me.


I began to question my capabilities and if we were the right fit to win such an opportunity. I began to feel inadequate in the face of the competition and in front of the prospect. Things prior were coming way too easy and now I had to truly earn my sale. I needed to step up, rise to the occasion, and do what I was trained to do – close the damn deal.


It was not an easy situation to mentally process. It took its toll on me physically by losing sleep and skipping meals. It took its toll on me mentally because I was questioning who I was and what I was doing. But, in the end, I did rise to the occasion. I put my best out there and I closed the deal. I swallowed my fear in losing the deal and with it all the feelings of being inadequate. I made myself believe I was the right fit for the right prospect. I needed to look myself in the mirror and admit I took advantage of the low hanging fruit leading up to this deal, but regardless, I was worthy of sitting at the table.

Become a "Conversation Generalist" - February 3, 2018

We’ve all been there, trying to hold a conversation with a complete stranger, only to be pushed right out of our comfort zone. It can happen at a social event, a business meeting, or sitting in the stands at your kids basketball game. A conversation begins innocently enough, but either by your own accord or the other person, it gets pushed into a corner where you or the other person become lost and can no longer be a part of the discussion.


Here's a recent example I went through: I was at my daughter’s basketball game and sat down next to another dad from her team. He’s a very pleasant person and is a surgeon by trade. We had about 10 minutes before game time and we so we began to chat. The typical “nice day”, “girls have been looking good out there” kind of stuff. And then, without giving it much thought, I asked how work was going. Without skipping a beat Larry jumped right into telling me all about a recent procedure that was way above my head. Unfortunately, Larry did not pick up on my queue’s and kept going right up until tipoff.


Larry is a brilliant surgeon, but in social settings, he is a bit awkward when it comes to being able to hold a general conversation. And, because of this, he loses people like he did me. He is not what I call a conversation generalist.


Sales people must learn to become conversation generalists. It is not a difficult skill set to learn, but it does require commitment and time. You, the sales person, must be willing to read. And I mean read, read, read. Think about breaking the ice when you first enter a sales call. In almost all cases you exchange pleasantries with the other person by entering into a brief conversation. But, what do you talk about?


Keeping up on the headlines, especially locally, may be a start. Another way is to prep yourself with a little background on the person you’re meeting with and reading up on something that may be of personal interest. For example, if the person you’re meeting with is a youth sports coach, find something relatable that you can discuss.


Over the course of my nearly twenty-five year career I’ve watched many a sales person lose the deal before it even started because they could not break the ice and hold a general conversation with the person across from them. They were either stopped in their tracks with fear of what to say or they jumped immediately into their pitch. Nothing has changed. Sales people still need to master the art of the general conversation.