Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


When Starting Over Is Not An Option - April 28, 2018

Today I’m going to pick up where I left off last week sharing my story of John. Throughout the past several weeks I have been working with a client in evaluating John. As I stated in my previous post, he seems to be listening, but not truly hearing what we are saying. He is not grasping the concept, especially for someone with over 15 years of experience, that sales is a numbers game. You’re either performing to a set standard or you are not.


Well, I thought I heard them all, but John threw me for a loop. He asked his manager and I if he could start over. That’s right, he wants to start his role over again, as if the past 6+ months never existed. Unfortunately, this may have sealed his fate. No, of course you cannot start over.


Please don’t get me wrong. This is not a matter of giving him a second chance. We’re not talking about changing careers and starting over. We are talking about the fact that John has been paid a base salary for over 6 months, along with benefits and vacation time, and he has not produced sales to even a base level. This has become more of a matter that John is not grasping the concept of new business development (vs account management) and he certainly is not an ‘A’ level sales person.


John cannot start over, at least not with my client. John needs to understand that the messages given to him by his sales manager have not changed. The goals that are set forth for his role are the same as when he interviewed. The need for activity in terms of calls made every day, meetings set every week, and ultimately closed deals are the same today as they were yesterday, last week, and last month. Nothing has changed. The fact is that John cannot do the job.


So, I’ve asked myself, “is there anything my client could have done differently?” The short answer is not hire John. But, somehow John did a very convincing job of selling himself during the interview process. The real answer is termination sooner. It is not a pleasant decision. Yet, in business, we sometimes need to make tough calls. There’s an old saying: Hire Slow Fire Fast. In John’s case, he should have been terminated months ago, and not have had this situation drag on. It is unfair for my client and it is unfair to John.


When starting over is not an option it is wise to guide the underperforming sales person out the door. You are not being cruel, rather you are doing them a favor. If this is not the role for them, you should help them see the light and leave on their own, or you may have to fire them. Again, this is not pleasant, but sometimes a fact of life. When the position is not for them, when starting over is definitely not an option, be kind but swift and left John go.

Hello, Hello, Is There Anybody In There? April 21, 2018

Last week I referenced that sales managers at times need to be stern. And, equally, I referenced that sales reps need not sugarcoat anything or try to smile through their struggles. I am working through a scenario currently with a client and his sales rep. I’m reminded of the Pink Floyd line: Hello, hello, hello, is there anybody in there? I am having conversations with the sales person about their training, how they are coming along since joining the organization, and John the rep just smiles and says everything’s been great. I’m wondering, hello, are you listening to us?


John is struggling in sales. He is not meeting any sort of quota for calls made, appointments set, proposals written, or closed business. He feels like everything is on track for him to be successful and he doesn’t need help. Mind you, John has over 15 years of sales experience and has been with my client’s organization for over 6 months, yet he has the performance of a kid right out of school. He’s smiling and saying everything’s great, and his performance numbers cannot get any worse.


Unfortunately, what we are learning through our reviews with John is that he seems to be listening to us talk, but he is not truly hearing what we are saying. He has the ability to regurgitate information, but doesn’t understand or grasp the meaning and concepts behind the words. John is a classic ‘C level’ sales person, whereas he can memorize a script, but cannot sell with substance. My client needs an ‘A level’ team member.


The evaluation and my conclusion for my client is to give John strict guidelines for which he must maintain. He is in sales and sales is a numbers game. He needs to improve his performance from top-to-bottom and there needs to be the most stringent of guidelines in place. If John cannot meet the goals set forth he should be let go. John is a nice guy, don’t get me wrong, I could see myself enjoying a beer with him. But, when it comes to sales, he is not cut out for the rigors of new business development, rather he would be better suited for account management. So, time will tell. Hopefully, if he’s in there somewhere, he’ll eventually nod when he hears our message, and realize he needs to perform or leave.


No matter what type of sales you’re in, sales is black & white, you are either performing or you’re not. It really is that simple.

A Little Hard On The Beaver - April 14, 2018

“Ward, I think you were a little hard on the Beaver.” June Cleaver was oftentimes saying this phrase in the television show Leave It To Beaver. And, this has been a quote used over and over again since those shows aired in the late-1950’s and early-1960’s. Unfortunately, many today don’t even know this show existed. Yet, the meaning behind the quote and the outcome of the show’s content is as relevant today as it was way back then.


As a sales manager it is my responsibility to be a mentor, to be a leader, to be a decision maker, but it is not my responsibility to be my sales reps best friend. This does not mean I am cold and callas, I am friendly with my team members, but sometimes I must also be stern. I must “be a little hard on the Beaver” in order to ensure we are all performing to our best abilities. Ward Cleaver was not intentionally trying to be a mean, cold spirited dad. Quite the opposite, he was trying to be a friend to his son while at times also reminding his son that he was still the father in the relationship. This is no different for sales managers.


You don’t have to treat people poorly, yell or bark orders at them, or make unrealistic demands. Time and again it has been proven that this approach to management does not work. However, you cannot always let the sales rep run without supervision or guidance. You must hold your sales rep accountable for his or her own actions, performance, and ultimately results. And yes, sometimes, this means you must be a bit stern in your tone, attitude and words than you normally might be.


Sales reps must also learn and understand who it is that they are working for and what triggers the sales manager to take such a stern position with them. Is it the way they are carrying themselves? Is it their sales performance or lack thereof? Is it their close rate? Is it something they are doing that does not jive with the company culture but something than can be changed nonetheless?


Sales reps are the other half of the marriage so to speak. The relationship between rep and manager is just like a personal relationship. There are times where everything seems like it couldn’t get any better and there are times where the boat is rocking just a little too much. As in a personal relationship, you should not sugarcoat the issue, rather one person should be stern with the other and lay the cards on the table. It is better to get the issue or issues out in the open, address them, deal with them, resolve them, and move on. Otherwise, as with some personal relationships, divorce may be inevitable.


A sales rep should not have thin skin and be too sensitive to the sales manager when that manager takes a stern tone. Instead, the sales rep should work to understand and communicate with the manager what is going on, what they are feeling, and they must be completely honest. Saying everything is fine & dandy when the results are poor just won’t cut it and the rep will likely be put on the hot seat or lose their job. Communication is the key to any successful relationship, even if it means being “a little hard on the Beaver”.

Social Media & The Salesperson - April 7, 2018

I was recently involved in a roundtable discussion with several hiring decision makers, sales managers, and human resource specialists. While there were differing opinions, as you’d might expect, when it came to interview and hiring practices, there was almost an unanimous position about the retention factors for sales people. And, at the top of the list, was the use of social media.


Obviously, in the digital era for which we live and work, social media is a factor that is here to stay. The use of social media to advance one’s business agenda can be a powerful tool. However, that same use of social media may also be a sales person’s demise. The line between the two could not be thinner.


Good, positive use of social media can and should include posts about successful stories involving your own company and those of your customers. Announcements about new products or services, posts about promotions, the use of images and video to support a comment, are all good ways in which social media can help a sales person move ahead of the pack and engage new levels of customers.


But, what happens when social media is overused or abused? What becomes of the sales person that takes social to a very personal, intimate level with customers? Where does the use of social media cross the line into becoming a problem? It can happen quickly and often without the sales person even realizing they’ve crossed that line.


I’ve seen firsthand how social media can be the root cause of a sales persons decline. The Tweets and re-Tweets about political, economic, or religious commentary to an audience comprised of both personal and professional contacts. Blending the personal Tweets into the fold with your professional Tweets. Friending your customers and prospects on Facebook where you are posting personal pictures of you and your significant other at a bar, on the beach, or attending an event. At first this doesn’t seem too harmless until your customer realizes you are “constantly on Facebook” and that you share way too much personal information. They want to have a professional relationship with you and don’t need to see you and your wife in swimsuits.


Then there is the overuse of social media while describing to your employer and customers that you are “so very busy” and “overwhelmed with work”. Let me get this straight, you can’t seem to stay on top of your customer meetings and responsibilities, yet you have the time to post on social media every 25 minutes? Something is just not right with that picture.


So, as I wrap up this morning’s post, let me just use this as an opportunity to share my advice. Keep personal social and professional social as separate as possible. If you must blend the audience, make sure you are always cognizant of your posts and the frequency. And, most importantly, be aware that people are always watching you. Social media has broken down many barriers that once allowed a person to remain private. What you share on social media removes your privacy and those words, pictures, actions, videos all may cost you business some day.