Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Master The Basics - May 26, 2018

I was recently having a discussion with a sales rep and he was sharing frustration that his firm switched CRM applications at the time he was hired. He went on to explain that there was not much previous data for which he could rely on to make cold calls. And then he shared with me that it was time consuming to build his own lead lists, do a little research on who the right person would be to call, and then make the calls. He was hoping I would be sympathetic.


Well, if you’ve read any of my posts before, I was far from sympathetic. I asked him one question: how long has he been in sales. His answer: 20 years. He then asked me: why? This is where my no sympathy approach kicked in. I simply shared that I thought it was a shame that with his years of experience he clearly never mastered the basics of sales.


You see there is no need for CRM applications, purchased lead lists, or anything else to be successful in sales. You need a telephone, names to call (which you can Google quite easily), and the sheer will power to want to be successful. Those are the basics. Let me break these down for you.


Long before the Internet and cell phone there were land line telephones. And as long as there have been telephones there have been people to call. Businesses once listed their numbers in the Yellowpages. And yes, the Internet and Google came along, but the basic concept of seeking a company name and contact person has not changed. If you can look someone up then you can make a call.


Now the company names are not that hard to find, but what about the actual correct contact person. Again, Google it. Many companies post their directories or key contacts on their websites. There are also third-party directories, financial reporting news, or other websites where key personnel are referenced. And, while we’re on the topic of the Internet, there’s this little website called LinkedIn. If you cannot find a contact person through LinkedIn, you may want to consider another career besides sales.


And finally, you need the will power to be successful, because sales is not easy nor is it for the faint of heart. When I meet people who rely on CRM applications, bought lists, inbound leads versus cold calling, account management versus new business development, then I’ve simply met someone that is seeking the easiest way to make a sale and someone that has no concept of the basics of selling. These sales reps will never be anything more the a ‘B-‘ level sales person.

The Bad Boss - May 19, 2018

The past few posts have been focused on the employee, the sales rep. Being in my position, as a sales manager and consultant, I often deal with the employees from a review, mentor, training perspective. However, there are also times when the sales manager is the issue, the bad boss.


Sales people come and go. That is the nature of the role and the game we play. How they come and go, however, can be a telling sign of the boss, the sales manager. In a smaller company the sales team members tend to be few. If you have turnover every 2, 3, or 4 years, and the reps perform at or above expectations, you likely have a very solid sales manager. It doesn’t mean a bad rep doesn’t slip through the cracks every now and then, but generally speaking you’re doing something right. If you go through sales reps every 6 months or 1 year, you may need to look at the sales manager.


There are a ton of great companies out there that treat employees beyond fair. They are enjoyable to work for and with great benefits. There are perks for the employee and their families. The company reputation is solid in the marketplace among customers and competitors. But, that bad boss, the underwhelming sales manager can make even the best company not feel so great for those sales reps.


It is important that sales managers be properly trained in managing people, not just great sales reps themselves. Sales managers need to lead by example with the ability to explain their process, not just show up with a closed deal and tell everyone how great they are. Sales managers need to be supportive while professional, friendly yet stern at times, and most importantly, sales managers need to make their reps feel like they are a part of the team. Sure, the reps have their part too as in hitting their numbers, but a good sales manager will make the rep feel appreciated. Don’t be a bad boss.

The Rep With A Short Fuse - May 12, 2018

Question from a reader: Kevin, I have a sales rep that has a short fuse. He doesn’t like it when I question him. He blames others around him for his shortcomings or oversights. And, now he’s blaming the management team because he lost a deal. This has been going on for about a month now and I’m concerned his short fuse is going to explode into a full-blown temper. Do you have any advice on what steps I should take? Thanks, Sharon


Sharon, thank you for sending me the note and question. Before I answer your question here is my disclaimer: I am a sales manager and not an HR manager or attorney. With that said, I will be happy to give you my opinion, but it’s just that, an opinion. I would certainly speak with an HR specialist or an employment attorney.


As I finish my disclaimer with speaking to an attorney you’re probably wondering why I’d take that step. We live and work in a very different society than it was even twenty or so years ago. Think road rage for a moment. It has gotten worse and worse over the years and has definitely spilled into the workplace. You need to protect yourself and your employees, both physically and from a business perspective.


Our employees are no different than us. We all have good days and bad days. The priest at my parish says, “you never know what someone else is going through”. People contend with illness, divorce, financial hardship, death, etc. on a daily basis. We often don’t think about what others are going through because we, ourselves, are dealing with our own issues. But, it definitely crosses a line when an employee’s short fuse becomes abusive.


I believe a conversation with your employee is needed. You also need to include your HR manager or specialist, your own manager, or another department head. You need support and you need to make sure your employee is getting support. This conversation does not need to be confrontational, rather you’re expressing your concerns. Are they okay? Is there something going on they want to share? Do they need help?


This conversation needs to happen and it needs to be documented. You want to make sure this employee does not feel threatened but that you are concerned and you want to help. Again, this is just my opinion, but I’d be willing to bet they open up and share what’s causing their distress. Although it may happen, I would be surprised if they became defensive or short tempered. They will likely realize the err of their ways and apologize. Offer to be there for them and help them if you can. If they show appreciation you are on the right track.


However, if they do not appreciate the offer of help, if they become defensive, short tempered, then you need to immediately end the meeting and plan a course of action, such as a formal employee intervention or even termination. Again, the work place can be an added stress for us all, especially when we’re dealing with a personal struggle, but how someone handles themselves is the difference between being professional and being fired. There is no place for having a short fuse or an anger issue with your fellow employees.

When HR and Sales Management Do Not See Eye to Eye - May 5, 2018

Hire Slow Fire Fast. This is an old HR phrase that I used in last week’s post. This message makes a lot of sense. The more time you take hiring someone the better the odds are that they will be a match for the role and your organization. But, even when you do hire slow, sometimes the employee isn’t a match and they need to leave.


When it comes to the sales rep who would know better than the sales manager when it’s time to let them go. It could be underperforming, misrepresenting the company, not being a cultural fit, or a combination of all of the above. You need to involve HR. You need to get your HR manager apprised of the situation and on your side to remove the bad rep. You want HR to have your back. What happens when you don’t necessarily see eye to eye on the firing process?


I’ve been faced with this challenge and it is not easy to deal with at times. I asked my HR manager, Tori, to chime in on this topic. What would stop her from having her managers back? I was surprised at how simple her answer was: paperwork. She will have her managers back all day long if there is a paperwork trail.


Sales managers and their reps have a relatively unique relationship. They tend to spend more time together than even members of the executive team. Whether they are doing ride along’s, in training sessions, having coffee, or simply reviewing a client account, the amount of time spent between manager and rep is significant. And, because of this, very often there are conversations being had where the manager is giving advice and guidance that should be documented and delivered to the rep (aka employee). This could not be truer than when criticism comes into play.


All too often the messages of criticism, the messages that need to be handled with an HR slant, they are done in less formal and more casual conversation settings. This is the paperwork Tori is referring to. It comes down to making sure the rep has a clear understanding of when the criticism being shared is to be taken on a much more serious level. This can be in the form of email or traditional documentation such as a performance improvement plan. Tori will have your back all day long when you can show how and when you shared your concerns and criticism in writing with your team members.


Employee reviews can be a big help in keeping your documentation in line. Sales reps can and should be a part of their review by asking them for their ideas and feedback. Documenting their own concerns and criticism. The sales manager can then provide thoughts, ideas, concerns and criticisms in writing, and then before you know it, you have an employee file. When the rep doesn’t work out, HR will have your back, and no matter how slow you hired you can then fire fast.