Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Out Of The Mouths Of Babes! - March 26, 2016

You’re probably wondering what in the world this title means this week: Out of the mouths of babes! This saying is older than me. This saying has been around a very, very long time. And yet, no matter how old, this saying has meaning in 2016 especially if you are a parent. Children are innocent creatures with no filters. They speak the truth no matter where they are or who is around. So, what does this saying have to do with sales?


For generations, maybe as long as the profession of sales has been in existence, a sales person has been given a bad rap for being untruthful, dishonest, or a “bender of facts”. It has become a stigma that many a sales person cannot lose. And, in many cases, it is a stigma earned.


I have worked with and counseled sales people for over twenty years and I can’t begin to tell you how many of these folks were taught, that’s right taught, how to bend truths to sell their product or service. Sales people have gone to training programs taught on the basis of how to only share the minimal amount of information to close a deal, nothing less and nothing more, and boy oh boy can that come back to bite them.


When I first began my sales career there was a gentleman I admired for his success. His success, and I mean BIG success, was based on one simple rule that he set for himself: Out of the mouths of babes! What, or more importantly why, did this saying become a business rule for my mentor? Because, as he put it, if you always tell the truth and provide more information than may be required, your customer can never come back and question your intentions for selling them a product or service. Ultimately you will win more than you will lose.


Prior to becoming a parent, I would have this saying trickle into my thoughts every so often, and now it seems to be ever present. The meaning behind it always stuck with me though. I’ve tried to make sure sales people I encounter, either by management or customer, always abide by this rule. You should ask yourself if you abide by this rule (or if your company does). Are you in a position to never have ethics questioned in a deal? Does your customer recognize you as an honest, stand-up sales person? Or, do they view you as the typical order taker, and only do business with you out of necessity?


Becoming a real success as a career sales person means that you must always be honest with yourself and with your customers. Are you?

Recharge Your Battery - March 19, 2016

I was having lunch with a few colleagues the other day in the office. Someone asked if I was looking forward to my upcoming vacation, and before I had a chance to answer, another person commented, “it must be nice to go on vacation again, weren’t you just skiing?” Unfortunately, I was not having the best of days, and I let my agitation with this person get the best of me. I blurted out, without thinking, “if you put in even half of the time and effort I have since January 1st you too would want to go on vacation”. I quickly walked away and later apologized to everyone that was in the kitchen at the time of my outburst.


Stress! I have been under a tremendous amount of stress lately. I tried to watch some March Madness games last night at my neighbors and could not focus on the game. I found myself walking home and going to be at 10:00 PM. I was tired. I got a decent enough night’s sleep last night and felt good coaching lacrosse practice this morning. I guess I just needed the rest.


You see, I made a few adjustments in my role internally at my company as well as with my freelance schedule, and as the old saying goes – I’ve been burning the candle at both ends. As a career sales person I have never been a nine-to-fiver. And this couldn’t be more true of the past 80 days. I’ve always explained to sales people, you can work 30 hours per week or 65 hours per week, the key is making sure you are always exceeding expectations (your own and those of your boss). Being my own boss, I have much higher expectations for myself than I do of my team, and my goal has been to exceed.


And so this has been my mission. I consciously chose to set extremely high goals for myself for the first quarter. Knowing that I had a spring break vacation planned at the end of the quarter meant that I needed to exceed my goals by mid-March and I accomplished my goals. I sit here today feeling good that I exceeded my sales goal while maintaining a full schedule of other responsibilities. But, I still feel a little upset that I was short tempered with my coworker earlier in the week. I blame it on stress.


Sales people tend to be viewed as happy-go-lucky. “Hey man, how’s it going” – “great, couldn’t be better”. Sales people never own up to being stressed out or having a down month or quarter. Happy-go-lucky always. We are sales people, so we are good at covering our real feelings. And so it has gone for me, everything has been great, and for the most part is has. I mean really, while I’ve been stretching myself thin, I have also exceeded goals. But, in reality, I do need a break and so it is time to recharge my own battery.


A sales person should monitor their behavior on a daily basis. When feeling stressed out at work or at home it is time to take a break. A break may be as simple as taking a walk around the block at lunchtime. Or, if you’ve really been going hard at a relative non-stop pace, you may need to disappear and head to the beach for a few days. Whatever works for you, hiking-camping-skiing-shopping-a walking tour of Boston, do something non-work related and relax (or try your best to relax).


There are too many people in the business world that do not fully understand or grasp the concept of being a career sales person. They don’t understand the sacrifices made every day, every week and every month that we take on ourselves to ensure our company is generating revenue. They are unaware of the nights spent at networking events or traveling to visit out-of-town clients, time spent away from our families. And, to a certain extent, they don’t care. We chose this profession. With that in mind, avoid burnout, and take break. Recharge Your Battery!

Sales Stand-Up - March 12, 2016

What is a stand-up? What specifically is a sales stand-up? Should I employ a sales stand-up with my team?


In the world of software development (and similar types of industries) there is a process/belief/methodology known as Agile. Very similar to other concepts in management, like Lean, the premise of Agile is transparency in all steps of your business. This includes sales. My company employs Agile at the core of everything we do, and have for a few years now, which includes how I manage the sales team. The practice of Agile includes a brief daily meeting known as a “stand-up” and I have begun to teach this technique in my own freelance work.


So, let’s begin with the most important element to a sales stand-up, and that is transparency. The concept of transparency, at least on the surface, is rather straight forward. Each sales person is an open book on every single aspect of activity and performance. That is to say, each and every sales person must know exactly where every opportunity, prospect, proposal, PO, email, etc. is in the sales process for each and every client and prospect. Now, here is the tough part, the sales person must be 100% open and honest about these aspects of their sales, meaning they must not sugarcoat the chances of closing the business. And, all of this information is presented daily in front of the entire sales team and management team.


Being transparent seems easy and it is once you become accustomed to being an open book. Think about this for a moment: if you forget to make a phone call to a prospect, you answer for it openly to your team, by admitting you “forgot”. If you are being blown off by a prospect, you acknowledge this openly to your team. If you were told to pound salt and never call the prospect again, you acknowledge this openly to your team. Then and only then are you going to become truly transparent.


So, back to the original questions, what is a stand-up or sales stand-up? A stand-up by basic definition is a meeting. A quick meeting where everyone “stands up” in a circle, hence the name, and randomly gets 2 minutes to talk. The sales stand-up is done daily, first thing in the morning, and should allow each sales person an opportunity (again in 2 minutes or less) to share with the team (1) what they accomplished yesterday, (2) what is on the schedule for today, and (3) what they need help/support on from other team members or management.


Naturally trying to get a sales person to talk for less than 2 minutes can be a challenge. We’re sales people, we love to talk. But, this is not time for idle chit chat. In my office we pass a football from one team member to another. As soon as the sales person catches the ball the clock starts. A typical sales stand-up includes 7-8 people and we are done on average in 13 minutes. Most important thing – these meetings are driving success.


Going back to transparency, the fact that we move quickly through our sales “happenings” in a brief amount of time every single day, there has been a reduction in short notice “hey can you help me” meetings. Planning for all team members, especially management, has improved. Including non-sales folks when need be has also improved, because the others within the organization have advanced notice when they may be needed.


I’ll wrap up with this final note and that is team bonding. All too often sales people go, go, go and find they only communicate with their fellow team members in a weekly sales meeting or sometimes only monthly. Taking a few minutes every morning, even though the sales person is speaking briefly, builds comradery among the team members. Each person will come to realize they are not alone in the trenches. Give the daily sales stand-up a try. If you need more advice or guidance getting started, shoot me a note.

Diet & Exercise - March 5, 2016

It’s not what you may be expecting from this week’s title. I am not here to give you tips on how to lose weight, gain muscle or expand your workout routine. Not at all. This week I am sharing my theme of diet & exercise as it pertains to managing my existing client list.


I have been with my firm for going on 14 years and in that time I’ve worked with hundreds of clients. Going into 2016 I counted 115 active clients that I remain assigned to as the primary contact. Now, realistically, there is no way I can meet with and manage 115 clients. Not a chance. But, I also don’t want to walk away from these clients either. Instead, it is during this time of year, mostly the 1st quarter of the year, where I put myself through a diet & exercise routine with my client list.


Setting the stage you should think about what most health experts define as diet. Of course, there may be foods you should cut, such a tons of candy or ice cream, but moderation is more beneficial than anything when dieting. And, combined with a healthy moderation of foods, you need to exercise, as in working muscles you don’t often do, or trying a new routine.


Diet & exercise in your sales is very similar and I go through this approach every year. First, are there any clients that I should simply cut out, because they are known to be unhealthy? Second, which clients need to be “pulled back some” as in contacted in moderation. It is OK to have a beer every now and then, not a 12 pack at one time. Thus, it is OK to meet with a certain client once in a while, but there is no need to meet once per week. And, what client relationships need to be exercised? Once you’ve determined the diet side, that is moderation with some clients, the fun really kicks in when exercising.


Exercising a client relationship means you are building strength. There are a variety of analogies that you can fit into your own individual client relationship, like shedding fat first and then building muscle, but it means the same in the end. Once you put your client relationship into exercise mode, opportunities to continue with this client tend to abound. You’re building strength between you and them. You are building trust that you can handle their needs. It is no longer painful to deal with any topic with the client because you know the results will come from the time you put into it.


Put together your own diet & exercise plan and watch the results. But, be warned, just as with your health, you must maintain momentum and not fall backward into bad habits. Put down the chocolate, say no to another beer, shed the bad clients, strengthen your relationships with your good clients, and watch your sales career prosper.

Device-App Management for Sales People - February 27, 2016

I work for a technology/marketing services company. You would think the topic of devices and apps would be pretty straight forward. I thought so too until I began to realize all of the various options we are using internally and all of the options available in the marketplace. And, I’m only talking about those available for the sales person. I’ve been struggling trying to decide if I should use an iPhone or Android? Should I use OneNote, EverNote or Trello for tracking notes and to-do’s? I’m using, but am I taking full advantage of the application features?


When you think about it, you could spend (as in waste) a ton of time trying this app or that app, on this device or that device. I read a statistic recently that more and more companies are shifting to a BYOD policy – Bring Your Own Device. With this occurrence comes the flexibility for a sales person to utilize what they feel is the best device or app for their own needs rather than dictation by their employer.


Over the past 6 months I have been asked about my own personal choices so many times that I’ve lost count. This is a short post this week, but I thought I’d share my primaries, and my personal opinion on each.


Trello: I’ve gone from being slow-to-use to now living in this app. I find the format for note taking, to-do lists, and sharing to be much better than anything I’ve use previously. The mobile app syncs quickly with the browser-based version and the interface is simplistic. 


Slack: We use this instant messaging app at the office within the entire organization, but I have personally come to like this one much more than anything we’ve used in the past. Keeping track of individual or group discussions is very easy. Managing “discussion rooms” allows our teams to keep ongoing conversations flowing with a history so we can go back in time to review a comment. And, again, the app for mobile devices very closely matches the desktop version, which allows me to stay in touch as conversations move forward while I am away from the office. Here is the one I went down kicking and screaming to use. For a very long time I thought it was overkill for my (and my organizations) needs. Boy oh boy was I wrong. The traceability and accountability I have to myself, my management team, and my employees is fantastic. As an organization we use this application daily and it allows me to manage each and every client opportunity and sales engagement from introduction to signature and beyond.


iPhone 6: This one may be a little more by default. Although I’m sure I could have chosen another device, I did not question my options when our management team were upgrading our phones. I went with majority rule. I have never personally utilized an Android device, but I must say I am rather pleased with my iPhone 6 for using apps related to sales. The user interfaces, as I mentioned above, are solid. They run quickly over a wireless or 3/4G connection. And, the screen is just the right size for typing notes. I don’t have any reason to change.


So, in an effort to answer the questions I’ve been getting lately, this is my go to list of apps as a sales person. Please share with me those that I should take a look at – thanks.

Hire Slow ~ Fire Fast - February 20, 2016

Sales people are a “dime a dozen”, so the story goes. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this saying over the course of my career. At minimum I bet it has been at least 5,000 times. Why?


From business managers to owners to customers, there is a belief that anyone can sell. While we, the sales managers of the world know this couldn’t be farther from the truth, it is a common theme. The other day I was working with an independent client where I’ve been brought in to consult on their hiring practices within the sales department. It took me less than one hour of meeting time with the sales managers and human resource manager to determine the problem. They had things in reverse order; they were hiring fast and firing slow.


The hiring practices around positions involving sales can be fairly cut & dry. There are the boiler plate questions and the personality tests. You can evaluate a candidate on their technical or product knowledge. And, you can interview them 2, 3 or 4 times in the office. You may even do a team interview and gather everyone’s opinions while making your hiring decision. All of this can be done in 1 or 2 days. That is too quick.


Hiring a sales person should be as methodical as hiring a top-level, C-suite executive. This person is going to become the face of your organization. They will be in constant communication with your customers. They will be responsible for making you money or costing you money. So, why the heck are you rapidly moving through the interview process? And, why then when they are failing as a sales person, do you take so long to fire them?


These are common questions that every organization and sales manager faces. It only comes from the try & fail approach that a hiring manager learns firsthand how to deal with these scenarios. Here are a few guidelines to help you hire slow and fire fast.


Hiring a sales person too quickly is like asking someone to marry you after the first date. You get what you get. In my experience you should put a sales candidate through the ringer. That is, a minimum of 4-5 face-to-face interviews over the course of several weeks. Interviews should be conversations internally within your environment. Take the candidate to dinner and watch how they interact with the wait staff. Have the candidate spend a day with your top sales person on customer calls. Require top brass to be involved in the interview and even attempt to intimidate the candidate a bit. You must see how the person handles themselves in all situations. Then and only then does their technical knowledge, education, etc. come into play.


When a sales person is on the decline there are typical warning signs. You should always reach out to the sales person early and often to help guide, attempt to correct certain behaviors, and to offer personal assistance. You, the manager, will know all too well when it is hopeless. By this point you should have already documented the sales persons performance and should include HR. Do not delay. Fire this individual before they contaminate the sales team and culture, because waiting only hurts others.


All too often a sales manager allows personal feelings and emotions to play into clear thinking and decision making. The best managers I’ve ever come to know keep business business and personal personal. Hire Slow ~ Fire Fast.

Do Not Dial 911: It is not an emergency! - February 13, 2016

This week I am addressing this post first to the client and second to the sales person.


To the client: have you ever watched the cartoon or read the book about Chicken Little? What about the variations and stories of crying wolf? Come on, you know, the sky is falling! Everything is a disaster. Something is always wrong. Look a wolf – nah not really. These may be children’s fables, but in business, many of the morals are the same. You don’t have to constantly hit the panic button. Do not dial 911, it is not an emergency.


Regardless of what industry you are in, whether you are buying products or services, the reality is that perfection does not exist. When something does not happen 100% exactly as you see fit, the situation does not constitute an emergency. Sure, there are times when a product that you desperately need to keep a machine in your plant operational does not show up as scheduled. Maybe we’d call this a border line emergency, but more so an inconvenience. And yes, when you hire a certain type of firm to provide a specific service, you expect a deadline and/or budget to be met. Missing the deadline and/or budget may be unplanned, unexpected, or even costly, but it is far from an emergency.


Why then do you take a tone that everything happening is earth shattering? Oh my, what am I going to do since that part I need won’t be delivered until 4:00 PM today versus 11:00 AM when I was told? I am not downplaying your concerns, but your actions, or better yet reactions, say a lot about how your service (or product) provider will treat you.


When you deliver your message to your provider that everything is going wrong, everything is bad, nothing works, fault, fault, fault, fault, well then you are delivering a message in a way that says, “I am a jerk, I must always be right, I am the customer period, you must give-give-give into me”. And, the customer service or sales person you are dealing with will soon begin to hear blah, blah blah. And ultimately, when something serious does happen, because no one (or no business) is always 100% perfect, you will be treated just like the little boy that cried wolf.


To the sales person: please understand that my somewhat harsh criticism of the client written above does not give you Carte Blanche to treat your clients rudely or that you should consider all that call in with a concern to be overreacting. Quite the contrary. You should treat every one of your clients with the level of respect they deserve. Let me repeat that – treat the client with the level of respect they DESERVE. Nothing less and nothing more.


Venting frustration about a client behind closed doors happens daily in my life, whether I am venting, or simply the sounding board for one of my team members. It is done behind closed doors for a reason – it is generally out of frustration and can be dealt with professionally – once the rep cools down.


Client relationships are just that, human relationships. And, while no business works to perfection 100% of the time, you should at least try. It is understandable though, when clients constantly hit the panic button or want to dial 911 on the situation you are managing, to want to give them a piece of your mind. There are better ways to handle these situations.


First, you and your team must realize what sets this client off to begin with, by making a list of ongoing reactions. Analyze this list and determine if the client is a panic first type of client or if they have a legitimate concern. If they are a panic first type of client, add them to the list with an explanation on their behavior.


Second, build a trend list, which can be coded indicators on what sets this client off. Two things can come from this – (1) you will know how to be proactive to this client or (2) how and when to be reactive. These short lists will give you “fall back” reasons on why something is or is not happening as the client expected.


Third, you’ll now see your repeat offenders come to light, and from these repeat offenders you will have more ammunition to make business decisions on keeping the client, terminating the relationship with the client, setting new guidelines, changing pricing or payment terms, etc.


As sales people and sales managers, we are constantly evaluating statistics and analytics about our clients buying habits, decision making processes, order values, and so on. But, sometimes we fall short on realizing how “soft stats” as I call them, come into play when making relationship management decisions. Let me close my post this week with an example…


I have a long-term, repeat client for whom we completed and launched a project earlier this week. We spent close to a year working on this project, from outline to proposal to project execution to project completion & launch, which was intensive. Generally speaking the project was great. Everyone on both sides worked together, as a team, diligently to make sure the project was a success. And, with all things considered, this particular project was a huge success. But, if you were to ask one of the client decision makers, he would disagree. Even though his team, including the president of his company thought it went extremely well, he finds fault in the smallest of details simply because that is his style.


We should have expected this behavior, right? We did. Having tracked this clients behavior for almost 8 years, we knew he’d hit the panic button when no one else would. We knew that the smallest of a technical hiccup would create a dial 911 situation. And, having known this prior to calling this project complete, we prepared. We had “all hands on deck” ready to answer his call. Like I said before, nothing is 100% perfect, but all of the team members (his and ours) would rate the completion and launch at about a 98% success.


Knowing how to deal with this type of client will help you achieve greater success. Call it a crystal ball moment; having some insight into the client before he or she even hits send on the panic, 911 email.

Don't Be Expendable - February 6, 2016

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Expendable as easily replaced or meant to be used and thrown away. Based upon this definition, is your firm (business) expendable? Are you expendable?


As a career sales person, these are two questions that I consciously ask myself on an almost daily, if not weekly basis. The first covers my “go to market” message and how I represent my business. The second covers the internal value I hold within my own company. Here are a few thoughts on both...


Having now spent the majority of my career in a consultative selling environment, one in which the relationship between my firm and my client is paramount to any service or product, I am often concerned that we would be viewed as expendable. We spend a great deal of upfront sales time evaluating what would drive us to do business, not just today, but over the course of months and years. We must bring value to our clients. We must bring our knowledge and expertise to the table. We must put our client’s best interests in front of our own. In other words, we must position ourselves being expandable not expendable.


If we are viewed by our client’s as expandable, we become a partner, one that will grow over time as the client grows. Being expandable means we may make a mistake from time-to-time, but as in any personal relationship, we are quickly forgiven and provided an opportunity to continue to grow with the client. Expendable means one mistake and we are likely out. This is not healthy business or healthy revenue for your company. Think about the old adage in sales: is it easier to build upon an existing relationship or constantly work to build new relationships? Obviously it is easier to grow upon existing, healthy relationships.


Oftentimes a sales person, new or one that is trying to recapture their magic, tend to grab sales that are quick. We call these “low hanging fruit” sales. But, these also tend to be the expendable sales. If it is quick, well then the client may be quick to terminate, especially if they don’t value the relationship. Taking a little extra time in the upfront selling process will reduce the possibility of being expendable, especially if you take the “we’re not a yes firm” approach.


In much the same way that you want clients to view your firm as expandable and not expendable, so too must you position yourself internally within the company. Making sure you have the firms best interest in front of your own is the first and most important step. I would expect you are in sales because you want to make money. You sell, you earn commission, and your annual compensation will increase. That is why we hire ‘A’ level sales people. They have a drive to make money and be successful.


But, it is only through the desire to sell the relationship first, and the service or product second, that you truly look for the best opportunities for your company. You show your fellow team members that you care about them and their own success. You don’t want to bring in a new client that views your company as expendable and in the process you are also showing your company that you are not expendable.


At the end of each day and each week you should ask yourself, “did I make myself / my company expendable?” The goal is to answer no. And, in the rare case you answer yes, reevaluate the scenario and identify a way in which you can change course. Being viewed as expendable is never good, so check yourself regularly to make sure you’re avoiding any situations where this has occurred.

Email - January 30, 2016

Did I really send that Email to my new prospective client? Did I? Did I really send that generic, salesy, full-of-corporate-jargon Email? Please, oh no, please tell me I didn’t do it. Damn, I did. I really sent that full-of-crap, salesy, full-of-corporate-jargon Email. What was I thinking? What in the bloody hell was I thinking?


Clearly I wasn’t thinking. I lost my way momentarily. I was in a haze, a terrible corporate-salesy haze. I did something I’m not proud of – I sent an Email to a client that made me sound like “that guy”. You know the “guy” I’m talking about. The one that throws around lots of sales-speak trying to keep up with or impress the other “that guy” you met with. Wow, what was I thinking?


Now here’s the thing, and it’s rather funny, I got a very favorable reply leading me to believe I am going to be awarded a new contract. So, what is wrong with that? What could be so bad that I’m beating myself up about an Email? Simply put, it didn’t sound like me, doesn’t reflect my style of communication, and it made me sound like a pompous used car salesman trying to impress someone.


It doesn’t happen often, and when it does, I catch myself and beat myself up about it. Being yourself, even in an Email, is important to remember when choosing sales as a career. ‘A’ level sales people are known for excellent communication, but the excellent communication is an extension of “who they are”. It is about their sales style and their personality.


Way back when, I had a college professor that taught professional writing for daily use in business. This was pre-Email, pre-Internet days. But, I’ll never forget her favorite saying, “write like you speak”. She wasn’t talking about contracts, proposals, or letters-of-intent, but rather letter writing on a more personal-professional manner. The introductory letter. The thank you letter. Nowadays the Email. “Write like you speak”.


I beat myself up pretty good about this recent brainfart of an Email. It wasn’t me. It didn’t sound like me. It was a momentary lapse of moderate (not even good) writing. I am a firm believer that my communication skills, your communications skills, are the keys to a sales person’s success. Don’t be “that guy”. Write it like you say it.

Dysfunctional Inside Sales - January 23, 2016

It isn’t very often that I cover the topic of inside sales. Although I am experienced in managing inside sales teams, I tend to get more questions about the outside sales process. But, I recently had an opportunity to meet with a company that is built around the inside sales team. Outside reps are simply in place as client relationship managers, whereas the inside sales team handle 80% of the quoting and order processing.


So, the question posed to me was, “what do you do when your inside sales team is so dysfunctional that we are losing at least 5 deals per month?”


My immediate reaction was to clean house and start fresh. Unfortunately, this was just a simple reaction, certainly not based in any reality. The reality of the situation is that the inside sales team simply has too much knowledge about their products and processes, and when I learned the whole story behind the dysfunction, my recommendations for improvement became much more clear.


Setting the stage, without a doubt, the inside sales team are the lifeblood of the business. It has been this way for over 25 years. Local management understands this situation, but the parent company (executives) either are not aware of the issues or they don’t care to understand what is going on. It wasn’t always dysfunctional, rather there were times when the company was the leader in their market. They could manage client expectations, turn quotes around same day/next day, and closed 70%plus of the deals quoted. Customer service, an extension of the inside sales process, was considered premier, they set the industry standard.


The company was acquired about 10 years ago. Technology was on the brink of changing how business was being done. The Internet was driving the quoting process. Email was overtaking the telephone. Geographic markets began to expand because of search engines. Outside sales reps found themselves traveling more and more. Request for quotes almost doubled in approximately 2 years. The world around this business was changing dramatically, at a running/sprinting pace, while this business was walking with concrete shoes.


Fast forward now 10 years. The internal IT systems have not changed. New systems have been attempted to be introduced, but without much user buy-in or success. Outside reps are in many ways disconnected from the internal corporate systems. Quoting is being done on one native system while orders are processed on an unconnected ERP system. Yep, duplicate manual data entry. And the parent company wants to know why they can’t keep up the pace of 10plus years ago. Try this one on for size: in a cost management approach, personal printers were removed from the desks of the inside sales team, and centralized in the department. Every quote and every order is “required” to be printed. This means each and every inside sales team member must leave their desk every 7 minutes to retrieve materials from the centralized printer. Dysfunctional from beginning to end.


As I reviewed the various components to this company’s sales process, it did not take long before I realized another glaring issue – the inside sales team have stay silent for the past 10 years. Not one person has stepped up and challenged any of the decisions. When I spoke with management, they too were as surprised as I was that no one would call attention to the problems.


It wasn’t long before I was able to convince management to meet with the inside and outside sales team for a real heart-to-heart conversation. Once everyone began to vent, so to speak, they also began to listen intently to one another. And, it wasn’t long before some, not all, of the issues began to have action plans put in place for improvements.


My message this week is simple: we all have our own individual responsibilities in the sales process. But, when we realize we are also all on the same team, and we open the lines of communication, we can improve the necessary processes to become more successful. Dysfunction in many instances is a result of poor communication. Yes, systems and processes play a role too, but starting with open and honest communication is the best way to start making changes. Change is not always fun. Change can be painful. Communication can help alleviate some of the pain and make change a bit easier to management. We’re all in this together…talk to each other openly. Embrace change and you’ll get rid of the dysfunction without having to replace people with knowledge.