Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

NAVIGATION - SEARCH

Q&A Week 18 - October 27, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: When selling to an audience, is it rude to “dodge” certain attendees questions, especially from the lower level audience members?

 

A: Yes, it is rude, and no you should not “dodge” their questions. There are exceptions, but they are rare, and largely depend on the size of the audience. Let’s be realistic, you are probably not selling to a room of 30 people. Audiences will vary in size and those in attendance will have different level of organizational responsibility. However, if someone is in attendance during your sales pitch, they are most likely there for a reason, and their question may be more valid than the CEO’s.

 

Generally, when I am faced with either a larger audience or a time cap, I start the Q&A portion of the pitch off by saying that I will try my best to answer everyone’s questions during the meeting, but I also reserve time afterward to address some on a one-to-one basis. This gives you the momentary out to defer a question from the group time to a personal conversation. In fact, sometimes with lower level individuals, they may appreciate the one-to-one conversation, and you can win them over.

 

But, you want to make sure you do two things when the Q&A process takes place. One, you cannot ignore anyone regardless of their role. You must acknowledge the person and their question, even if by stating “great question and one that I will address right after we’re done with the group”. And, second, you must address that person and their question before you leave the building. I recently had this scenario play out and the person left the room at the end of the meeting and went back to their office. I politely asked the president of the company to show me to this individual so I could acknowledge them and address their question. I impressed both the president and this mid-level manager so much that I won the business and they both became fans of my firm and the project.

Q&A Week 17 - October 20, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: In need of a little help – I’m trying to explain to a few young sales interns that a career in sales is not a 9-5 job. What can a sales rep in a professional services organization expect?

 

A: Mary, you hit the nail on the head, sales is most certainly not a 9-5 job, especially in a professional services organization. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is a 100% job, meaning you are always in sales mode.

 

So many young sales people believe sales starts when they arrive to work and ends when the leave to go home for the day. If that belief sticks with them for too long, they will fall into the trap of being nothing more than a B- sales person. True A level sales people understand that you take work home with you in the form of reading, studying, researching, planning, reviewing, proposal prep and writing, etc. You simply cannot get everything done during any given work day and thus you must be willing to take work home to stay on top of your sales.

 

Additionally, there are networking events in the evening. Industry trade shows or conferences to attend out of town. Weekend sales team building programs. And, of course, even on your own personal time, you’ll most likely run into a prospective or existing client. You’ll need to always have your game face on and be willing to jump right into sales mode.

Q&A Week 16 - October 13, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: Having followed your blog for some time, I am aware you have a fulltime job, as well as freelance consulting. Do you define yourself as a consultant or a coach? Is there a difference?

 

A: There are varying degrees of consultants and just as many text books and business books to go along with those consultants. I view a consultant as a person or entity that comes in with a specific skill set that an organization may generally not have. Or, at other times, a consultant can come in with a certain background or experience that adds, even if temporary, a different perspective to a department or entire company. Similarly, a coach needs to rally the team based on experiences, both wins and losses. I find myself often walking a thin line between a consultant and a coach. More times than not, when I manage my own fulltime team, I fill the role of coach. I’m on the field of battle with my own team members every day calling plays based on experiences. When I step into a freelance consulting engagement, I have a standard upfront homework process to familiarize myself with the client’s current situation. I then spend time assessing the situation from a hands-on, internal interview approach. I then consult with those that hired me on how to make improvements, add efficiencies, introduce change, improve moral, etc. 

Q&A Week 15 - October 6, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: I finally landed an interview for a sales position with a company I’ve wanted to join for years. I’m afraid of screwing up the interview. What advice do you have for acing the biggest interview of my career?

 

A: BE YOURSELF!!! While it’s not the only thing you need to do, I cannot stress this point enough. First of all, dress the part. If the company uniform is jeans and a golf shirt, ask the HR rep you’re dealing with if they recommend a suit & tie or dressy casual. You want to be comfortable and being comfortable will ease some of your stress. Second, be open. It is expected that you will be honest, but that’s different than being open. Speak from both the heart and from experience. Do not try to BS the folks you’re interviewing with, they will see right through it. Talk about your career not only in terms of accomplishments, but also how you’ve developed and learned through lost experiences. Third and finally, do your damn homework. Yes, I am expressing that in the most serious of phrases. You must set yourself apart from others interviewing. Know who you are interviewing with, what their backgrounds are, the products or services you will be asked to sell, as much as possible about the competition and market landscape and be able to speak to your addition to their team. In other words describe yourself in terms of already being a part of their team. What do you bring to the table that other candidates do not.

Q&A Week 14 - September 29, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: I am a sales rep with 14 years of experience. I’ve been with my current company for 1 year. I feel like my sales manager is overmanaging-micromanaging me and I don’t like it. I really like the company and products I’m selling, but I’m thinking of leaving because of this manager. Do you have any advice before I pull the plug?

 

A: More sales people quit their jobs because of management than for any other reason. It could be the manager, the company’s policies, or the compensation, but in more cases it is due to the manager. Even in the very best organizations, one bad manager can ruin a sales team. You are not alone, but you can give it one last try before moving on. You need to address this situation directly, one-on-one, with your manager. The conversation needs to be short and to the point, but you must maintain your composure and be extremely professional. It may go something like this: Susan, I appreciate everything you are doing for me, but I must admit I feel I could be performing a little better. You see, I feel like you are smothering me a little bit. Obviously, you hired me because I have the experience to do the job, and I am doing the job. But, I am not used to having a manager that micromanages in this manner. I could be doing better for you, me, the company, and the customers if you gave me just a little more breathing room. I know you are accustomed to managing lower level sales people, and I appreciate that, but I am not one of those folks. Would you mind if we changed things up a little bit? How about we meet once per week or every other week? If Susan appreciates you as a sales person, she will be agreeable. If she is not, if she becomes defensive or says no because that is her way, then you must make a decision on your future. Addressing the situation head on is the only way to go. Good luck to you.

Q&A Week 13 - September 22, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: What advice do you have for terminating a long-term client relationship? I have a client that simply doesn’t mesh well with our company any longer. We have outgrown them and they simply don’t want to invest in our new services.

 

A: This can be a very sensitive subject for many a sales person. After you’ve developed a business relationship over a long period of time (let’s say years for this example), that business relationship has likely become personal. You visit your client and talk just as much about family as you do employees and services. You’ve come to know much about the inner workings of the clients company and their team. But, over time, you have grown while your client has not. There is no easy way to part ways from this client although it is necessary.

 

I previously answered a question by referring to time being a precious commodity. Clients take your time. They can either be a valuable use of your time or a waste of your time. Even though they are great people and you enjoy talking with them, they are not producing value to you in terms of repeat business or upselling. They “like seeing you”, but they “do not buy from you”. This must change.

 

I’ve dealt with this situation many times. It’s like breaking up with someone, you don’t want to do it by text. In other words, you need to have a face-to-face conversation. And, although this conversation will be a little uncomfortable for you, it must be done. I would keep it simple: I’m sorry Joe, but since we have been growing and expanding our services, and you do not seem to be in need of us at this stage, I’m going to have to move on myself with my newer clients. It’s not that I don’t enjoy visiting you, but I am under certain time constraints, and I need to be engaged with others going forward. Just know, if you ever need anything, I am only a phone call away. I will bet you $100 that it will not come as a surprise.

Q&A Week 12 - September 15, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: How do you choose which networking, sponsorship opportunities, and other events to attend? Do you have certain criteria you follow? Do you stay away from specific types of events?

 

A: Time is a precious commodity. As a career sales person, I’ve come to learn the hard way that time is all I have. Time can be my best friend or my enemy. I share this because attending events, any events related to work, are either a good or bad use of my time. So, to answer your question, yes I take very specific care of my time and how I choose to spend my time.

 

I am not a fan of attending any event where I am surrounded by other sales people. It happens from time-to-time, but these are generally not a good use of my time. I don’t want to be sold by other sales people and they certainly don’t want me to try to sell them something. Sales people, in many cases, are influencers but not decision makers. I want to attend events with decision makers. But, these too must be chosen wisely.

 

I would not attend an industry specific event if I stood out like a sore thumb. I would, however, attend an awards or acknowledgement event where decision makers blossom. These may include recognition events for CFO’s or CIO’s. They may be longevity awards events honoring companies that have been in business for a long period of time. Events that I attend and encourage my sales team to attend should offer some reward for being there. The reward comes in the form of an introduction, a referral, or a piece of information gained that may bring value to your own company, such as learning that your competitor just launched a new service. Remember, time is valuable, so spending time at any event should have some value to you afterward.

Q&A Week 11 - September 8, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: When prospecting do you ever specifically target your competitors? If yes, how often? If no, why?

 

A: In short my answer is both yes and no. There are certain competitors that I keep a very close eye on for various reasons. First and foremost, I am more interested in what they are saying and how they are describing & positioning themselves, versus who their latest portfolio client or case study client is. Don’t get me wrong, I am intrigued by who they are listing as clients, but targeting these companies may be an effort in futility. That’s why I also say no. The likelihood is that any client that allows you to showcase them on your website is happy and not going to move any time soon. So I do not call on those specific companies. I do use these companies as homework on specific industries or market segments. I will look into their competitors and target them based the fact that my competitor just showcased a company in that industry.

Q&A Week 10 - September 1, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: I recently had a prospective client ask me what was one key characteristic that I thought was a compelling reason for them to hire my firm. My answer was experience. He did not like this answer and believed it was shallow. I was caught off guard to say the least. How could I have better answered this question?

 

A: I find experience to be a solid answer to the question so long as there is evidence of experience to back this up. Individuals and firms alike will tout experience as a reason they should be hired. However, like in your situation, there is little evidence provided to back up their one word answer of “experience”. Here is how I describe experience when I use this word as my own answer to this question.

 

What separates my firm from others, a key reason you (Mr./Ms. Prospect) should hire us, is experience. We have been in business for over 21 years while the average firm comes and goes in less than 5 years. I would imagine very few, if any, of the other firms you are interviewing have been in business as long as we have. But, that is not reason enough, rather the experience I describe comes from a combination of factors. It is what I call “our formula for success”. Our experience is the time we’ve remained in business when others have not, combined with an executive management team (ownership team) that have been with the organization for 21+ / 20 / 18 / and 16 years respectively; and, the fact that we’ve worked with over 700 clients during the course of this tenure in business. We’ve stayed in business because of a tried & true project/program methodology. And, ultimately, we drive results for our clients. That is the experience we bring to the table.

Q&A Week 9 - August 25, 2018

For the past few years, since I began using this weekly blog to share stories about sales and sales management, I have been receiving numerous questions from readers including my own clients. Over the next several months I am going to use my weekly ramblings to post one reader question with my answer. Please note – my answers are based on my personal and professional experiences and in no way reflect my company or specific clients.

 

Q: What is the top characteristic you seek in a younger, less experienced sales candidate?

 

A: This one, on the surface, seems easy. For both experienced and new sales people I want them to be patient. Patience is a virtue – as the old saying goes. But, I did say on the surface. Patience is actually not easy to remember, have, and show in all sales cases, especially for someone new. Sales people must be capable of being patient throughout the sales process, but also with themselves, and definitely in the early days of their career while learning and training. It is also important for the sales manager to remember that patience is required for the new sales person to learn. The sales person is watching and trying to absorb as much from their mentor as possible, so this person too must show patience in their sales process in order for the new sales person to learning the right way.