Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

NAVIGATION - SEARCH

Q&A Week 21 - November 17, 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 the owner of a small company with 35 employees. I have 3 sales reps that report directly to me. I’ve been working with my management team to put a growth plan in place and now it may be time to have a vice president of sales. I don’t believe any of the 3 people I currently have would be good in sales management, especially because I want someone to help us with our growth plan. At the same time I don’t want to push my sales reps out the door. How do I add a key management team member without losing my sales people?

 

A: Are you familiar with EOS, the Entrepreneurs Operating System, or the EOS-related book Traction? If not, please check it out, it may be a real game changer for you since you want to grow your company. Through EOS and as carefully outlined in Traction, you must be more focused and concerned about having the right leadership team in place, even if it means losing a team member or two. You’ve already admitted that none of your sales people are leadership material. That’s not to say they’re not valuable sales team members, but clearly you do not believe they can help you lead the company through an aggressive growth plan. This means you must hire from outside of the company. It is also a decision that you must own, as the owner of the company, and be supported by your other leadership team members. If they support you, and you are ready to own this decision, then proceed. I would not initially invite your existing sales people into the process. I would proceed with interviewing the right growth-oriented sales manager that you and your other leadership team members agree would be a good fit. This person must be a good fit for you not necessarily for your existing sales people. The sales manager must believe in your vision for growth and you must believe they can help you accomplish the growth you seek. You need to be transparent with the candidate in that they are being brought in to grow the company with or without the existing sales people. Therefore, the existing team is unaware of this interview process in that moment, but will be brought up to speed before the manager is asked to accept the offer. Once you’ve reached the offer stage, then you bring the sales people into the loop on this process, explaining carefully that they’ve done nothing wrong, but that you want to bring to them a new coach with new energy. You are bringing in a leader to help them not hinder their progress. Introduce the potential new sales manager to the team and allow them to interview each other. But, realize you and your leadership team are making this call, not the sales people. This is a courtesy provided both of them to see where each other is coming from. This will allow the new sales manager, should he or she accept the position, to have a full understanding of what they’re walking in to. And, if your existing sales people are not ready or want this change, the new sales manager will have time to plan accordingly for the addition of their own people. Growth is too important to let everyday sales people hold you back. You must have the right leadership in place to accomplish your goals. The right sales leader will ensure the right sales butts are in the right sales seats on your growth-oriented sales bus.

Q&A Week 20 - November 10, 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: My company is considered more a specialist in our field while a few of our competitors offer similar services but also many others. While we’re more of a niche they are more of a one stop shop. Do you have any advice for our sales people when comparing and contrasting us to our competition?

 

A: I live this scenario every day, so I’m more than happy to share my opinion. Please keep in mind, this works for me and it may work for you, but I can’t guarantee it. I start my sales pitch off describing exactly what we are, what we are not, and what they can expect from my competition. I never talk about my competition by name or in much detail, rather I provide a general description of my competitors that seem to sell themselves as all things to all people. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes my competitors may actually be a better fit for the prospect versus my firm. In these cases, it’s not exactly that the competition is a better fit, instead the prospective client may be better suited for them than for me. Being more of a specialist or niche service provider, I look for certain types of clients that are a better fit for my firm, an organization that matches our belief system and processes. Generally speaking, when a prospect wants more services from a single provider, more “jacks of all trades”, then I know ahead of time what type of people I’d be dealing with and they are typically not a good fit for me. However, when a prospect speaks the same language in terms of specialty, experience, the need for niche, then we’re headed in the right direction. Heading this off from the very beginning gives you the upper hand because you set the stage and tone for the rest of the sales process. You will make your competition sell against your niche experience and you’ll put them in a position of playing keep up.

Q&A Week 19 - November 3, 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: Many of our clients invite us to participate in their annual budgeting process which takes place throughout November. We do have a few clients that are not keen on our being involved. Is there a way to have them bring us to the table?

 

A: The only way to be invited to the table for budget discussions is to have a very compelling reason to be there. If you do not have a compelling reason then you don’t belong. Allow me to explain. If everything is going fine with your business relationship, in that you are continuing into the new year without pause in service or delivery, then you shouldn’t have any reason to worry. And, if nothing is changing, then don’t interfere with your client at this time. Now, if you have a compelling reason to meet, such as changes in services, introduction of new services that may have a direct impact on the client, or some other enhancement that you strongly believe the client needs to consider, then you need to share this information with them. It should be as simple as asking for a brief sales meeting to update them so they are aware ahead of time. Don’t make it about their current budget planning from the perspective that you want more money from them. Instead present your case that changes are coming in the future that may have a positive impact on them and that it may be something they’d want to consider down the road. If you can make a compelling case, you won’t need to ask for more budget, they will take it upon themselves to plan accordingly. Then, when the time is right, you can move into upsell mode and the budget will likely be in place.

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.