Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

NAVIGATION - SEARCH

I Went To A Concert - June 14, 2014

In the midst of an incredibly busy calendar I found time this past week to attend a concert with my wife and a few friends. It was a small venue show with a fairly well known group that plays music in what has become known as jam band style. The average age of the audience was early-to-mid forties and everyone seemed to soak in the sights as much as the sounds. And so you’re probably saying “so what – what does this have to do with sales?”

 

It was in this venue during a few hours respite from my otherwise hectic schedule that I was reminded of two lessons that every ‘A’ level sales person must remember.

 

Lesson 1: Never ever judge a book by its cover. Come on, you’ve heard that saying since you were a kid just like me, but yet again a clear reminder was presented to me on Tuesday evening. I would never have imagined that I would run into a client, much less three clients, at the concert. One in particular works in a very polished financial organization, the suit & tie shop, and so I was a bit surprised to see him. While many, including one of the men in his group, were wearing shorts and old Grateful Dead t-shirts, he was in khakis and a golf shirt. That was not too surprising. It was his friend, the one in the old t-shirt and cut off shorts, that was the surprise. After talking a bit I became aware that this gentleman is the chairman and CEO of a holding company with seven subsidiaries. He is the majority owner. And, collectively, those seven companies are worth in excess of $375 million. We had a pleasant conversation over a beer and he is interested in meeting with me in early-July to talk shop. That’s right, the guy in the Grateful Dead t-shirt and cutoff’s. So what’s the lesson again: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

 

Lesson 2: In a similar manner, you do not want others judging you. Another lesson I learned at a younger age, from my time growing up in Baltimore and now having lived in the Cleveland area for over eighteen years, these communities are small even though geographically large, you will run into someone you know anywhere, any time, and certainly when you least expect it. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, ‘A’ level sales people do not view sales as a job, but rather a career or lifestyle choice. While you should never judge a book by its cover, you should always consider there are eyes on you. Be yourself, be friendly, be in control. Have fun, but remember that your actions may speak louder than words, and you may be judged by your own cover.

A concert. A concert where I didn’t think I’d run into anyone. A concert where I simply wanted to relax for a few hours. A concert that I absolutely enjoyed and would go again (I hope to go again). A concert that on a personal level reminded me of two golden rules in sales as a career. Keep these in mind as you cut loose from time-to-time. I promise they will come in handy.  

Egotistical, Arrogant or Confident - June 7, 2014

I’ve always been fond of business leaders that exude confidence. There are many in the spotlight like Ralph Lauren, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet and others. There are also many I’ve had the pleasure to know personally with a little less limelight. But no matter what, the common thread between those I admire is their confidence.


I’ve also had the displeasure of dealing with others who’ve become successful but with terrible attitudes. Their egos are huge. They are arrogant and look down their noses at others around them. They are quick to judge and believe they are better than most. They are the center of their own universe.

 

All too often in business the lines between the confident and the egotistical get blurry. So, how do you spot the confident which is the person you want to do business with? A few tips I’ve learned over the years:

·         Don’t always listen to the tone of a person’s voice but read their body language too. Confident leaders may have a strong tone but open body language saying to others that they welcome them into the conversation.

·         Confident leaders rarely look at their watch, the clock on the wall or look past the person they are talking to. They make eye contact in a genuine manner.

·         Confident leaders do not rush to a point but also do not take long to make their point known. They choose their words carefully, cut to the chase, but are careful to make sure others around them can digest their message.

·         Individuals known more for their ego or are defined as arrogant rush to the point in a business conversation, do not allow others to participate, and expect their “audience” to follow along and immediately be in agreement.

·         Those carrying themselves with the arrogant slant tend to always want to be somewhere else. They are less engaged in dialogue and seem more interested in being somewhere else. They believe you should feel grateful for simply having their presence in the room. And they do not listen to you.

 

Success does not mean that you get a free pass to treat others with disrespect. As a sales professional be careful who You choose to do business with. The confident leaders that become clients will cause you to earn their respect, but once you do, they will become long-term clients. The opposite is true for those leaders in the market with egos the size of a tanker truck…they will push you aside quickly if you cannot give them what they want when they want it. Remember, it’s about them, not the business relationship. Confident leaders may be hard to read at times, but fairness is an attribute for which they live their lives.

Two Sides To Every Story - May 31, 2014

I remember sometime in grade school, after getting into a little trouble with a teacher, that I was sent to the principal’s office. Before I knew what punishment would be handed down to me and a classmate, the teacher who was victim to our childish prank was able to tell her side of the story. It was at that young moment that I first learned the lesson that there are always two sides to every story.

 

Entering my career it did not take long before I realized, especially as a junior level sales rep, that customers tend to hear what they want, and will use what they hear to their advantage, even if it is not entirely accurate. They have their side of the story and you have your side. So how do you get both sides to meet in the middle?

 

All too often in sales we focus on the task at hand: scheduling the appointment, writing the contract, going for the close. We often overlook the various touch points in between. The conversations over the telephone, the emails sent late in the evening, the voicemails following up on a discussion point.

 

I have found over the years that documentation with an action item is the key to keeping two sides closer aligned. A simple thank you email listing the conversation points with a question in the closing (the action item) offers you the control feature needed in sales. You will have the reply to hold on to should you need to remind your prospect or client of the details thus making their side of the story much more closely aligned to your side.

 

Remember, sales is about developing a relationship, and as in any relationship there are two parties involved. Keeping the two sides closer to being on the same page reduces stress on the relationship and makes for a much more agreeable future and success.

20 Years in the Making

In May of 1994 I began a career journey that has been challenging, risky and rewarding. I’ve held a variety of titles, but they’ve always meant one thing – sales. My best guess is that I’ve met with close to 2,000 different companies ranging in size from mom & pop – to – start-up – to Fortune 100. And, I’ve had the pleasure of calling many in each category clients. I’ve lived in Maryland, North Carolina and Florida before eventually landing in Cleveland, Ohio which is now home. More...