Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

NAVIGATION - SEARCH

Q&A Week 6 - August 4, 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 most recent mistake you’ve made in business and what was the lesson learned?

 

A: I broke the golden rule of hiring & firing – to hire slow and fire fast. I made the decision to hire a sales person based on only a few interviews that were condensed in a matter of a couple weeks. I believed the candidate would be a worthwhile hire based on his years of experience and his communication skills, especially his writing skills. Unfortunately, because I fast tracked the hiring process, I did not spend nearly enough time analyzing his capabilities in new business development and cold calling. While his sales experience seemed extensive on paper, he was not skilled in new business development, rather he was a glorified account manager. He was not successful in cold calling, networking, or developing new opportunities on his own. I then gave him many more chances and opportunities to improve than I should have. Actually, it was unfair to him as well to keep him around with false hope that he could turn around his activity level. In fact, I should have let him go after three months. It was definitely a mistake on my part to hire him and even a bugger mistake not to fire him sooner.

Q&A Week 5 - July 28, 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 your opinion should an employer challenge a dismissed employee’s claim for unemployment?

 

A: I cannot speak from a traditional human resource or legal perspective, but I can speak from a sales manager’s point of view. I have and would challenge a claim filed by a dismissed employee if that employee was terminated with cause. Sales people in particular can and should be held to a very specific performance standard. Whether you call it a set of goals, a quota, or a position agenda, the sales person must perform. When they do not, they become a burden on their entire company. Sales people in general are also relatively easy to track from a performance standpoint. Numbers are black & white and do not lie. If the time comes when an underperforming sales person is terminated, it should be considered with cause, and there should be documented performance evidence to support the case for termination. If that sales person who was terminated with cause, after being warned, on probation or on a Performance Improvement Plan runs out and immediately files for unemployment, then I will challenge. They key is with cause and I must take a protective position for my company especially when our unemployment premiums are subject to an increase because of this former employees filing.

Q&A Week 4 - July 21, 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: Do you believe an employee can make it through a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) and become an active member of their sales organization?

 

A: Absolutely, I do. I recently answered a question about a ‘B’ sales person becoming an ‘A’ player. They can make the transition if they have the will and desire to become a top performer. The same can be said for a sales person placed on a PIP. If they have what it takes, the determination to learn from their mistakes, learn from those that have gone before them, and learn from their peers, then yes they can get through the PIP and become a key member of their organization.

 

Employees, sales or otherwise, who have been placed on a PIP more times than not believe they are being singled out and set up for failure or ultimately dismissal. That is not the goal of a Performance Improvement Plan. C’mon, why do you think it’s called an Improvement Plan…we want the employee to improve. We, the managers, are laying out the plans for the employee to improve. The employee needs to step up and make it happen. The other thing I wish employees could grasp as a concept – it costs an employer more to recruit, interview, hire and train a new sales person than it does to retain one. If the employee can step up their game, learn from the PIP, and ultimately become a contributing member of their team, they have become valuable to their employer. Unfortunately, many employees only see the PIP as a step to their firing. They are misguided and fail because they don’t believe the employer has the best intent behind the PIP.

 

Employees on a PIP need to put their trust in the PIP, improve as it is defined, and then become a better employee. Everyone wins in this situation.

Q&A Week 3 - July 14, 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: You regularly share insights on your personal and business life. You, like everyone these days, seem to be extremely busy. What is your best tip for time management?

 

A: This one is easy for me, I calendar every detail of my life, and these details are available for everyone around me to see. I use my Outlook calendar to log all of my activities from doctor’s appointments to parent-teach meetings to my kid’s games and my client meetings. I rarely mark anything private because those that have access to my calendar should be able to use good judgement when requesting time from me. I log my weekend activities no different than my mandatory management meetings. Wherever I go I have my iPhone with me and my calendar sync’d. Last thing…I also make sure to log some personal time for reading or exercising. I find that this habit has allowed me to not only know when and where I need to be, but allows me to budget my time in a way that allows me to say yes much more than I say no.

Q&A Week 2 - July 7, 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: Maybe not an all-time favorite, but who is one author that you truly enjoy reading either personally or professionally, and why?

 

A: I am a big fan of Matthew Kelly from Floyd Consulting and Dynamic Catholic. I enjoy reading Kelly for both personal and professional reasons. On the Dynamic Catholic front I find his writing hits me pretty close to home. We are close in age, and although Kelly grew up in Australia before moving to the US, there are similarities to being raised in a Catholic family in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. He writes from experience and from his heart. His beliefs mirror many of my own and he bares his soul in his writings. He does not preach, instead choosing to pose many questions that push me to think beyond my own comfort zone. From the Floyd Consulting perspective I find again his approach is personal. He takes more of a teaching stance than that of a traditional consultant. His writing style, much like his Dynamic Catholic books, forces me to think outside of my comfort zone. Kelly has traveled the world, talked and presented to more than a million people, and has written dozens of books, yet I find his approach is more like a friend that I’ve known for a long time even though we’ve never met. 

Q&A Week1 - June 30, 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: You’ve often written about ‘A’ level sales people and compared and contrasted what makes them unique versus ‘B’ and ‘C’ level sales people. Do you believe a ‘B’ or ‘C’ can become an ‘A’? Why or why not?

 

A: The short answer is yes, I do believe a ‘B’ can become an ‘A’ and a ‘C’ can become a ‘B’. The longer answer is only rarely. You see, in order for someone to elevate their sales game, they must act like a top performing athlete or musician. The sales rep can never settle. ‘A’ level sales people are never satisfied with what they have in the moment, rather they are always striving to be better, to gain more accomplishments in their own careers, and in their own personal lives. Unfortunately, in my experiences over the past 20+ years, ‘B’ and especially ‘C’ level sales people tend to become complacent. They either lack the skill or the sheer will to strive to be better. In the rare occasion when I’ve personally witnessed someone elevate their sales game, like an athlete or musician, they read a lot, they study their own game and those of others, they practice and role play, and the document every step of their processes so they can always refer back to their own play book to learn. Only those sales reps with the want and deep down desire to be successful will ultimately display the necessary character to push themselves.

Referrals: Drop What You're Doing - June 23, 2018

A couple of weeks ago a referral came my way and it wasn’t exactly the right fit for my firm, but I dropped what I was doing and made the call anyway. I took time to talk with the referral about their concerns, issues and pain points. Yep, it wasn’t the best fit for my firm, but I took a fair amount of time to help guide them. And, when I wrapped up the call, I immediately sent a thank you email to the person who made the referral. One of my sales team members asked rather matter-of-factly: why did you drop what you were working on to waste your time?

 

Well my friends, that says a lot about my now former sales rep, because clearly he did not grasp this concept (along with others – ie former) which goes to the core of being an ‘A’ level sales person. Referrals, good and bad, should be worshiped. You should drop everything you are doing and at the very least make the call. Why take them so seriously?

 

Referrals, unsolicited referrals, say more about you and your company than any other piece of sales or marketing materials you may possess including testimonials or quotes on your website. The referral is the purest compliment anyone can pay you and it should be, as I said above, worshipped. It should be valued above all other leads you are working on at that moment. You have someone that is speaking on your behalf because they believe you can help them, help their friend or client, ultimately saying “I trust you enough to put you in the position of representing me the referrer”. When someone offers you a referral they are putting themselves out there as well. They are putting their own name and reputation on the line. That trust is the golden lead sales people seek to find every minute of every day. So why drop what you’re doing, couldn’t they wait a bit? Again, novice thinking.

 

Dropping what you are doing tells two stories. The first is to the person making the referral. It tells them that they are important to you. You are grateful for their trust. You take them seriously and appreciate what they are doing for you. The second story is for the person for whom you’ve been referred. It tells them you take their referral seriously. You respect the person making the referral enough to make them a priority. And, if you make them a priority it will translate into future trust and mutual respect with this new contact.

 

Referrals don’t always work out. Not every sales lead, regardless of how you obtain them, works out in the form of new business. But, let’s not be mistaken, referrals typically lean more towards a win than a loss. When others, clients or friends, make a referral they are testifying to you as a trusted advisor, a quality person, a caring sales representative who is not in it for a quick sale, rather you are in it to help turn whatever the issue may be into a successful outcome. 

The Doctor Will See You Now - June 16, 2018

There is a scene in Grown Ups 2 where Adam Sandler simply refuses to acknowledge his son has a broken leg. Even though the X-Ray clearly shows a break all the way through the bone, he doesn’t want to accept it and continues to ask the doctor if it’s a sprain or a slight fracture. The doctor, clearly getting frustrated, yells it is broken.

 

The scene is funny in some respects because we have all been there before, doctor my ankle hurts, that’s because its sprained. The sniffling is because of my allergies, no you have the full-blown flu. Wrap the cut in some paper towel, it will be fine, rather you need 4 stitches. We simply do not want to accept reality, especially when we are not feeling 100%.

 

‘B & C’ level sales people are the same. Regardless of how poorly they are peforming at times, they make excuses that it’s simply not that bad. Whereas, ‘A’ level sales people, those few folks that are more like finely tuned athletes, accept when something is not quite right and they do something about. Why is this and what makes the ‘A’ level sales people different?

 

Well, the doctor will see you now! In the example of the finely tuned athlete, acceptance when something is just not quite right is the first step toward correcting what is wrong. The athlete may need to see a doctor, a massage therapist, their trainer or a nutritionist. They know their bodies and they will seek answers to tough questions in order to “get better” and therefore improve. ‘A’ level sales people are the exact same, they will see the doctor when necessary. In fact, they want to see the doctor ASAP, so they can get to the bottom of what is wrong with them, correct the issue, and improve.

 

The doctor for the ‘A’ level sales person is a metaphor for anyone that the sales rep looks up to, respects, considers their mentor, or an advisor. More important to who the doctor is, it’s the fact that the sales rep doesn’t wait to be told to see the doctor, he or she voluntarily jumps at the opportunity to see the doctor. Unfortunately, the ‘B & C’ level sales folks out there never seem to grasp this concept.

 

I’ve long prided myself on being an ‘A’ level sales person. I have a group of individuals that I call mentors and advisors and at least once every week or so I reach out to them for advice, guidance, or a basic “checks & balances conversation”. In return I too often serve in the doctors role. Am I the best sales person out there? Not by a long shot, but I am better than many, if for no other reason than I’m not a Lone Ranger. I believe that my sales energy comes from my own successes, the successes of my team, and the guiding hand of my doctors. I’m also not an elite athlete, but I do check in often with my trainers and nutritionist, not just when I’m feeling a little off but to ensure I’m doing things right.

 

If you want to advance yourself, make the move from a ‘C’ to a ‘B’ or a ‘B’ to an ‘A’ level sales person, get yourself a doctor or two. Go see the doctor on a regular basis. Use the doctor’s guidance when something’s not quite right. And use the doctor’s guidance when you want to make sure things are continuing to go just right.

The Phone Is My Friend - June 9, 2018

The phone is my friend. The phone is my friend. The phone is my friend. Say it with me salespeople – the phone is my friend. I have encountered a sales person who believes that cold calling is dead. He doesn’t want to do it. Doesn’t believe it is a worthwhile use of his time. Feels email is a stronger method to obtaining new business leads. And, the most irritating part, he refuses to consider any other way of targeting new prospects.

 

I am here to tell him and tell you: you are dead wrong. The phone is my friend. The phone has been my friend for nearly 25 years in sales. The phone will continue to be my friend. You either don’t know how to use the phone (anymore) or you’re just plain scared. Either way, I will bet you $100 that I can land a prospect meeting faster than you, more qualified than your lead, and all by using the telephone while you peck away at email.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-email. In fact, I use email every single day from my laptop and my phone. Email is a terrific means of communication. But, email cannot convey the tone of my voice when I am being sincere in asking for a meeting. Email cannot immediately qualify or disqualify a lead based on the tone of the person on the other side. Email takes longer to use than a phone. Human beings, being human, want to feel important, and there is no better way than calling them on the telephone and greeting them as the most important person to you in that moment.

 

The sales person I referenced above simply doesn’t believe me. Of course, he also wouldn’t take my $100 bet, so what does that say. And, here’s the interesting part, I’ve not made a big deal about it openly, instead I’ve let my actions speak volumes. I’ve been making cold calls for the past month and have averaged 4-1 new meetings scheduled. Additionally, I’ve spent a fraction of the time making my calls versus his emailing approach. And, most importantly, my leads are more qualified.

 

Please, I beg of you, make the phone your friend. Do not be so foolish as to go down the path of my colleague and shrug at the idea of using the phone. Please do not make excuses that it doesn’t work. And, whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of believing email saves more time than using the phone. It doesn’t.

 

The phone is my friend…and my success proves it.

Misguided By Superiority - June 2, 2018

I am faced with a challenging client and a sales rep that simply doesn’t “get it”. This rep, in particular, has over twenty years of sales experience. Unfortunately, he has no grasp of the difference between being in account management versus new business development. And, to make matters worse, his superiority attitude has driven those around him away.

 

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility is being superior to your former self.

Ernest Hemingway

 

Joseph can, at times, be a likable man. He has moments where his teammates find him funny and personable. However, those times are few and far between. Joseph more often has a chip on his shoulder. Whether it is his age or his supposed years of sales experience, no one in the organization can have a thoughtful conversation about sales without Joseph either becoming defensive, as if they are attacking him, or with his know-it-all-I’m-smarter-than-you attitude. His superiority complex is getting in the way of his success.

 

I’ve been tasked with the job of reasoning with Joseph and I feel as though I am failing. He has already become defensive at my even being brought in as a sales consultant by the owner of the company. He does not see what I am seeing; he’s refusing to look in the mirror. He is making a great deal of excuses as to why he is not selling or even gaining traction with prospects for that matter. He believes the world is against him, whether the market is not positioned to buy his services, the competition is more fairly suited, or his own organization is positioned wrong. Whatever his stated reasons, he walks around as if he’s king of the sales domain, and no one should question him.

 

In my own organization I have dealt with similar “Joseph’s”. They did not make it. I terminated them for poor performance. Of course, they were given multiple warnings, written improvement plans, and even video recorded meetings played back to show them exactly how bad their tones were. Yep, they were terminated, ran to unemployment, and blamed everyone around them for his poor predicament, not poor performance. They never looked in the mirror, as is the case with Joseph now, and they never came to the realization that today they will learn how to better themselves as a sales person from who they were yesterday.

 

While Hemingway was speaking more about humankind, I believe this statement could not ring more true than with a sales person. Sales people get beat up every day by the telephone and in meetings. Sales can be difficult when dealing with other human beings, personalities, attitudes. Learning from yesterday, not making the same mistakes twice, and becoming a better version of yourself is the only way to grow as a sales person. Realizing there are always better sales people than you is called humility. Being humble in the face of adversity and success alike will make you a better sales person. Dropping the superiority complex and attitude, being willing to take advice and guidance (even from a sales rep younger than you), and being understanding that winning comes and goes in waves will all make you a better, more successful sales person.