Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

NAVIGATION - SEARCH

Wellness For The Sales Person - September 10, 2016

It doesn’t matter if you are in inside or outside sales, the overall stress of being in sales can take a toll on your health. Over the past decade the topic of wellness has become mainstream in business. The concept was originally introduced to very large companies in an effort to manage rising healthcare costs. Once only available if you had hundreds or thousands of employees, wellness programs can now be found in almost any company of any size. And, with wellness programs comes, well, wellness.

 

I oftentimes think about the comments my wife and kids have made when I’ve come home stressed out over losing a deal. Or, then the opposite occurs and I have success, and they can very easily see the excitement. These ups & downs, highs & lows can leave me worn out. There have been plenty of sleepless nights over the years. Days where I barely ate breakfast, skipped lunch, and continued working well into the night all in an attempt to close a deal.

 

Several years back I had a slight health scare, a 1:00 AM ambulance ride to the ER, only to find out what I should have already known – I was out of shape, eating poorly, overweight, and carrying way too much stress. Sure I had hobbies and I enjoyed getting outside, but nothing regimented, more of the every so often type of activities. In talking with my doctor, a nutritionist, and then a trainer, I was able to put an exercise routine together along with changes in my daily routine (such as dieting), that all paid off.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no poster boy for perfect health, not by a long shot. But, I am in better overall shape than I’ve been in years. Taking the concept of wellness seriously, working to manage and reduce the stresses I face in business and as a parent, and making sure I balance my work and personal time has helped me in more ways that I could have imagined.

 

Sales is my career. It is more than a chosen profession, rather it is a lifestyle. I’ve come to realize that my own wellness has made me a better salesperson. I have more energy which leads to confidence. I’ve learned new ways to manage a busy life in and out of the office. I can get more done with less effort by balancing wellness and time management. And, I believe I carry myself differently than other sales people who do not consider wellness an important part in their own lives.

 

I encourage you to evaluate how you handle stress. Keep an eye on your overall health as you get older. And, make wellness a part of your daily life. You will see the results in yourself and in your sales.

Your Personal Opinion and Declining Sales - September 3, 2016

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a very brief, yet hot topic post about politics, social media and sales. I did not expect any phone calls or emails, but boy oh boy did I get them. It seems my post opened the door, so to speak, for a variety of questions ranging from generic about social media being personal to “how dare my customers hold my political view against me”. So, I’m going to use this week’s post to expand a bit on my commentary, and hopefully this post will answer many of the questions I received.

 

To sum up personal viewpoints and opinions with regards to sales, whether you like it or not, people will do business with you if they hold you in high regard. Unfortunately, while this is not always fair, it is reality. To illustrate please allow me to provide you with this example.

 

Robert is a former colleague. We worked together many years ago, and while I’ve not seen him in some time, we stayed in touch by email every now and then. Over the past ten years Robert married, became a father, and moved into a new home in a new neighborhood. All seems pretty normal. Except, Robert and his wife began to change, and this too is normal. They became more successful in their careers and became parents. Like many, their own personal outlooks on life changed, and so the story goes. However, both Robert and his wife went from being somewhat conservative to a bit more liberal in their political views. Both educated in Catholic grade schools and high schools, they have shunned Catholic schools, and are very outspoken about the public education system. They are vocal on big box stores being evil empires, this environmental group is superior to that environmental group, etc. etc. Again, no big deal, right?

 

Well, both Robert and his wife take to social media like moth’s to flames. They seem to take great enjoyment in writing about their opinions and viewpoints. And, while many do similarly, they do not shield themselves behind privacy or security settings. Rather, they are very public, so much so that local newspapers have quoted from their musings. Obviously, when being so vocal, and publicly vocal, you will open yourself up to opposing viewpoints and criticism.

 

It appears that more than a few of Robert’s clients are not on the same page as he is with some of his opinions. In fact, over the past fifteen months Robert has experienced a 21% decline in sales in what was once considered a protected sales territory. And, not too long ago, human resources had a sit down with him to discuss the policies on use of social media. Robert read my post and called me angrily about it. He does not agree that personal opinions and viewpoints should play a role in one’s career, especially in sales.

 

To summarize and wrap up this post, here’s my response to Robert: “Old friend you have got to snap out of it. People want to do business with people they like and are oftentimes like them. You may not agree that sales should be personal, but it is. You have no one to blame but yourself and your wife. You’ve chosen to be outspoken in a public manner and your clients don’t like it or in some cases agree. As much as its your right to your opinion, they too have the right to disagree, especially when your opinion goes directly against their business. Robert, you recently wrote an op-ed on that big box store that just opened down the street from you home, blasting their business practices, hiring policies, etc. Yet, your number one customer sells products to this company. Of course they aren’t happy about your opinion.”

 

So many things came to mind…think before you speak (or write)…it’s not just what you say but how you say it…and remember you chose sales as a career, accept the up’s & down’s that go along with it.

Learn More From Defeat Than Victory - August 27, 2016

Google the phrase: “Learning more from defeat than from victory” and you’ll find thousands of relevant links. Most point to a variety of stories from which this phrase has been used, from heads-of-state to military leaders to coaches. Each and every story is different yet shares the commonality that through defeat or loss is a lesson learned that should offer guidance on how to succeed or be victorious.

 

My son recently began his high school journey. He is being welcomed positively with open arms, positive encouragement, all while being grounded in the messages being shared. Again, the theme of learning from defeat is a story shared. I’ve read and reread the message that was shared with him and his new classmates. The story is new but the theme is old. Reading it I was reminded of my own failures or defeats, yet here I am still standing, stronger and wiser than ever before.

 

Being a career sales person can be tough on the sole and spirit. As I’ve often stated, there is no such thing as perfection, only the attempt to be perfect. Along the way there will be will be awesome deals won, providing an exceptional feeling of pride, while delivering large commission or bonus payments. But, along the way, there will also be losses, the deals you wanted or expected that simply did not come to fruition.

 

The difference between an ‘A’ level sales person and a ‘B’ or ‘C’ level sales person is the power to learn from loss or “defeat”. It is easy to tell and re-tell the stories of success or “victory”. It is humbling to be able to stand tall and tell and re-tell the story of loss. But, when you accept that loss is a part of the sales career journey, you’ll soon realize the lessons learned will ultimately provide a pathway to success.

 

Over my years in business, as a sales manager, trainer or consultant, I’ve come to meet and study a variety of sales people. Some have been successful beyond imagination while others have been as middle-of-the-road as they come. I use my journal to make and keep observations handy on what drives success. Those with a higher successful closing percentage tend to be those that learned from their mistakes, lost deals or bumbled sales calls. Like me, these individuals paid attention to what transpired during those sales losses or defeats. Like an athlete following a loss, they study their game films, look for mistakes or miscues during the sales process, and plan accordingly for the next sales meeting.

 

Successful sales people do not point blame toward others or situations that may have been influencing the sales process. Blame is for the weak and truly becomes nothing more than a series of excuses and lies to oneself. Accepting defeat is a necessary step toward becoming victorious. A win, a closed deal, the signature on the contract, the victory will lead to another and another. Through defeat lessons on how to become victorious are learned.

Politics, Social Media & Sales - August 20, 2016

I am going to make this week’s post very brief. I’ve been asked several times recently for my opinion on how personal views and personal posts on social media platforms may impact a sales person’s career.

 

First of all, c’mon really, it’s 2016 already. Do I need to remind you that even when your best of intentions to use social media securely is in place, your very presence in social media opens you up to public criticism. All it takes is a “share” or “like” on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn and your post has the potential of being seen by a whole lot more people than just your “friends”.

 

Sales people are vulnerable by trade. Sales people are the face of their company. And so, when a sales person shares a tidbit of information from a personal perspective, it may open them up to opposing viewpoints which becomes a reflection on the company.

 

I cannot remember any political climate as heated as the current presidential election. Opposing views are being shared millions upon millions of times each and every day. Some people are using social media to spew hatred while others simply want to open up a reasonable debate. Regardless of your feelings or the urge to respond, keep politics out of your posts in social media, or you may see a negative reaction in your sales career.

 

My message is simple: always be careful what you post and be mindful that viewpoints differ. You never know who may come across your writing and may take your opinion or stance on a topic in a negative manner.

Like Boating On Lake Erie - August 13, 2016

I am both a boater and a career sales person living in Northeast Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie. What, you must be wondering, does one thing have to do with the other? The weather conditions, at times, are not in my favor for boating or sales. Allow me to explain.

 

There’s one thing a boater on Lake Erie knows and that is she can change her temperament without notice. One moment you’re enjoying a nice, flat lake and the next there are four foot swells and 20 knot winds out of the northwest. Or, oftentimes, I’ll look out of my office window at a beautiful lake calling my name, but come Saturday morning when I want to take my family for a ride, the lake is choppy.

 

Sales can be like boating on Lake Erie. Of course, there are plenty of times when the weather (or customer relationship) is just fine. But, there are also the times when things aren’t going so smoothly. Rough waters if you will. It seems we can predict our sales forecast about as well as the weather forecast. Boating is about the relationship between the boater, the vessel and Mother Nature. Sales is about the sales person, the service or product and the client.

 

When it comes to sales we all have the best of intentions, like wanting the weather to be perfect on Saturday for family time. We can plan ahead, looking forward to a great day, go get the boat cleaned-prepped-fueled up on Friday evening, just to be faced with terrible conditions and an immediate change of course come Saturday morning. It’s disappointing but unavoidable. It is the reality of being a boater.

 

Sales is no different. Relationships with our client’s experience ups and downs, but how YOU react to a change in weather, so to speak, can chart a new course or sink your ship. Client relationships are not perfect. We should always strive for perfection, but the reality is that there’s no such thing as perfect. A perfect day on the water is conceptually one that is enjoyable with good weather. Conceptually we want relationships with clients that are smooth sailing with little to no disruptions. Unfortunately, again, this is not reality.

 

Handling client relationships is about being prepared. An ‘A’ level sales person is prepared to “live in the moment” or “chart a new course” just as a boater must do when faced with severe weather changes. Clients can have a bad day and simply want to vent about your customer service. They may be unhappy with the quality of a product or service. There may have been a billing mistake and they caught it on the wrong day. You, as the sales person, must be able to react.

 

Planning ahead is not easy, rather it requires a sense of confidence that when you chart a new course, or change plans with how you’re managing the client relationship, you ultimately want an outcome that is enjoyable. Remember, you are a sales person at the core, so you will need to sell your ideas and plans to the client to return them to a place of appreciation.

Fire The Client For Their Own Well Being - August 6, 2016

This may sound like a similar topic for which I’ve written about before, but this time I’m taking a slightly different point of view. In prior posts, as well as with my consulting work, I often discuss the selfish reasons for firing a client. Some reasons include: they are not the right fit for You any longer; they can no longer afford You; or You have grown larger and they are simply too small. But, there are times where firing the client is best for them.

 

On two occasions this week I’ve had to send break up letters to long-time clients. One has been my client for nearly ten years and the other for seven. Such decisions never come lightly, and I struggled with putting thoughts into carefully crafted words, but in the end it was the right thing to do.

 

Years ago we seemed to be a match for one another. Both the client and my firm were growing. We provided our expertise and the client was attentive and appreciative. However, over the years, we were forced to make dramatic changes, and we grew larger in capability. Our industry changes on what seems to be an every six to eight month schedule. Not every client needs to keep up with the frequency of changes like we do, but stagnation should also not set in. Unfortunately, while my clients have grown, growth has been slower, and so their willingness to adapt to change has also been slow.

 

I can always make good cases for keeping up with technology, marketing trends, and changing to enhance the business position. There are also times when the clients slow pace of growth prohibits making changes or even keeping up. In my recent two cases this week, these are not bad clients, just clients that cannot (or are not willing) to change and grow. They are not staying current and so keeping their well being in mind, I have terminated our relationships.

 

At first the clients were upset. How dare we fire them. Who do we think we are? Like I said before, these are not easy decisions, and the messages are not easy to craft. With careful wording though I was able to explain my reasons why I was ending the relationship and I also provided guidance on selecting a new service provider.

 

When you plan to break up with a client you should plan carefully. Remember: you never know what the future holds and you certainly don’t want to burn a bridge. Putting the correct message in front of the client is the first key step. Second, make recommendations on how or who they can replace you with, and make sure you are comfortable with these recommendations. Lastly, always remember that you can either look like a “great person” or a “total jerk”. Be calm, be patient, and most importantly, be sincere.

Mentor a Future Sales Person - July 30, 2016

College interns are great. They are aggressive in their learning, they want to please a potential future employer, and they generally bring a sense of enthusiasm into the workplace. The downside, however, is that they’re already headed in a specific career direction. How can we influence a future generation of sales people?

 

Being in a position to mentor young adults does not have to start with college interns. Oftentimes high school students are assigned class projects to “job shadow” and these opportunities can be a launch pad for some to explore careers in sales. These bright students are seeking opportunities to learn about a company, a career path, or a certain industry. They are open minded and want to learn. They want to be challenged. They want their preconceived ideas about sales to be flipped upside down. They just don’t know it yet.

 

I recently hosted a young lady, a soon-to-be high school senior, at my office for two days. Her parents are friends, mom being a doctor and dad an attorney. Her parents have instilled in her their own desire for learning. She is smart and personable. But, she has already stated that she does not have an interest in following her parents career choices. So, what about sales?

 

When Ann Marie first talked with me she had a notion that professional sales was more like retail or automotive. She lacked the understanding that sales took place in a variety of verticals from pharmaceutical to finance to technology. When I received a thank you note, she highlighted a few points that she learned: sales requires constant continuing education; sales requires professional character and a positive demeanor; sales is not easy.

 

Having an opportunity to be influential on a young adult while guiding them toward a career in sales is rewarding. I had a few individuals do this for me, keeping me from law school many years ago, and I am extremely grateful to this day. When asked to be a mentor or to have someone shadow you, say yes.

Treat Your Sales Career Like Golf - July 23, 2016

There’s no ‘I’ in team. Sales has to be a team sport. Don’t forget your supporting cast. These are phrases I’ve used often and do believe in. But, from time-to-time, treat your sales career like a round of golf. Golf is never a competition against the other members of your foursome. Rather, golf is a competition against yourself. Some days everything goes in your favor. The course conditions are great. The weather is perfect. And, you seem to be playing above your norm. Other days are just bad. It starts to rain. You can’t hit a straight tee shot. You three putt every hole. You want to put the clubs back in the car and call it a day, but you don’t, you fight through until you wrap up eighteen.

 

Your sales career is not all that different. You have good days and bad days. You have beautiful sun-filled blue sky days and dark dreary days. Like golf you will have your ups and downs. How you finish out eighteen is a testament to your character. When you give up or throw in the towel, you show weakness. But, stand strong with your head held high, and you will come out a winner (regardless of the score).

 

Don’t get me wrong, sales is now and always has been a team sport, and sometimes so is golf. I know a few guys that are single digit handicap golfers and not one would say they’ve done it on their own. They have coaches. They have pro’s that offer mental stability. They have shops with professional club fitters. They have fitness or yoga instructors. They take the game very seriously and know the support team behind them is necessary to excel. They plan for greatness and then act upon their plan.

 

Sales people should do the very same thing: plan for greatness and act upon the plan. While many times it comes down to you, the individual sales person with a strong character to close the deal, being prepared means making sure you have the right team helping you prepare. You may be by yourself in front of the prospect asking for the signature, just as you’re by yourself holding the putter aiming for birdie, but you must realize you are not alone. You have others cheering for you.

 

In golf and sales, as with other sports, musical instruments, public speaking, etc., practice makes perfect. Treating your sales career like golf is just that, making sure you practice, and then proceed onto the course. Knowledge in sales is like muscle memory in golf. It does not come with one visit to the driving range. Practice in sales can sound mundane, but it is not. Only the best sales people rise to greatness. Greatness comes through relentless practice. Just like golf.

Employee Becomes The Boss - July 16, 2016

Ted has been employed by a technology consulting firm of going on 10 years. By title he has been the Director of Sales and overall has had a successful career. He joined the company after spending his previous 8 years with a similar firm, so he came with experience. He has opened many doors, closed some of the larger accounts, and has been a mentor to several younger sales reps.

 

About 2 years ago Andrew joined the firm. He had been working for 2 years prior with a smaller consultancy while going to school at night for his MBA. He joined this firm upon completion of his advanced degree ready for a bigger challenge. Ted, being the Director of Sales, was his mentor and immediate supervisor. Andrew was a quick study and within a few months was out in the marketplace on his own, gaining traction, and began to close new deals. In fact, Andrew closed the largest deal in the company’s history on the day of his 6 month anniversary with the firm.

 

Andrew does not sit still well. In fact, he never sits still. While he does have a rather solid work-life balance, he is taking his career very seriously. He has never been one to shy away from taking on more in an effort to help the company and to personally grow. It came as no surprise that Andrew befriended the CEO on a project and stood out as a future star. So, it also should not have come as a surprise when Andrew was promoted, although it did to Ted, and now Ted works for Andrew.

 

This is a story that’s been played out in companies for years. The young up & comer becomes the boss. While it is not new, it was to Ted, and it became hard for him to digest. I’ve known Ted and the CEO for several years. I’ve done business with their firm and also have gotten to know them personally. When Ted began to struggle with the change, I was asked to intervene.

 

Ted’s biggest issue was not that he had a new boss or that the boss was younger. The big issue for Ted is that he felt blindsided. He was having trouble grasping what he did wrong, why Andrew overshadowed him, and did Andrew intentionally go around Ted to the CEO in a spiteful manner. Of course, Andrew didn’t do anything spiteful, simply Ted himself ignored opportunities to grow.

 

It took a few meetings over a couple of months, but Ted finally awoke to the fact that he missed the signs for growth opportunity that were right in front of him. While he enjoyed sales and being a sales manager, oftentimes he did not stay late, take on the extra projects, or work to build tighter relationships with his superiors. In essence, he is doing today what he did 10 years ago, nothing less and nothing more.

 

It was a hard pill for Ted to swallow, but as I shared my opinion on this scenario, he seemed to realize two things: (1) He was happy being a sales manager. He enjoyed the “more set schedule” and less stress of executive leadership. He still loves the thrill of sales, but has come to realize he is not interested in taking on more responsibility; and, (2) Andrew is perfectly suited to be the VP of Sales and Marketing. Andrew holds Ted in high regard and is appreciative for what Ted’s taught him. He is excited for his new role, but also wants to make sure Ted stays on board and stays involved as the Director of Sales. He values Ted’s experience in the trenches.

 

This could have gone horribly wrong. Ted could have thrown in the towel, quit, and moved on to a new company. But, it didn’t go wrong. He gave it time to sink in. He came to the realization that Andrew was the right person for the job. Be careful in your sales career not to overreact. Be patient when change comes your way…it may be a benefit to your sales career.

Mid-Year Health Review - July 9, 2016

If you go back over time with my posts you’ll find several regarding the health report card, state of sales, or related topics. I am a firm believer that conducing routine checkups on my sales career is as important as going to the dentist every 6 months. It is important to the health of my career now and in the future.

 

Yesterday I had a few hours of quiet time while traveling with my son to a lacrosse tournament. He put on his headphones, as did everyone else in the car, and listened to his own tunes. This was an ideal time for my mind to wander a bit. I thought about how quickly the first half of the year has gone by and what successes I’ve accomplished. I’ve also had a miss or two and those also came to mind. I gave consideration to the how’s and why’s I did not win the business. And, I thought about where I am today and where I’m going this coming week, next month, and for the remainder of the year.

 

These are times of reflection (as I very frequently refer to in my posts). It is important to take inventory of what is going well, what may not be going so well, and more importantly what needs to happen between now and the end-of-year for hitting goals previously set. I also take this time to set one new goal.

 

Goal setting is critical to any business and especially for any ‘A’ level sales person. As time goes by changes occur. Changes can sometimes be in or out of your control, but I do accept that change is inevitable. And, because I accept change, I like to add a new goal or two to my second half of the year.

 

A mentor who helped guide me in the early days of my career once told me to balance business with personal goals. For every one business (or sales) goal I should have one personal goal. This is a form of insurance. If I meet my business goals, then I should meet my personal goals.

 

Use this date on the calendar, the month of July, and reflect on how your year is going so far. Make the necessary adjustments to target, meet and hopefully exceed your goals, and share with others how you are doing. This mid-year health review will keep you on track.