Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Weekly Schedules - September 26, 2015

Nothing can be more damaging to the success of a sales person than flying by the seat of your pants. All too often I encounter sales people that do not have a grasp of their weekly calendar, their schedule, or their “to do list”. I find it hard to believe they can claim success, as a sales person, when they don’t know what may or may not close, or who they are meeting with next Thursday at 10:00. And, what is even scarier to me, is that many don’t seem to have a worry in the world.

I’ve been a career sales person for well over 20 years, and in the span of my career I have met hundreds of ‘A’ level sales people. One constant I’ve found among them is their skill of managing their weekly schedule. And, it is a skill.

The best sales people manage their entire lives, personal and professional, in plain view for their peers to see. They make sure their calendar is kept up-to-date or in-the-moment. There is never a question of time availability. Because of this willingness to be open about their schedule, they are never pressed or unavailable.

The ‘A’ level sales person, with their weekly schedule in check, has the inept ability to plan and forecast for sales meetings with their clients. They can track week-over-week, month-over-month, and year-over-year, the trends that will come with sales. They will know how and when to look for seasonal spikes, or when the client budget process will impact their own meeting requests.

As I mentioned, managing the weekly schedule is a skill, but one that can be quickly learned. The first step is to be willing to log your personal life into your publicly viewable calendar. This offers others, that may be reliant upon you, the view into when and when not to attempt adding something to your calendar. Moreover, this also ensures you have both your professional and personal responsibilities in check. Second, lock into place your regular sales-related activities, such as team meetings, prospect calling, etc. Third and finally, add each of your activities that come on an as requested basis, whether you are being asked or you are asking, which would entail each client or prospect meeting.

Getting a grasp on your weekly schedule will have many benefits. You will become more organized and efficient. You will have an outlook on your upcoming plans so you can be more accommodating to those that want your time. And, you will be less likely to run into scheduling conflicts, which will lend to becoming more efficient. Stop flying by the seat of your pants!

Thought Leadership - September 19, 2015

Of all of the overused, corporate jargon out there, none is more prevalent than thought leadership. In fact, I’m at the point where I can’t stand hearing those words anymore. But, for the sake of this post, I’ve also come to grips that many folks may just not understand what the term thought leadership means.


Yes, practically anyone can be a thought leader, as long as they understand what those words mean. At the core a thought leader is someone that can provide clear and concise information on a specific topic, such as a service or product, because they are considered to be an expert at some level. And, what is most important, they are deemed an expert by their company, their peers, their competition, but not just by themselves.


So, if we use this definition of thought leadership, then an ‘A’ level sales person can certainly be a thought leader. You may now be asking yourself, “so what?”


Going back to many previous posts about referrals and inbound lead generation, being considered a thought leader on your company’s services and/or products should drive business to you, and certainly will drive business to you assuming you are found. How do you get found?


Becoming a thought leader can be somewhat straight forward. First off, you should put together an agenda or list of topics that you can write (or record – as in video) about, and a schedule for getting this information out to the public. Second, determine the various methods for getting your messages out there. My recommendation is to cross pollinate, as in find more than one way to share your information. For example, you must absolutely use your own company website or blog to share your knowledge. Then, find other industry resources, such as trade publication websites, to offer your content. Trust me, trade publication websites are always clamoring for good content, especially when the burden is on someone else to do the writing. Third and finally, share, share, share. Use your social media connections, and your connections connections, to get the word out. Sharing your content across social media can have the biggest impact when it comes to driving lead generation. The more people who become familiar with your name, based upon your thought leadership ideas, the more opportunity you have for referrals and inbound lead generation.


You are not a thought leader because you claim to be a thought leader. Provide real substance to your market and your market will define you as a thought leader.

Personal Time - September 12, 2015

Being a father of three very active children alone can be daunting, but coupled with my career responsibilities, and wow can life get very hectic. Coming off of a very fun and relaxing Labor Day weekend, I am reminded that we, as sales people, need to pause every so often and have a little personal time. Sales, for the ‘A’ level person, is more than just a job, it is a life altering commitment. You never truly get a day off because someone (or a situation) seems to always require some sort of your attention.


So, with the reality of “always on your game”, you must find personal time. Here are a few ways I take a moment or two to myself that help me maintain focus with my career so I can feel “always on my game”.


1 – Look for one moment each and every day, including weekends, to reflect on what you have going well in your life. It may be just 5 minutes sitting in your car before a meeting, or taking the dog for a morning walk on a Saturday, but this time is an opportunity to remind yourself that your career as a sales person impacts others in many positive ways. It may seem like a personal feel-good, but you must remind yourself that others are depending on you.


2 – Exercise is a sales persons release from stress. Between boss, company, client and peer expectations, not to mention everything you have going on at home, a sales person can feel a level of stress not found in other professions, especially when your livelihood is dependent on commission and/or bonus. You don’t always need a gym membership or going hard & heavy on the free-weights constantly, nor do you need to run a marathon every month, but you should have an outlet for removing stress, and exercise will certainly help. Not to mention, sales people tend to eat out more than others in their organization, so a little exercise can help with this aspect too.


3 – One treat per week is another rule of thumb I try to apply to my routine. A treat can take many forms, such as a new micro-brew beer I’ve been wanting to try, or indulging in a TV show that I would otherwise not have the time to watch. I try to find one, non-work related, way to treat myself each week.


4 – Provide someone else at least one treat per week. This tends to be a little bit easier, with kids, because I can kill two birds with one stone. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my kids, but also taking them out for ice cream or some other treat during the week reminds me that my sales career is what is affording me such an opportunity.


A successful, ‘A’ level sales person knows that the constant go-go-go pace of the sales career can be exhilarating, but demanding as well. Finding a little personal time does the mind and body good – and will make you a better sales person in the long run.

Labor Day - September 5, 2015

Like you, I need a break every so often, and so this week I would like to wish all of the ‘A’ level sales people out there a Happy Labor Day. This is a weekend that should provide you a break from the hectic schedules we so often must manage. It is a time to relax a little bit before the push toward the end-of-year is upon us. And for those of us in the norther climates, enjoy the last part of summer, because you know the white stuff will be in the air sooner than we’d all like. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend with your friends and loved ones. 

Busy Time On The Horizon - August 29, 2015

With Labor Day just a little over one week away, it is now time to prepare for the busy season. As I’ve mentioned over the past few weeks, but also in many other posts, I live in an area where June, July and August tend to be a bit slower for sales. However, like clockwork, the flood gates will open on the Tuesday after Labor Day.


So, with the busy time on the horizon, let me share my tactical approach to managing this time period. Typically this busy season will last until the first or second week in December, before things slow down for the holidays. So, being prepared for what is to come, will certainly help keep the calendar manageable.


First, I outline the clients that use an annual budget to manage their technology or marketing expenditures. These tend to be the clients that have “use it or lose it” policies with their respective companies. These clients will begin their own budget processing and planning during September and October. Identifying these clients and getting on the schedules for review and project or service discussion is a priority. Trust me, these clients will absolutely say yes to a meeting, because they too want to be careful in their planning.


Next are prospective clients that have been considering my company. These are the prospects that are considered hot but have been waiting until this time frame to move conversations forward. Their summer has come to an end and it is now time to get fully back into the swing of things. I knew who these prospective clients were due to my conversations and touchpoints over the past few months. It is now time to talk with them about getting their project or services outlined so we can move forward before the end of the year.


Last will be my “all other” client category. These are existing clients that have proven to be good and fair. They appreciate the work we provide for them, although they don’t often have deadlines of their own, and so conversations tend to be proactive versus reactive. I fill in all calendar gaps with these types of meetings to keep my existing client base apprised of the “what’s new and what they should be thinking about” in our respective service market. Inevitably, these conversations due turn into opportunities, and when balanced with the other varying types of meetings occurring during this push toward the 4th quarter, the calendar becomes full and full of opportunity.


If your business and the clients you serve are similar to mine, now is the time to plan accordingly and carefully, as such planning can be a great asset to you closing business of the next few months.

Working Remote: A few pointers on being productive - August 22, 2015

Being provided an opportunity to work remote by your employer is truly a privilege and should never be viewed as a right or requirement. You’re lucky, your boss believes in your work ethic, and has the trust in you to do the job at hand regardless of your location. But, working remote can be difficult, especially if this is a new opportunity for you. So, how can you be the most productive when working remote?


First of all, selecting the right location or environment is key, and this is probably the most important. Working from home can be good, but working from home will most likely also contain the most distractions. Kids, dog, spouse, phone, delivery, or the convenience of snacks. All of these distractions may seem small, but added up they become a huge time suck. If you are going to choose home for the location, you need to pretend as though you’re going to the office. Keep your regular wake-up / shower routine in place. Find a spot in your home to call the office and establish this space as your only work location within the four walls. Don’t walk around with your laptop and plop down on the couch. If you can, avoid home altogether, and find a slower paced coffee shop or a “quiet room” at the library. There are distractions even at your office, but finding ways to minimize is the first major step.


Next, plan your day no differently than if you were in your office, such as listing out your to-do’s, planning for the phone calls of the day, and having the set of “must complete items” before calling it a day. Being organized when working remote is even more of a requirement than if you were in the office. Again, you’ll experience a few more distractions, so make sure you plan ahead for the time it will take to fulfill your obligations for the day.

This is not social hour. You are on the clock and so you must avoid the social temptations that come along with working remote. Grabbing coffee or lunch with a friend is great, but unless you would do this activity when working from the office, leave it alone. Avoid the temptation to be social with your personal contacts simply because of the convenience factor. Again, work must come first.


Lastly, check in with the office on a regular basis. Make sure you are getting messages from voicemail, be readily available when called upon by a coworker, and touch base with your boss just for the sake of touching base. This shows you are taking this opportunity seriously and not taking advantage of their trust. Many ‘A’ level sales people are much more productive when working remote. It is a sense of freedom that allows these individuals to take on the tasks of the day without hesitation. But, success can be diminished if you take the opportunity for granted, and don’t get the same amount of work done as you would if you were in the office (or more!).

The Height of the Summer Slowdown - August 15, 2015

I have written several times before about summer slowdown, a lull in sales during the summer months, seasonal selling even in professional services, and ideas on how to avoid these scenarios. While this doesn’t occur to some sales organizations in different parts of the country, here in Northeast Ohio it has become routine. But, it doesn’t have to be so.


I’m not going to rehash past posts, rather I’ve been asked for a few reminders, as it seems we are now in the height of the summer slowdown. It is mid-August and as I look at my own personal schedule, I’m working closely with my wife as we plan the final couple of weeks before the kids go back to school. We are trying to cram one more weekend away, enjoy one more cookout, squeeze in the back-to-school shopping, all while still trying to balance work, sales and client relations.


Recognizing this hectic, end of summer coming soon scenario, can open your eyes to what your own clients and prospective clients are going through. So, you recognize it, but what can you do about it and keep a consistent selling schedule?


First thing to keep in mind is that the client or prospective client is most likely going through the same thing as you. With that said, and knowing how tough schedules are at this time of the year, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a meeting. The client/prospect still has a job to do and can commiserate with you about scheduling difficulties. This is where being creative with the calendar will come in handy.


If you are like me, and your kids want to do everything under the sun before going back to school, then your creative scheduling will accommodate everyone. So, here are a few reminder tips on getting through this period, and I know they’ve worked well for me. First off, plan your personal activities and make sure you outline carefully where and when you need to be some place. Second, once you have your personal schedule in place, put the “housekeeping” work items onto the calendar. Try to have your work day end at 4:00 PM. Now, comes the fun part, reach out to each and every client and prospect you want to meet with, and work to fill in the gaps.


This may be easier said than done though due to this time of year, so begin each call with something along the lines of “if your schedule is like mine, a meeting may be quite tough to get on the calendar, but we still have to get some work done”. Generally I’ve found that clients and prospects respond well to this opening, and then your own creativity will continue, by scheduling early morning meetings. Clients and prospects will want to end their days a little early too, in an effort to satisfy work and personal needs, so target the 7:00 AM breakfast meeting (or coffee). You will be surprised at how responsive the client/prospect will be.


It all comes down to creative scheduling. You can lean on many excuses because of the time of year, but a true ‘A’ level sales person will fight through, not make excuses, and will continue to outsell their peers.

Social Media & Sales - August 8, 2015

‘A’ level sales people have always had a knack for being social, but now more than ever, they must be engaged in social media. Once thought to be passing fads, social media tools are so very important on an everyday basis. LinkedIn, for example, allows you to recruit new employees or make introductions to prospective clients. Facebook will give you some insight into an individual’s personality. Looking at who someone follows on Twitter will provide you some perspective on this persons views on business, politics, etc. which may assist in determining a cultural fit within your team.


Social media has many upsides, as mentioned above, but one of the most important to me is the ability to take a potential cold lead and warm it up. I’m sure you’ve heard of six degrees of separation. This old phrase can be generally cut in half when dealing with social media. It is now much easier to find a common connection to someone, you just need to work the system.


LinkedIn is an essential tool for any ‘A’ level sales person. You can research companies, find the decision maker, identify who this person is and how you may be connected to them through another person, and then reach out to your mutual contact to ask for an introduction. It is very simple, it just takes time.


In addition to being able to research companies and contacts, LinkedIn also affords the hiring manager the ability to search for candidates on their own without much assistance from human resources or a recruiter. A candidate’s bio is available for your review, and again, you can identify a common connection for warm introduction purposes.


There can be a negative side to social media as well. I caution people constantly on being extremely careful. Like you, others are watching what you too are doing on social media, what views you may express, and who you are connected to. This can be the reverse course when you are trying to sell, in that the prospective client is reviewing your bio and qualifications. Or, it may also be the prospective new employee scouting out what it might be like to work with of for you, in an attempt to gauge how they would interact with you on a daily basis.


We have many different resources at our disposal to learn the tricks of the trade when it comes to social media. I am not putting this post together to pretend to be an expert. However, recently I have come across several sales folks that simply do not believe in social media and the power it has in the sales process, or they only use selective pieces & parts without realizing the full power it has over their sales process.


Take time yourself to review, learn, explore, and experiment with social media, and I truly believe you will find new ways to increase your productivity. 

Hurry Up and Wait Syndrome - August 1, 2015

Client: Kevin, we need to meet with you as soon as possible, it is very important that we get started on our new engagement.


Me: OK, I can be there on Thursday (today is Monday) at 1:30.


Client: That doesn’t work for us, how about in 2 ½ weeks, that might be better.


Client: Thank you for your proposal, this looks just like what we need, and your estimate is right on budget.


Me: Sounds great, when would you like to get started on your project?


Client: Let me read over the proposal one more time and you’ll have the signed contract by the end of the week.


Me at the end of the week: Sir, please send me the signed contract, and I will schedule your project to begin.


Client three weeks later: Sorry, we have not made a decision yet.

Here are two examples of the famously known Hurry Up and Wait Syndrome. You know, the situations that present themselves as great opportunities, only to be stalled out by the client’s indecisiveness.  What can you do to avoid these scenarios? Is it your fault this happens? How can you move the client along in conversation toward a final decision?


In the first example, the stall by the client to meet is certainly not your fault, or in your control, but by a lack of understanding by the client on what is and is not considered urgent. When a client states that they need to meet immediately, that something is urgent, you should qualify by pushing the date slightly out. Give the client an option for meeting later in the week or the following week. Their reply will indicate how serious they are and just how urgent the need might really be.


In the second example, this falls more on the upfront selling process with the client, which you control, versus the client being entirely at fault for stalling. When you are in the sales process, you should explain how you are going to work with them all the way to the contract stage, and upfront gain a commitment on their actions. Try stating: “Mr. Smith, if we get to the point of reviewing a written contract together, and the contract meets or exceeds all of your requirements, and it is within the budget scope, will we have a deal? Will you be in a position to sign the contract at that time? What, if anything, will you need further in order to finalize the agreement, sign it, and move forward?” Such an upfront sales process will give you the leverage needed or the upfront commitment by the client to fall back on and remind them of their own process. Such an approach will increase the likelihood of closing the deal without facing the Hurry Up and Wait Syndrome.

Don't Be Risk Adverse - July 25, 2015

Being a father and a youth sports coach I often watch over kids taking risks. They may seem small to me at the time, like my daughter going off the high dive at the pool for the first time. It could be asking a player to try a new position that he’s not entirely comfortable in. Or, it could be asking a child to trust you when you tell them no, because you know from experience what a certain outcome might be to their request.


In business, leaders are expected to take risks, and to be a good sales manager, you must not be risk adverse. You cannot afford to always play it safe. This may be taking a risk and promoting someone into a higher-level sales role, knowing they may not entirely be ready yet, but also having a sense that this person will rise to the challenge and succeed.


Risk in sales is an everyday occurrence. It may be cold calling the “whale prospect”, you know, the one that would put you and your company on a different level. If you don’t take the risk and call, you’ll never know if they might be interested. And, so it goes in business, risk must be accepted and embraced and managed very carefully.


What happens then when members of the management team do become risk adverse? What do you do, as a leader in your organization, when your peers begin to worry and ask more of the “what if we do X and it backfires” versus “what happens if we don’t do X”? In other words, what happens to your company when those entrusted with leadership positions no longer trust in you, your employees, or even themselves, to take a risk in order to grow the business.


Speaking specifically to the sales managers reading this post, you cannot afford to become risk adverse and be asked to still grow your company (market share, revenue, etc.). It is simply not possible to do the same old, same old and expect different or better results. Taking risks, even small risks, will help you and your sales team stay competitive and ultimately grow.


I am not suggesting that you blindly throw caution to the wind and take on so many risky propositions that you go backward. ‘A’ level sales managers and sales representatives must learn how to control their risk-reward balance. Maintaining balance between what is tried & true, knowing what will create an almost guaranteed sale, generating revenue with a solid profit margin, with taking a risk on the bigger client, the new market segment, or the new hire takes time and patience.


Do not be afraid to take risks. It is the risks in your life, personally and professionally, that more often pay the biggest dividends.