Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

NAVIGATION - SEARCH

The "Know It All" - December 19, 2015

This touchy subject has come up again – how to deal with a “Know It All”. There are two sides to this subject in sales. First is the customer / prospective customer. Second is the sales person. Both can act like “know it all’s” and both can become detrimental to a successful relationship.

 

On many occasions I have shared my opinion of the word relationship. A sales relationship is often similar to a personal relationship. There’s the dating and courtship process which leads to the engagement and then many times the marriage. When dealing with a “know it all” one side of the relationship may become turned-off or uninterested.

 

In looking at the customer / prospective customer side of the relationship, when they constantly act as a “know it all”, these individuals tend to burn bridges, are not respectful of the sales process, or end up buying less than needed for their specific need. Many times it is because their attitude is less-than-desirable so the sales person does not want to put up with them. They are a turn-off and so the sales person may simply rush through their own process simply to be done with them.

 

Likewise, when the sales person is the “know it all”, the customer / prospective customer will become quickly frustrated. When this type of sales person is attempting to move through their process, they tend to listen less, and they wind up talking more. They believe their words are more important and they sell what they believe is necessary, not what the customer / prospective customer ultimately needs.

 

Use your own personal lives as examples. We all have friends or acquaintances that can come across as the “know it all”. How do you engage with this person? How do you feel after conversing with them? Do you go out of your way to talk with them? Do you want to spend long periods of time with them? Or, although they may have their moments of likability, do you want to avoid one-on-one conversations?

 

Translate this personal example into business. Ask yourself if you have any of these tendencies. Evaluate your most successful sales and determine what characteristics were in your favor from the relationship side. And then act accordingly. Don’t be a “know it all” and try to avoid those that act this way as customers.

40ish Business Days Left In The Year - October 24, 2015

A topic that I have covered on several occasions before seems to have come up once again. Recently I was asked, both by my own internal sales team, as well as my personal clients, to share ideas regarding the “end of year push”. As I write my post on a bit of a dreary October morning, I find a bright spot thinking about the fun ahead in my own end of year push.

 

As I’ve stated time and time again, if you are hanging your success hat on the next few weeks, it may simply be too late for you. An end of year push should never be a make-it or break-it timeframe, but rather a bonus period for a well-planned and overall successful year.

 

I was asked just yesterday by one of my newer team members, “if you’ve had a very solid year so far, then what is your push for the final 40ish days of the year?”

There are two holidays coming up, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a few busy weeks between now and then. I find this time of year to be one where I can reflect with my clients, and time when we can talk through the past projects and plan for the New Year and new projects. More and more I tend to have clients that run budgets on the calendar year with a use it or lose it policy, and so I “push” for an evaluative meeting to discuss budgets.

 

For many years I’ve taken an approach against using this time of year to entertain clients, such as holiday lunches, or by giving gifts. I continue to standby this idea simply because a good sales person, an ‘A’ level sales person, should treat the client throughout the year with gratitude, not during the time of year when “everyone else is buying lunch”.

 

My most successful fourth quarters, best end of year pushes, are when I treat the client as if it were any other time of the year, but paying respect to their budget process (as mentioned above), as well as with a “plan ahead” approach. Meetings will, without a doubt, include a holiday well wish, a bit of personal holiday themed conversation, and with all hopes have a happy tone.

 

The “plan ahead” approach though has separated me from others for a long time and my clients have been appreciative. During these remaining 40ish days of the year, I will meet with my clients with a calendar in hand, and discuss their overall plans month-by-month and/or quarter-by-quarter. I will identify opportunities where my firm may be in a position to help or provide services. We will put future meetings (or calls) on the schedule. And, we will outline goals & objectives.

 

Don’t do what everyone else is doing this time of year. Be different. Be an ‘A’ level sales person and help your clients prepare for the year to come. They don’t need another holiday lunch or coffee mug. They will truly appreciate your professional guidance so much more than a gift.

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.

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.

Doing Business With Friends - June 13, 2015

If you’ve been in sales for even a little while, you’ve most likely run into the scenario or possibility of doing business with friends. As a sales person you may feel like it is your lucky break or a guaranteed close. But, more than any other type of sale, one with a friend can be the most dangerous.

 

I was in a meeting with a client recently, the VP of Sales, and she asked me for some personal advice. She had recently entered into a consulting engagement with a new client of her own, and one in which the president of the company was a personal friend of her husbands, and things weren’t going so well. She was running into a situation where this gentleman was calling upon her to bend her company rules, do more work without being billed, etc. She needed some guidance on how to best handle the conversation with the client and to set the record straight on what is to be deemed their personal relationship and their professional relationship.

 

Having run into this scenario myself not too long ago, I shared with her the approach I took, and she seemed rather appreciative.

 

Having too close of a relationship with a client can cause communication issues at any point in time, but it hits even harder when the client is a personal friend first and becomes a client second. The likelihood is that this person has heard you tell stories (possibly horror stories) about the office or clients. Without realizing it, they may try to change your approach to business because of something you shared with them in the past, in an effort to better suit their own needs.

 

Moreover, your friend may also take an entirely different tone with you because of your relationship, which may skirt the bounds of professionalism. And, what’s worse, they may want you to give them preferential treatment over other clients.

 

So how do you avoid these issues?

 

Well, this easiest answer would be to not do business with your friends. Of course, that may also be easier said than done. So, my recommendation is to have a very open and honest conversation about the rules of engagement. Set the record straight up front about how your company operates and works with clients. Make absolutely sure your friend is fully aware of these rules, and whatever you do, make sure you have a witness to this conversation both from your company and from your friends company.

 

And, to ensure that the business relationship is handled smoothly, and with minimal interference to your personal relationship, assign someone else as the point person in the business relationship. It may be a subordinate if you’re in management, or it may be your manager, or it may be a peer. You should find someone that can handle this scenario in a professional and confident manner and your friend must accept that you are making the introduction and then stepping aside.

 

You should never allow a friendship to be diminished due to a concern in business, and you certainly do not want your career to be jeopardized by a bad decision in sales. A true friend will not only agree, but will expect nothing less.

The Owner Finally Showed Up - May 9, 2015

Last week I was talking, over dinner, with a few friends. We are all in sales within the service / project industry, and while slightly different offerings, we tend to have similar tales to tell about client experiences. It must have been a full moon or something because we all had a recent similar story to share.

It is not uncommon for us to call upon companies that are small-to-midsized where the owner of the company is the president or CEO. And, as such, we are often engaged with this person during the initial sales process. You go through the routine of presenting your company, learning about their company, engaging in various conversations to see if the relationship would be a good fit, and then off & running we go. However, all too often, this is the last time we see or talk to the owner until the project is coming to or just came to a close. He or she put “their people” in charge. The director of marketing or information technology becomes the project lead with the supposed authority to make decision on behalf of their company. They become the voice of their company, including the owner, and so the projects continue. And, although everything appears to have gone smoothly, here it comes…the owner shows back up.

“This isn’t what I wanted!” “I expected this or that.” “Why did you choose to go in that direction, didn’t you understand I wanted to go in a different direction?”

Well, where were you? You gave your team members the authority to drive the project on your behalf. So, why are you now questioning or complaining? As a sales person, we are now on a slippery slope. We can become agitated and defensive. We can throw the clients team under the bus. We can throw our own company under the bus. Or, and here’s my approach, we can address the matter one-on-one with the owner in a professional but blunt way.

Mr. or Ms. Owner, please understand it has always been our goal to make your wishes a reality with the service or project we’ve provided. That is why we spent so much time working with your team to check and double-check along the way. Naturally, we expected your team to keep you in the loop, especially since you told us they were the people you wanted us to work with. I understand you may not feel as though you had much input after the initial sales process, but let’s also be frank, we did specifically as the contract had stated. And, you should be patient and allow your team the opportunity to share with you the project’s success.

Your firm needs to be compensated for the work it did. The owner’s team should be held accountable for their decisions. And, in the end, you may need to suggest that you work directly with the owner going forward. Whatever the outcome, if the owner finally shows up at the end and doesn’t like something, well then he or she needs to accept that it was their responsibility to be more active during the engagement, and they need to respect everyone else’s role.

Post-Sales Remorse - April 25, 2015

The term “post-sales remorse” is nothing new to me. I have read this term in many a sales training book, motivational presentation hand-out, and have heard it preached by a variety of sales trainers. In almost all cases it relates to or is defined as the timeframe when a client, just immediately after the signature to begin a project or release of a PO for a product purchase, begins to question their decision. They are wondering if they made the right choice in a new vendor or partner. They continue, even though they’ve now made a purchase, to look at the options in the market. They are second guessing themselves.

Any ‘A’ level sales person knows the signs & symptoms, and more specifically, knows how to head them off before they become a real concern. We all experience “post-sales remorse” at some time in our lives. Think about these questions that I’m sure you’ve asked yourself: does this shirt I just bought really look good on me? Should I have upgraded the options on my new car? Did I really need to spend the extra money on the hotel room for vacation? These are personal scenarios, but similar questions creep in during buying decisions in our professional lives as well. And again, as the sales person, you should be aware that this is a rather common occurrence and you should be prepared to deal with it.

A few steps I take when dealing with clients in “post-sales remorse” stage are simple. I remind them of the reasons why they chose me and/or my firm in the first place. I also remind them of our excitement to have them as a new client. And, I restate all of the plans for their project (or if you are in product sales – what expectations they should have for quality and on-time delivery, etc.). You must put their mind at ease. A signature or PO is not the close. It is knowing your new client is engaged and feels assured that they made the right decision.

Every company has a different process and every sales person has a different style. To prepare for the “post-sales remorse” stage, simply keep a list of the common concerns your clients address with you immediately following the signature or release of the PO. Trust me, they’re there. Put this list in your journal or someplace handy that you can view in quick reference. Second, next to each concern, write your response or description of heading off the concern. These will become second nature and eventually you will no longer need to look back into your journal each time, but more as a reminder from time-to-time.

Vacation Is Over - Get Back To Work - April 11, 2015

Vacation was a success! You’ve spent time with your family and friends. You went to a special resort. You played a round or two of golf. You hit the slopes for a little spring skiing. Or, you had a quiet staycation, and got caught up on some chores around the house. No matter how or where you spent time away from the office, it is now time to get back to work. Your team had your back and everything was covered, so now what?

 

Planning to leave for vacation, ensuring that you had a back-up plan and person in place, is a major part for a sales person being able to leave the office and enjoy some needed time off. However, there are a few additional steps that need to take place, both before you leave and immediately upon your return.

 

First, let’s review the pre-vacation planning process. As mentioned in last week’s post, you let your clients and prospects know in advance that you’d be gone, and you had someone from your team covering for you. That is great. And, if all went as planned, most issues have been dealt with and resolved before you even returned. So what do you need to plan for upon your return?

 

In advance of leaving the office for vacation, you should have your entire first week back in the office planned and scheduled, including client and internal meetings. Being efficient with time management before you leave will mean you can avoid a scattershot approach to time management upon your return. Planning ahead with your clients and prospects shows them you are interested, consider business with them to be of the upmost importance, and it’s always good to lock in commitments from them ahead of time. Planning your internal meeting time too allows you to show your team and/or managers that you want to hit the ground running immediately upon your return.

 

On the first day back, I’ve always sent an email to the clients and prospects I notified prior to leaving, and I let them know I am back and available. I want to confirm all of my meetings. It is good to get in early and review, mostly before others arrive, so you are prepared to get right back into the thick of it.

 

As a note of caution, I have watched sales people over the years skip the pre-vacation planning steps, and they become quickly overwhelmed upon their return. I’ve never witnessed anyone skip the pre-vacation planning steps and have an easy time getting back to work. Inevitably these sales folks feel overwhelmed. You’ll hear them say, “If I knew I’d have to deal with all of this, I wouldn’t have even bothered going on vacation”. I say, “You have no one to blame but yourself”.

 

A little planning and preparation goes a long way, especially when it comes time to be away from the office. Don’t fool yourself into believing everything will be OK, instead convince yourself everything will be OK because you planned accordingly, and ahead of time.

Vacation Back-up Plan - April 4, 2015

It is April 4th and I am on vacation with my family for Easter Break. I woke up this morning before everyone else, sat by the water, and began to check on a few emails and clean up my inbox. Today is actually my third day on vacation, and while I’ve been keeping an eye on email, I wanted to double check to make sure nothing slipped past me. This may sound funny, but a great feeling came over me as I checked on things from the office, while on vacation. You see, my back-ups at the office, well they have everything under control.

 

It really is a great feeling to be able to enjoy some time away from work, with the family, knowing that your fellow team members at the office have your back. But, here is the point to this week’s post – it doesn’t just happen – you have to have a plan in place before you leave.

 

As a sales person, you know you are not in a traditional 9-5 job, and your clients and prospects know this too. Before you leave for vacation you should take the following actions and then you will have peace of mind.

 

First of all, for a period of about 2 weeks ahead of your vacation you should make sure you reference your time away from the office to your clients and prospects every chance you get. You will not sound like a broken record, but rather, sincere that you care that your clients know your whereabouts. Second, make your clients and prospects are aware of the person they can contact while you are gone, and begin to Cc this person on your email correspondence. Then, with a few days remaining before your departure from the office, send emails to your clients and prospects reminding them of your time away, ask if they have any immediate needs for you, and again Cc your back-up. Lastly, make sure your Out of Office message and your voicemail message are detailed and very clear on who to contact in your absence and when you will return.

 

All of this may seem obvious, but in my experience, sales people always miss a step or two in this process, and then have to handle situations while on vacation. You deserve a break and can enjoy yourself even more knowing your team has your back. Plan carefully and everything will be fine in your absence.

Spring Is In The Air - March 28, 2015

It’s an old saying, “Spring is in the air”, and after a very cold winter I could not be happier. Warmer days are ahead. Blue skies and green grass. Baseball season is beginning and the golf courses will soon be open for business. You may be wondering what this has to do with sales. It is actually a very simple concept – customers are also excited that it is spring time and they are in a good mood. They are ready to buy.

 

For many years I have been a believer in seasonal selling behavior and have shared my experiences with other sales managers and sales trainers that agree. This is the best time of the year to sell your products or services to your clients or customers. Here’s why…

 

There is always the rush to the end of the calendar year, to spend what budget was left over, and to begin the New Year with renewed interest and spirit for your specific responsibilities. But, so often this feeling of renewal fades quickly because of the weather outside, or the realization that you have a long year ahead. However, in my experience, the best sense of renewal comes in late-March and carries into June. It is spring and the calendar tells us it is time for growth. And, generally speaking, people’s moods are much better. Pause for a moment and think about your own personal experiences. Aren’t you feeling more optimistic about your schedule right now?

 

Decision makers are human beings and they too are beginning to feel alive again after the long, cold winter. They have a sense of renewal and growth. They are excited to get outside and enjoy warmer days. And this feeling carries over into their professional roles and responsibilities. As a sales person you need to capitalize on this opportunity.

 

Do not be overbearing and constantly hound your clients, customers or prospects. Realize though that when you do make contact, if you are feeling alive and excited, they will too. This is a time for sharing your excitement about spring and also the opportunities you have available with your products and services. That feeling of excitement is contagious and will work to help you gain the interest of your target. Be excited, feel renewed, and sell.