Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

NAVIGATION - SEARCH

To My Wife-Happy Anniversary - October 14, 2017

She knows I love her. I tell her often and try to show it even more often. I care deeply for my wife. She is the mother of my three great kids. She is my rock and my support at home. But, I’m not sure she knows just how much her support means to me during the work day.

 

As a career sales person I have had to make sacrifices along the way. I’ve missed a kids activity to attend an evening work function. I’ve brought work home from the office only to sit at the kitchen table after dinner trying to stay on top of email and contracts. I’ve handled conference calls from a hotel room during a family vacation. And all along my wife has been their supporting me, never criticizing my career choice.

 

We all know that sales is not easy. Having a network of support is an absolute must to becoming an ‘A’ level sales person. It can be a family member, friend, even co-worker, but must also be your spouse (or significant other). I was recently sharing the story of a sales person that worked for me who’s spouse was not at all supportive. It was a real shame because Brett had solid sales skills.

 

Brett spent about a year in a sales role under my management. He knew the business and he knew how to communicate. Brett did not lack capability, but he did lack personal support. Brett’s wife did not like his career choice of salesman. In fact, she never gave him a pat on the back or a “congrats” when he closed a deal. She was, however, very quick to criticize him openly for losing a deal. She had no problems questioning his abilities as a sales person. She told him, in no uncertain terms, that she felt he was not a good husband or father because he did not close every single deal he bid on. She never understood sales herself so she made him question his career.

 

My wife has been the opposite. She has been my biggest cheerleader and never a critic. She offers her ear when I need to vent. She leaves me alone when I need quiet time. She reminds me that I am a good father and husband. She supports me today, as she did yesterday and the day before that, and my choice of sales as a career.

 

Every sales person needs to have someone standing behind them. Thank you to my wife for 18 years of marriage, through good times and bad, ups and downs, and for always being my real support when others weren’t there.

How's The Grass? part 1 of 2 - The Client - September 9, 2017

Nowadays, if you ask someone how the grass is, you may get an answer about the legalization of marijuana. But, for this post, let’s get back to the old saying that “the grass is not always greener on the other side”. I’ve experienced two scenarios recently that have provided me much food for thought in writing my blog. This week I am going to focus on the client that left because they believed the grass would be greener on the other side.

 

After a 9 year business relationship, as several previous posts have eluded to, I had a client leave me. There were several factors that weighed in their decision process, but admittedly, none more so than the addition of a new management team member. Regardless of our long-term relationship, she felt the need to come in and make her mark on the organization early on, and in doing so my firm was dismissed. Her approach was to make the owner and his right hand, those I had been working with weekly for years, question decisions I (and my firm) have made in our services to them. She had them, in very short timing, believing that it was time for a change and that said change should have been made a while ago, and that she had just the right firm to change over to.

 

Now, Cleveland being a small community, it didn’t take long for me to find out that she has several personal and extremely close relationships with management of this other firm. Pausing for a moment, let me point out that I am not at all bitter, rather I sincerely feel bad for my former client. They hired someone they believed would put their company’s interest before her own and in doing so sold them on the concept that the grass would be greener on the other side. Now, back to my story, she did not disclose to her new employer just how close she was to this other firm. Might this change have been in the works before she even got the job? Maybe.

 

The decision by my client was quick and abrupt. One day we were knee deep in work and the next we were dismissed. In fact, the owner didn’t even have the courtesy to call me and breakup, rather he sent me an email from the airport just prior to departing the country on business. It’s like breaking up with someone over text, kind of a chicken sh%t move. (Ok, maybe that was a little bitter.) Nevertheless, without much thought, my once active, long-term client was no longer my client.

 

It’s only been a few weeks since the change, but through the grapevine I am hearing that my client may be second-guessing their decision. Or, at the very least, wondering if they overreacted too quickly without much forethought. You see, as it turns out, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side.

 

In the time since my client left, the new firm has shown their lack of technical capabilities, in that they’ve never had such a complex client before. They’ve never built nor managed an e-commerce platform that competes on an international stage. And, they are uncertain on how to best maintain the platform. Moving on, they are also making the same marketing related recommendations that we were making for the better part of one year, and showing the client no signs of any unique skill sets. So, why then did the client make such a change?

 

Relationships and human nature kicked in and emotion drove a decision that the client likely now regrets. Think of it in personal terms for a moment. We’ve all been in relationships with a significant other that for some reason did not work out. Whether it was days, weeks, months or years, we’ve had a regret or two, and wondered what if. Why did the relationship come to an end? Was it you? Was it me? Was it us together? And, was it abrupt without much thought only that the grass must be greener on the other side?

 

I’m not suggesting that this old saying is right or wrong in every situation. There are certainly times where a departure of the same old-same old is necessary and the grass truly is greener on the other side. As a career sales person, it is my job to be focused and see clearly the warning signs of when such a change may be coming. And, it is my job to counsel the client on how such a decision may impact the relationship going forward and their business.

 

Would I invite my client back? Maybe. But, the ground rules have changed, as they’ve shown their true colors. Only time will tell.

Collaborative Selling - August 26, 2017

There are a variety of ways to sell a product or service and you’ve probably been taught more than one. For nearly twenty years I have been focused on relationship selling and consultative selling. A few years ago I found that blending the two and engaging the client more than not in the sales process leads to a different approach with higher levels of success: collaborative selling.

 

Collaborative selling is quite similar to relationship and consultative selling. The idea that the sales person converses with and doesn’t necessarily talk to the prospect reigns supreme in all of the approaches. When using relationship selling techniques, the core concept is to give the prospect a personal feeling for what it will be like to do business together. When using consultative selling, you are building a trusted relationship while serving as an expert advisor because in the instances you do know more than the prospect. Collaborative selling takes the key components of both approaches and brings the prospective client into the mix of the selling process. That’s right – they are helping you sell themselves.

 

Especially in professional services, and in most cases, the prospective client does know more about their own company, its history, and their clientele than you do. While they may need your help to overcome a problem or to expand their business, you need them too to help navigate through the knowledge they and others in the organization possess. So, if you need them to be a part of the engagement, why not have them be a part of the sales process.

 

My personal success with this approach is based upon the idea that I want long-term relationships with my clients. I don’t want one project or engagement, rather I want a client that will retain my firm for years of services. Knowing this is my primary goal brings me closer to the client throughout the sales process. I talk with them and not to them. I ask more and more questions. I ask for their help. I want them to share their knowledge and experiences. And, along the way, I will chime in with my expertise to say back, “I am listening and I can help”.

 

Collaborative selling takes a little longer and requires a little more patience than other approaches. You are not just building a relationship to close the deal, you are developing the foundation of a relationship that must work together for a longer period of time, a trusted relationship, that will achieve results. You are showing the prospect that you are their consultant with experience while at the same time letting them know they too are a valuable part of the engagement, and success is only achieved collaboratively.

 

And, finally, the prospective client should have a hand in outlining the proposal. Notice I did not say write the proposal, rather outline the proposal. In most cases of collaborative selling I will work through a series of summaries with the prospect in advance of the formal proposal, including pricing, so they have a say in the direction of the initial engagement, the timeframes, and ultimately what they can and/or are comfortable spending. Keeping in mind the goal is to work with the client long-term, I am generally more open to working with the client on their initial budget, knowing that I will retain them for a longer billing period of time.

Job Shadow - August 19, 2017

I participated in my first job shadow when I was in eighth grade. For a class assignment, I shadowed my father, a corporate attorney, for two days. My assignment was to observe and document what his day consisted of, such as meetings, luncheons, etc., and not so much any specific context of a particular meeting. I shadowed others in high school and college, both for class assignments, and for personal experience. And, now that I’m twenty-five years plus in my career, I’ve been shadowed a few times too.

 

Job shadowing can be fun for both the student and the employee. You get to show off a little bit, sharing stories, and in many ways trying to convince someone that your chosen profession is something they should consider for themselves. There is also another form of job shadowing, one that can take place between two employees, that can be enlightening and quite valuable to organizational performance.

 

Take the queue from the traditional job shadow, a sales person can and should spend a day or two shadowing their sales manager, but also the president of the company. When a sales person has an opportunity to watch and learn what takes place within their own organization, beyond their smaller perspective or daily grind, it enlightens them as to why their own role and decision making is so important. Sales people, by the nature of their chosen career path, enjoy the engagement of others. Conversation is a key to a sales person’s skill set. What better way to learn more about their own company and potential career advancement opportunities than to shadow those ahead of them. Conversing with these leaders while watching intently on what they do every day to drive company success can be more enlightening, and ultimately helpful, to a sales person than any other form of training.

 

Another approach to the job shadow is to do so during an interview process. How often do you bring in prospective sales candidates for a half or full day and allow them to shadow you? Not only will the candidate get firsthand experience on a “day in the life of”, you too will get firsthand experience of the candidate. You’ll have an opportunity to witness how this person interacts with others in the organization for whom they will be required to work with should you hire them. You can gauge their level of interest in what you do and how you do it based upon the type and volume of questions they ask. You’ll also glean some insight into their personality, more so than in an interview, especially since you will be spending so much time with them going forward. Will they be a cultural fit for the organization?

 

Consider the reasons you’ve either participated in or hosted a job shadow in the past. Now, consider what value this approach will have for your business today, and for your business in the future.

Top Down Change - July 8, 2017

Top down change is by no means a new concept in business. At its very basic premise top down change simply means that a decision is being made from the top, embraced by top management, and shall be implemented throughout the company beginning with management all the way down the line. Pretty straight forward, huh?

 

There is another version of top down change that is oftentimes not discussed in day-to-day business operations and certainly not the most pleasant of concepts. This version of top down change is removing and/or replacing your human equity all together, thus forcing change that may scare an organization to its core. However, if managed correctly, the outcome can be hugely successful.

 

I recently consulted with a client where such a change was the last resort. A shakeup to the organization so-to-speak. Jim, the ceo of a midsize manufacturing company, has seen little in the area of sales and revenue growth for well over one year. The sales team has been walking around with their heads held high, a bit of a chip on their shoulders, as if everything is fine. Revenue is flat and even on a year-to-date basis, yet the company goal is to grow nearly 25% over last year. Jim began to look at himself as to the cause for being flat. Was he not leading the company the right way? Was he not participating enough with the sales team? Was he not providing the proper leadership to his sales manager, Neal?

 

Jim worked with his other management team members and his outside advisors constantly trying to determine the “why’s” of what was happening from a sales standpoint. More and more the answers were coming back that Neal, although a good sales person and seemingly good guy, was not a good sales manager. And, his poor leadership qualities, and the lack of mentoring he was providing his team was the root cause for the lack of sales. He led his sales people to believe they were doing fine. He managed by numbers with no emotion. Neal would often say “keep making your calls, make your numbers, and everything will happen in time”. However, he did not teach (or coach) his sales team to push down on the gas pedal, or to change up their individual styles when making calls. Neal may have been a good sales person, but not a good leader, and he allowed his sales team to become complacent. And, the sales people didn’t seem to care.

 

Jim gave Neal and the sales team several months of his own coaching starting with team huddles every two weeks, moving to every week, and then twice per week. He shared stories from customers, stories from other departments from within the company, all based around the need to enhance overall sales performance. Days and weeks went by all the while Jim growing more and more frustrated. The sales team was not responsive to what was becoming clear: sales were now declining.

 

The day finally came in early-May when Jim, his fellow executive team (not including Neal) and his advisors realized they needed to make a change. This would not be a pleasant change in the beginning, but if executed properly, a change that would turn the company back toward positive sales and an increase in revenue. A top down change was needed.

 

Jim engaged a professional recruiting agency with experience in his industry. He utilized this firm to select a new sales manager and two new sales team members. He then made the top down change a reality. In keeping with his planned two-a-week meetings with Neal and the sales team, Jim walked into the conference room right on schedule like many meetings prior, with one exception. His executive team was with him.

 

In a swift and deliberate move Jim announced that Neal and his sales team were all done as of that moment. They were fired. Jim explained that meeting after meeting with the sales team had been documented. Performance charts were being tracked. Communication with clients was being had by the executives and the clients were ready to buy but were not being contacted by the sales rep. Each sales person, including Neal, had failed not only the company, but themselves. It had been obvious for a long time that they were the wrong team for this company. A top down change was needed and a top down change was happening.

 

This approach to top down change can be and is dramatic. It is a last resort toward making needed improvements. Now, nearly sixty days later, Jim could not be more pleased with the new sales team. In his words “they get it”. Client communication is improving, the new sales team members are excited about their roles and the prospects ahead, and revenue has already begun to increase.

Hand Grenade Complacency - May 27, 2017

Close your eyes for a moment and visualize, if you will, a scene from a movie or television show: a hand grenade is thrown into a group and the reaction is to scramble and get the hell out of the way. Everyone in the scene knows it will explode. They don’t want to be in the way, so they get a burst of energy and move, no matter how exhausted they might be.

 

It is the latter part of the description that you should hang on to for this post. I’m not insinuating that you, as a sales manager, should blow up your team. Instead, metaphorically speaking, you may need to give them a jolt from time-to-time. I’ve been there before, it’s not always pleasant, but it does work. Here’s what I mean.

 

Complacency in sales is terrible and can be detrimental to your entire company if not addressed swiftly. Sometimes complacency sets in when the sales team feels like everything is going just fine. Complacency can also set in with one person and become contagious whereas the other sales team members begin to make excuses based on the actions of one person. Complacency tends to never come into play with ‘A’ level sales people, but then again it is rare to find an entire sales team made up of 100% ‘A’ level sales folks. So, what is a sales manager to do when complacency creeps into his or her team? Throw a hand grenade into their circle.

 

They need to be jolted alive. They need a wakeup call. They need to realize they are being complacent and that complacency is not normal in sales. And, to give them this awareness or awakening, they need a shock to the system. I reached out to a few friends in sales management for ideas on how they throw hand grenades at complacency.

 

Jim has been in enterprise-level software sales for 27 years. He’s been in sales management for the past 10 while also being the lead sales person (individually) each year. He noticed, not too long ago, that 8 of his 12 sales reps appeared to be going through the motions. Sales were neither slower than normal or better than normal, but their activity was decreasing. Meetings were not being scheduled with prospective clients or existing clients. Client entertainment was minimal. When he asked his reps how things were going the standard answer was status quo. Yet, he and the other 4 reps were increasing sales. They were getting prospective and existing clients to meet where discussions on upgrades were taking place. Jim became very tired very quickly of the obvious complacency with the rest of his team, so he threw a hand grenade into their daily routine. Jim contacted the top client for each of the 8 complacent reps and scheduled 8 face-to-face meetings. He was able to do this all in one day. When scheduling the meetings he also made sure his reps would be available to attend. The next morning was their mid-week sales meeting. Jim announced to his team the meetings that were scheduled with their clients, he set an agenda for each meeting, and he explained that these meetings were not difficult to schedule. In fact, the clients were anxious. He then sent the entire sales team home for the day with one question to ponder: “if you want to be in sales, if you want to return tomorrow and keep this job, come back in the morning prepared to discuss the ways in which we’ll never be complacent again”.

 

Maria manages a small sales team of 3 people for her family owned manufacturing company. Although the organization may seem small, the components they make are used in high definition radiology scanners. Her team had a tremendous year in 2016 adding several new clients and increasing sales from existing clients. However, the first quarter of 2017 did not keep pace. In her words, “my reps were still hungover from the success of 2016”. But, she wasn’t. She knew there were more opportunities with prospects and existing clients. And, of the 3 sales people, one really didn’t seem too concerned about slowing down. Complacency was okay by him because he was basking in the success from months ago. His commissions were still rolling in and he felt he could turn on his sales jets whenever he wanted. So, as both the sales manager and an owner in the business, Maria threw a grenade at the sales team. Becoming frustrated with the lackadaisical attitude of the one complacent sales rep more than the others, she went on her own mission to meet with and sell to his top three prospects. Without announcing her plans, she spent one week traveling to Indiana and Michigan, met with all three prospects, secured sales (PO’s) from all three, and quietly traveled back to her home office in Columbus, Ohio. The grenade was thrown the following Monday morning when she announced to the sales team her success from the week before. The complacent sales rep was visibly upset by what he called “back door tactics”. He felt she stole these prospects from him. He called her a lousy sales manager and demanded to meet with her brother, the president of the company, unaware that he was on the conference phone the entire time. Maria simply asked one question…”why did I close these deals and you didn’t?” He couldn’t answer the question and was subsequently terminated for lack of performance. He went from being the star of the show in 2016 to being a lazy bum in 2017. He didn’t feel motivated to continue his successes. He let complacency take over. And, with one week of visits, Maria showed her organization and the remaining 2 sales people that complacency has no place in a growth oriented company.

 

Maria’s case may be a drastic example. However, it happens every day in sales. Good sales managers, like ‘A’ level sales people, can recognize when someone (or a team) is becoming complacent. Stop it before it sets in otherwise you’ll need to throw a grenade at them.

Closing With A No - May 13, 2017

As a sales person there is nothing I find more frustrating than waiting on an answer from a prospective client. Think about it this way, you’ve put in your time throughout the sales process, meetings have gone well, the prospective client has asked for a proposal, and then nothing. Silence. No return calls. No replies to your emails. They’ve gone dormant.

 

These things happen. You don’t want them to happen, but they do. And, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in sales or how great your closing rate is, the dormant prospect scenario still happens. So, what do you do about it?

 

Although we all want the prospective client to say yes, to sign the agreement, to become an active client, a no is still a close. So, make a no answer your goal. Chase the client down and ask them to say no. At this point you are probably wondering if I’ve lost my mind. Sometimes I wonder that myself, but more when it comes to being a father of teenagers, and not from a sales management perspective. Indulge me for a moment and you’ll soon see where I’m coming from.

 

Whether you use a CRM system to track your prospect activity, a simple spreadsheet, or even a notebook, you have a list of prospective clients holding proposals. If you’re like me, you want to move through your list in a fair amount of time, opening new opportunities and closing those you’ve been working on for some time. This is where a close becomes a close regardless of yes or no.


Time is valuable. Time is money. Time is precious and should not be wasted. Time, time, time. Every attempt to reach a prospective client in hopes they will respond with a yes, only to receive nothing in return, is a waste of your time. This is time you could be using to contact other prospects, writing other proposals, or entertaining existing clients in an effort to drive more business.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that as a sales person, we must sometimes play the chase game to nail down the prospective client. And, sometimes they genuinely feel terrible for not responding sooner, but regardless, you still need to efficiently manage your time, your organizations expectations, and the client communication process. When you get to the point of feeling frustrated and you’ve given the closing attempts due process, give this approach a try. I call it “No Close 3 In 1”.

 

This is a simple concept that only requires you, as the sales person, the willingness to walk away from the sale. My goal is to obtain a no answer from the prospective client in 3 scheduled communication attempts in 1 week. After the third attempt, I mark the proposal closed, schedule 1 follow-up note for 1 month out, and then close the account altogether.

 

The first attempt is a voicemail along the lines of “Ms. Smith I’ve been trying to reach you for days/weeks now to finalize our agreement and have not heard back from you. Please call me as soon as possible even if your decision is a no, thank you”. A few days later follow up with an email similar to – Dear Ms. Smith: I’m dropping you a brief note to follow up on my voicemail from a few days ago. I’ve been trying to reach you, but have been unsuccessful. It seems like everything was going well in an effort for us to work together, but now it seems I may be wrong. Although I’ll be disappointed if your answer is no, at least I will then know to move along and stop bothering you. Please get back to me at your earliest convenience. Thank you, Kevin. And, if these two attempts fail, then go to the US Mail approach, and send a formal letter. Rather than write this out in its entirety, here’s a synopsis: thank you for your time recently; it seems we’re not a fit as we initially thought; I am going to close this opportunity for now but could always re-open in the future if you’d like; please don’t hesitate to call me if you need anything; pleasant closing and another thank you; mail it.

 

Move on sales person, move on. You need to put some closure to this opportunity, shift your time and attention to your other sales responsibilities, and don’t look back. Well, one time look back, and then close it for good. The one time you should look back is about a month or so after you mailed the final letter. Give the contact a call. By conversation or voicemail just ask how things are going, if they ever made a decision with another firm, and remind them that you’re there if they need you. Be pleasant, say thanks again, and move on.

 

Remember, a no answer to a proposal is still a close. It may not be the close you want, but a close is a close, and you can shift your time toward getting the type of close you really want – a yes close.

Disconnect To Recharge - April 15, 2017

It's the time of year where vacations increase. Many grade school aged children have a week or so off for spring break and so many parents take time to travel. Gearing up for vacation can be a stressful time for many executive and sales people. The thought of being away from the office, away from email, or away from the telephone for any extended period of time, creates a feeling that something will happen while you’re gone or something will not get done as it should. Now, I’m sure your immediate reaction is, take your smartphone with you. You can go on vacation and remain connected to work, your employees, your clients, etc. But, I challenge you with this question, are you truly enjoying your time with your family and are you recharging your own battery?

 

We live in a connected world. Not only do we connect to social media, news media, email, text, files in the office, telephone call calls, etc. all from our handheld devices, at some point those devices need to have their batteries charged. We plugin or connect, re-juice the battery, and away we go with our connected world. Sometimes we are too connected. I’m as guilty as the next parent in the case of pulling out my smartphone during one of my kid’s sporting events. I’ve checked Facebook or answered a text from an employee while awaiting my turn at the annual parent-teacher meeting. It bothers me, it really does, but I’m connected.

 

I learned a hard lesson about six years ago when I went on vacation with my wife and children and stayed connected. Not every day, but every other day, I connected to my office. I checked email, called my assistant, worked on a contract, and even skipped an event with the kids to talk with a prospect via conference call. That did not sit well…with me. I realized that vacation was stressing me out more than being in the office. I was trying to make sales calls, close deals, while spending time on the beach with my young children. I saw it in their eyes…c’mon dad finish up so we can do things with you. I vowed during that trip to change.

 

From that point on I vowed to limit my connectivity to the digital world around me. I disconnected to recharge. I’m not sure I coined this phrase or overheard it from someone else, but I’ve used it ever since. I’m an early-riser and so on subsequent vacations I would only check email once per day early in the morning before others were awake. I turned off automatic email notifications and forced myself to login. I also turned the phone off during the day. Whether sitting on a beach in Florida or skiing in Utah, what phone call could I receive that would be more important that the time I was spending in those moments with my family. It was easier to do than I initially thought. Like eating potato chips though, you need to have the willpower to NOT check your phone constantly.

 

A few weeks back I was talking with my friend Jonathan. Jonathan has done some traveling with his family, a vacation here and there, but now that his kids are older, they are going on a “real spring break”. Jonathan was a bit nervous to leave for a full week. He was anxious and looking forward to the trip, so he said, but he was very busy with work. It seems he was trying to plan ahead for being gone, but as each day passed the workload increased, not decreased. My advice to Jonathan was this: do what you can before you go, the rest will be waiting when you return, and if you really want to relax and enjoy your family time, disconnect to recharge.

 

Jonathan didn’t wait for his return to work to call me, he called me on his drive home from the airport, and all he said was “thanks”. Apparently, the idea of disconnecting to recharge worked out. The first day or two was a little difficult. The kids were fighting with each other and he had a hard time relaxing at first. Then, before he knew it, all was peaceful. He had a great trip and spent time with his kids playing and exploring. He checked in with his office from time-to-time, but never during the day or evening when it was family time. He disconnected to a point he called “98.9%”. Well, that is a lot more than he thought would happen.

 

In our ultra-connected world, it really is okay to disconnect here and there, especially if it means you’ll recharge your own battery. Plan ahead for your downtime. Turn off the outside noise or influences, realize your own business world will not stop because you’re gone for a few days. And relax (or try your best to relax). Disconnect to recharge.

In Sales There 's No Such Thing As Secret Sauce - March 11, 2017

One small indulgence I give myself is watching the food shows. Some of my favorites travel from city to city and state to state visiting diners and little holes-in-wall. I’ve always preferred a local greasy spoon to a high-end steak joint. So naturally I gravitate to these shows. Every so often I get drawn in to the explanation by the chef as they describe the recipe and how to’s in putting a dish together. I’m never afraid to try something in the kitchen, and by watching these shows, I will give these new dishes a shot.

 

Every so often though, just when I’m getting excited about a new food item, the chef blurts out – it’s a secret sauce (or secret ingredient), and my frustration kicks in. How dare you get my taste buds so excited and then shut me down. Then I laugh and move on to something else on my honey-do list.

 

I thought about these food shows the other day when being solicited by a “sales coach” who wanted to pitch me on using his services. He wants me to hire him to bring a “secret sauce recipe” to my sales team. Once again I laughed and moved on to something else on my (business) honey-do list.

 

When it comes to sales, there is no secret sauce, and you will be hard pressed to prove otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe there is a time and place to seek sales training, but even with the biggest sales training programs out there, think Sandler Sales Institute as an example, the training is based around management of real world processes in business. Sandler doesn’t necessarily have a secret sauce, instead they have a teaching style, and those who learn from Sandler learn methods that can be applied in a variety of sales settings.

 

Although I am Sandler trained, I’m not a spokesman, rather an observer of the sales world around me. Over the course of my 23 year career I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in a variety of third-party training programs and I’ve also taught many on my own.

 

Selling, at its core, is about building a relationship with someone. Nothing more, nothing less. Is there a secret sauce to dating? Is there a secret sauce to starting a new school? Is there a secret sauce to interviewing for a new job? Some may say yes, but I say no. Implying that you need a secret sauce to be successful in relationships, at least to me, is a sad testament to our culture. Instead, I would prefer to guide sales people toward training that is grounded in openness.

 

A short post this week, but one I felt the need to write. Not only have I been contacted lately by the snake oil salesman pitching his secret sauce to sales training success, many of my colleagues have as well. Successful sales people can be trained. Successful sales people can learn new techniques. But, truly successful sales people, the ‘A’ level sales people, know there is no secret sauce. Their success comes from building relationships with their prospects and clients, managing those relationships with care, and sticking to traditional fundamentals of selling. Remember the old saying, if it seems too good to be true, it likely is.

Blending Tactics - February 25, 2017

I sound like a broken record at times. I continue to preach about sales tactics from my point of view, which in most cases, is based upon a successful track record. Recently though, I’ve been accused of being “old school” when describing what works and what doesn’t work, because I don’t often cover topics related to social media, texting, etc. Being told that “that’s your opinion” or “your point of view on sales is outdated” generally doesn’t sit well with me. One person even went so far as to say I was “out of touch with the reality of today’s digital marketplace”. Of course, this same person has less than 20% of the sales opportunities I currently have with clients and prospective clients. And, it has now become a bit of a hot topic in my office.

 

There is no right or wrong way to deal with sales communication. Sales, however, cannot be built upon a single approach to communication, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any ‘A’ level sales person that says so. It requires a blending of tactics. In the recent conversation’s I’ve been a part of, I have been accused of being singularly focused on the cold call, in that I believe it is the only way to open doors. This could not be further from the truth. But, the lessons learned by a sales person in the cold calling process are invaluable and will last them their entire career. Yet, so many younger or newer sales people roll their eyes at the idea of cold calling, and then try to circumvent this tactic and find short cuts.

 

I consider myself the king of the phrase “touch points” in my office. Touch points with target clients requires more than just picking up the telephone. It requires email, traditional letters, telephone calls, face-to-face meetings, and yes even a text message here and there. I’ve even used Facetime and Skype over the years to blend digital communication with face-to-face meetings.

 

I’m not an old curmudgeon that believes we need to go back to door-to-door sales or faxing order sheets to customers. I’ve been there, done that, but do believe again there are lessons learned that make me an ‘A’ level sales person today. From my so called “days of old” I learned patience. Quick sales lead to quick losses. I have watched many a sales person become victim to this scenario more times than I would like. Yet, some continue to seek the quick hit answers to what may be a longer sales process.

 

As I ponder over this post, some frustration overcomes me. I am reminded of an uncle I was quite fond of growing up. Rick was a very smart guy. He was the guy that would be reading two, three, sometimes four books at a time, ranging from philosophy to crime drama to business how to’s. He could rebuild an engine on a ’69 Mustang as easily as he could whip up a five-course gourmet dinner. He was a great guy too. Fun to be around would be putting the description mildly. He was the ultimate sales guy.

 

Unfortunately, Rick was always looking for an easy sale or a quick buck. Throughout my childhood and into my early career, Rick started and closed eleven different businesses. Nothing had staying power because Rick never followed traditional sales tactics. It wasn’t that he didn’t understand traditional selling, rather he knew the tactics quite well, instead he chose to skip this step or that step. He refused to make cold calls and deemed them too much of a time investment. It would take too long to fill his pipeline. He constantly tried different approaches to gaining clients, but ultimately failed in his efforts. Rick is retired now and doing okay. He lives a modest life in Baltimore near family and friends. On the surface, he seems content. Under the surface, he has regrets. I know because he’s told me. He wishes he would have been much more patient, stayed the course, learned from those that had successfully gone before him, and “desperately wishes he would not have cut corners or tried to always find short cuts to success”. He never learned and mastered the basic tactics of selling which never led to the blending of tactics to increase his overall sales.

 

In the world of sales, regardless of what product or service you are selling, there’s really no such thing as old school versus new school. There are basic principles of sales, proper pathways to success, blending of all tactics throughout the sales process, and patience. The greatest of all sales tactics is patience.