Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Right Person, Wrong Seat - March 2, 2019

On so many occasions I’ve written about the hiring and firing process pertaining to sales people. I was recently counseling a sales manager on a similar yet slightly different topic. He has a young lady in a sales role that seems to be a fantastic employee but who does not seem to be a good fit for the outside sales role. She gets along well with the other sales people, members of her entire organization, and clients like her. However, her confidence drops when she has to either “cold call” or “go in for the close”. In the sales managers words, “she’s one hell of an account manager, but we don’t employee account managers”.


This is a perfect example of right person, wrong seat. Wouldn’t we all love to have an employee like this, one that both your coworkers and clients like to do business? It is not always a tough yes/no decision. In this case my colleague can have the right person, he simply needs to develop the right seat.


In his case, while the company has never employed an account manager, I’ve encouraged him and his fellow executives to add this role specifically for her. Imagine what positive impacts she will have on the business as a whole when she no longer needs to be worried about cold calling or closing a new deal. Letting this young lady do what she does best will net results. Repeat orders, addressing customer concerns professionally with empathy, and supporting sales people who are good at cold calling and closing but don’t necessarily enjoy the account management side will allow them to grow too.


Having never had this role in their organization before, my colleague was concerned about how to develop the position, manage the person, and how this role could grow over time. This was probably the easiest part of the answer. It lies within the existing dynamics. She already reports to him, this doesn’t need to change. She loves these elements of the job, the account management tasks, so just let her develop the role as she feels is in the best interest of the company and the clients. And, if this proves to be a good move not only for her but for the company, then let her develop a team and manage it.


There is a lot of good that can come from having the right person in the organization even if it means you have to create the right seat for them. They will be excited and motivated. They will be loyal and dedicated to the cause. They will be appreciative to you and their coworkers for placing such trust in them. And, they will rise to the occasion, not wanting to disappoint, and will potentially change your organization from a revenue / business growth standpoint. 

Getting Paid - February 23, 2019

Q: Kevin, I have recently had several new customers change payment terms on me after contracts are signed. Do you have any advice on how I can get paid on my terms?


A: Ah yes, the wonderful world of payment terms. This is truly one of those topics that I do not enjoy discussing, but it must be addressed on an almost every day basis now. How a sales person deals with this topic can frame a great deal of the business relationship.


Sales people, unfortunately, are almost never trained or taught to address payment terms with a prospect or customer. In most cases I have found sales people are just told what their company terms are and do not discuss it further. When a customer brings the subject up, which seems to be after contracts are signed, the customer takes control and states what their payment policy is – period. This frustrates me because in most cases their terms are much longer than your terms thus extending you and them.


Sales people should address getting paid as part of the sales process. You should present your payment terms at the same time you are presenting the price of goods or services. You should ask the customer if they are acceptable to your terms or if they have something required on their end. Payment for your goods or services should be, if needed, negotiated, agreed upon in signature, and then held to this standard going forward.


Payment terms, at times, cannot be negotiated, and may need to be on the customers terms only. If this is the case, and your company is acceptable to these terms, they should still be agreed upon in writing as part of your contract. There should be penalties for failure to make timely payments. The customer must be agreeable to signing on these terms, especially if you are accepting their schedule.

A Question From The Audience - February 16, 2019

Sales is a game, and similar to any game of sport, once you realize how to play the better you’ll become. And, practice is just as important in sales as in football or lacrosse. But, no matter how much you practice, you can never be fully prepared for the unexpected. In football, for example, you may fumble the ball on the five-yard line and turn it over to the other team. In lacrosse you may step over the midfield line and be called for an offsides just as your team was gaining momentum. In sales, you may get the unexpected question from the audience, which could throw the balance of the sales pitch in the favor of the prospect.


What I call questions from the audience are oftentimes the ones you least expect, ones that may not make much sense to the topic at hand, but could change the dynamics of your presentation or pitch. It may simply be a question you weren’t expecting or even a question you don’t necessarily find timed right.


The key to answering questions from the audience is composure. An ‘A’ level sales rep knows what I mean by composure. More times than not a question from the audience may simply be thrown your way to shake you a bit during the sales process. The prospect, like a member of an audience when you’re giving a speech, may try to rattle your cage to throw you off your game. Composure is treating the questions from the audience as par for the course, even if you are not entirely comfortable answering the questions being asked.


For example, I was recently in the final pitch to a new client, when out of nowhere the chairman of the company joined the meeting. He had no idea what portion of the potential project we were discussing, nor did he care. He abruptly walked in which seemed to surprise his own team and asked me one question: what makes you any different than anyone else we’ve worked with in the past? I believe I handled the situation rather well and simply paused before briefly explaining who my firm is, why we’re different, our expertise, and most importantly our guarantee. That sealed the deal. Right in front of my eyes he grabbed the contract from his vice president of marketing and signed it.


This gentleman had already done his homework on me and my firm. He had previewed the proposal before my arrival. He had already decided to sign the contract before walking into our meeting. But, he wanted to rattle my cage and see if I could answer the most basic yet important question from the audience in order to seal the deal.


Back to my earlier comment, you can only practice so much, not knowing what may happen in the course of the sales game. I encourage you to practice composure as much as the knowledge of what you are selling and to whom.

Control Your Sales Process - February 9, 2019

Who is in control of your sales process? Is it you or your prospect? Why does it matter so long as you get the close?


The answer to the last question is the most important and drives the answers to the other two. Absolutely, it matters who is in control even if you get the close, because it will set the stage for all remaining deals to come. And, if the prospect or customer is in control, well then you are not and that is a big problem.


Who chooses the delivery dates for your products or services? Who sets the price? Who chooses the payment terms? I must implore you to remain in control of your sales process. Certainly, there are negotiating factors that come into play, such as discounts on shorter payment terms, but those discounts must be offered by you and not just given to the prospect or customer upon request. 10NET30 may not be a setting in your accounting system, so how will you account for this discount if you cave and give it to the customer? What if the prospect is putting a lot of pressure on you to start the project next week and you say yes? Doesn’t do you any good if your project team is already booked out for the next two weeks. You gave in and said yes to a request that you had no control over and now you must either convince your team to make an accommodation in their schedule or you need to ask the customer for forgiveness in that you cannot actually start their project for two weeks.


Being in control of your sales process does not mean you need to be hard-nosed throughout the entire engagement. Nor does it give you license to be a cocky jerk with a “my way or no way” attitude. Being in control simply means being transparent. Your price is your price. Your terms are your terms. You can start their project as soon as your team has availability in their calendar. Your customer will buy from you if they believe you are the best fit and will appreciate the honesty and transparency of your sales process.


Being in control also means that you are in control from day one. There is no reason to work through the sales process in shadows up until the closing process only then to become transparent with your prospect or customer. In other words, be as open, honest, and transparent on the first day or the sales process as you would be asking for the signature or PO#.

True Value - February 2, 2019

True value, no not the hardware store, but your true value is a business asset that should never be taken for granted. Unfortunately, all too often we do not place enough true value on ourselves, our time, our knowledge, or our company, and clients may take advantage of this situation. While I do believe there are certain clients that will take advantage of you at every turn, something about the way they do business, not everyone will take advantage of you intentionally. You may be equally at fault for allowing someone to take advantage because not only do they not grasp your true value, you don’t understand your true value either.


What do I mean by true value? Take for example, in the world of professional services, that a client will hire you for your knowledge, experience, and capability to execute in a manner for which they lack the same skill set. Your true value is a multiple (or x factor) of the following: your education and credentials, years of experience in dealing with similar challenges, and possessing the knowledge on how to execute a solution to the client’s problem. What happens then, after the client hires you, when they want you to change the manner in which you work? They want you to adapt to their environment rather than working within your own. They begin by asking and later demand that you “teach” them what you are doing and how you are doing it. They do not place any value on your experience and capabilities, and if you allow them to exude such behavior, then you too do not know your true value.


Sales people are pleasers. Sales people want to please their clients by providing a product or service that meets their needs. Sales people want to please their management by closing at or above their set quota and want to bring good clients to the company. Sales people, first and foremost, must always know their true value or what they bring to the table. In doing so, they will be much better prepared to hold steady throughout the sales process, thus not allowing the client to take advantage of them or their company. Clients too, when dealing with a sales person that truly knows their true value in the negotiating process, will treat the sales process with a great level of respect, enthusiasm, and will appreciate how the deal gets done.


Know who you are, what you stand for, the knowledge you possess and that this knowledge is not free to others, and you will gain a greater perspective on your own true value. Be confident but not cocky. Be sincere and empathetic with your client. Trust that displaying your true value will be appreciated and in return you will gain a great amount of success.

Do As I Say Not As I Do Should Not Exist - January 19, 2019

I am now forty-seven years old and the phrase “do as I say and not as I do” has been around long before I was born. I remember my uncle, who smoked like a chimney, use this phrase with me as a child. I had a lacrosse coach that was overweight and couldn’t run a 100 yard dash preach to us about conditioning and used this phrase at every practice. I had a manager in my early career constantly attempting to coach us younger sales people, but would never lead by example, and always fell back on this phrase. I even used it myself once a few years ago with my son. However, I quickly said, “what the hell am I doing”, and I sat down with my son for a longer conversation.


The phrase “do as I say and not as I do” should not exist….ever. At the core it is saying that I can talk the talk but cannot walk the walk. Or, in sales, it’s saying I am lucky and can’t really sell by virtue of real sales training or practices. And, that folks is the real shame in using such a phrase in the first place and why it should not exist.


The bottom line is this, if you want someone to follow your advice, then you must be able to lead by example. Eat your own dog food so goes another phrase. In other words, success can and should breed success. A successful sales person should be in a position to lead others by their own successful actions and not simply words alone. I had a mentor say to me “bad habits be damned”. Everyone has a bad habit or two. We’re all human, but bad habits are just that, bad habits, and they should be damned. Bad habits should be acknowledged and corrected.


If you use the phrase “do as I say and not as I do”, besides leading by poor example, what are you also telling yourself? I have found over my many years of managing people that those that use this phrase are also liars, not necessarily to other people, but to themselves. These are the people that tend to be successful ‘B’ level sales people but struggle to break through their own ceiling and reach ‘A’ level status. These are individuals who complain about being overweight but order the double cheeseburger for lunch. These individuals tend to congratulate their peers for promotions but oftentimes ponder out loud why they’ve been passed over even though they hit their sales numbers.


Look around you or maybe even in the mirror. How often do you hear this phrase? What does hearing this phrase do to your mood or attitude? Look a little deeper at the person saying it and ask yourself if you truly believe this person has reached their own potential. What might be holding them back? As you ask yourself these questions do one more thing, look around for the successful sales person that never uses this phrase. Identify this individual and engage them in conversation. Now ask them why they don’t use it. Ask them what has been a driving factor in their success. Engage those who cannot only talk the talk but who can walk the walk.

When A Leader Falls Behind - January 12, 2019

While I typically write about sales or sales management, and in many cases sales management can be an example within this week’s post, managers (i.e. Leaders) in any areas of business can be the target. Starting a new year off should bring about a positive attitude and level of excitement that is contagious within your organization. But, what happens when a leader falls behind?


I am working through this scenario now, where a business unit leader I know quite well is falling behind in her organization. Not only am I seeing a shift in her attitude, from genuinely enthusiastic and optimistic, to being more worried about new business coming in, almost to the point of panicking. Yet, her counterpart in the business unit is thriving, and could not be more excited about the growth of their organization. Is she afraid of growth? Or, is she afraid she cannot handle / manage the growth?


Having watched this scenario unfold for the past six months I believe we are witnessing a case of someone that is simply not equipped to be in a leadership position in a rapidly growing market. She is by no means a bad employee nor is she a bad person. Quite the opposite in fact. However, while many within her organization will speak highly of her technical qualifications, the same cannot be said about her leadership skills. Unfortunately, this is clearly a situation where she should be task focused on client work, and thus removed from a leadership role. So, what comes next?


As referenced above there is a counterpart in a co-leadership role within this organization. While I have been working with their CEO over the past few months, it is evident to this gentlemen that he should be rewarded for his knowledge, work ethic, and management capabilities by being given the single-lead role. I say he is aware because instead of boasting about how good he is, he is the epitome of team player. He continues to show support for his co-leader while he takes the lead in tough conversations and detailed business decision making.


Their team members have shown their growing level of respect and trust for him as well by their own actions. They seem to rely on his advice and guidance more than his co-leader. This is being witnessed throughout the organization. And, the CEO for whom I am engaged by, he too leans more on one versus the other.


In processing the circumstances, I have recommended a promotion for the one co-leader to become the main, single leader of the entire business unit. I am not suggesting a demotion or termination for the other, rather a shift in responsibility. It is best to have the right person in the right seat on the bus. To do so requires the CEO to make adjustments from time-to-time and will afford this woman the ability to put her skills to work where they are best suited. Relieving her of her leadership responsibilities may have a negative fallout and she may resign. That is a risk this organization must take in order to ensure the right leader is in the right seat. However, she may also breathe a sigh of relief and her work product may improve.


The moral of the story is this – leadership roles in any organization are too critical to allow the wrong person to be in the right seat – or the right person to be in the wrong seat. It must be addressed quickly in order to minimize the downsides of this wrong leader being in a seat they are simply not suited to be in.

The New Year and The Next Better Version of Myself - January 5, 2019

One of my favorite authors, Matthew Kelly, for whom I’ve referenced in several past posts, often talks about striving to be a better version of yourself. This is certainly not a new concept nor a concept or phrase that Matthew coined, rather this is a time tested personal methodology. I call it a methodology, even though that may be a slight misuse of the word, because a methodology is a practice or a management technique. And, in my humble opinion, striving to be a better version of yourself is just that, a personal management methodology.


As I wrapped up 2017 and went into 2018 I had the best of intentions to grow my business, do a better job at attending church on a more consistent basis, work on my marriage and fathering skills, engage my family and friends more, and enhance my overall health through nutritional and exercise practices.


Now I begin 2019 having accomplished many of my goals, coming close with some, and completely missing the mark on a few others. My business grew at a slower pace than anticipated due to a very poor hiring decision that I take full responsibility. While I did turn the ship around, I was at the helm nonetheless, and now must make up for this oversight. My relationship with my wife and children is stronger, in part because my kids are getting older, and my wife and I are headed toward our 20-year wedding anniversary. I tried very hard not to make excuses for engaging friends and family, even when I was having long weeks. And, while I still have a way to go with my personal health plan, I am further along than anticipated.


I’m sharing this update because, as Matthew Kelly says, you can never stop working on becoming a better version of yourself. Waking early each morning I have a personal conversation with myself. I review who I was and what I did yesterday; and, I ponder on the day ahead in terms of who I want to be and what I need to do. In each statement I seek to be a better version of myself.


Asking questions and being 100% honest with my answers is the key. Did I do the right thing for myself or my family or my business? Was I being fair to the person I was engaged with in conversation, negotiation or debate? Am I following a moral compass and being ethical? Am I acting in a way that is in the best interest of all involved? Was I respectful?


My goals for 2019 may seem in many ways like a repeat from 2018, but in an effort to commit myself to becoming a better version of myself on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis, I must set these goals in writing for all to see and hold myself accountable. In order to be a better version of myself I will grow my company both in terms of revenue and profitability. I will assist my management team in hiring the most qualified and culturally fitting candidates. I will strive to add new clients that share my company’s outlook and values.


On a personal level I will continue to work on my personal relationships including with my wife, kids, friends and family. I will strive to turn the other cheek when someone insults me. I will look for the good in others and not their own shortcomings – because no one is perfect – especially me. And, I continue my commitment toward improved health through diet-nutritional management and planning, as well as daily exercise.


Becoming a better version of myself is not easy and the job is never done. A daily grind, so-to-speak, and a challenge I am certainly up for. I encourage all of those around me to become better versions of themselves, and through this post I encourage you to do the same. Read Matthew Kelly if you need guidance in this area. He will not disappoint.

Goodbye 2018-Hello 2019 - December 29, 2018

Well, here we are at the conclusion of another year. I am writing this final post of 2018 sitting on my balcony overlooking the ocean in Florida. I don’t share this to make anyone jealous but as a reminder that it’s important to recharge the batteries every once in a while.


2018 has been another interesting year for me both personally and professionally. On the personal side I’ll keep it simple – my kids are getting older. We began looking at colleges for my son this year. Yep, I’m feeling a little old. It has been a good year and one that I feel lucky and blessed. Me, my wife, and my children have made another trip around the sun in healthy fashion. We’ve enjoyed quality time together as well as with friends and family. We did some traveling at the best times, when we all needed to recharge our batteries, and stayed close to home when the Cleveland weather couldn’t have been better.


2018 from a business standpoint was a bit of a roller coaster ride. I made a bad hire about a year ago which I didn’t fully realize until late spring of this year. By then there was some sales damage that, even though I worked hard to overcome, I did not fully clean up until December. The year finished strong which I am excited about because 2019 will start strong. At my fulltime gig we gained two dozen new clients. In my freelance work I had the opportunity to counsel several fantastic organizations and individuals.


Onward and upward as the old saying goes. As my batteries are being recharged so is my spirit. As an old dog I’m not afraid to learn a few new tricks. I plan to take my experiences gained throughout 2018 and apply the lessons learned, the new tricks so to speak, and become a better version of myself in 2019. I am excited to be surrounded by a solid team. I am even more excited for some of the changes yet to come. Growth can be stressful, but growth is also exciting. Growth does not come without risk, but hell I’ve never been afraid of risk. So, onward and upward. May your 2019 be like my 2019 – a year filled marked by the love of family & friends and by growth & success. Cheers and Happy New Year.

Holiday Termination Follow-Up - December 22, 2018

Two weeks ago I answered my final Q&A which dealt with the termination of a sales rep a few weeks before Christmas. I received several emails in response which varied from total agreement to being called callous for not being considerate of the holiday timeframe. I was challenged to consider the sales rep at Christmastime and asked why I wouldn’t consider waiting until January.


Let me pose this question in reply: Is January a better time to terminate a failing sales rep? What if I were to tell you that she had a January birthday and would also be celebrating her 5 year wedding anniversary? Should we then wait until February?


Simply put there is no good time to terminate any employee for any reason. Termination is termination. It is not fun, not easy, and emotional, even though it should not be. Termination is firing. Firing sucks whether you are the firing manager or the employee being fired. I am not callous nor do I lack emotion. In fact, I am empathetic to the young lady being terminated right before Christmas. Considering the worst of the situation, losing your job right before Christmas can be considered downright cold. It may cause the person being fired to have an absolutely miserable holiday season. They may have left the company crying uncontrollably. Or, maybe they have a sense of relief and will go through the holidays with a weight off of their shoulders.


In answering the question two weeks ago I did point out that we never know what someone else may be going through in their personal life. But, personal is personal and business is business. Regardless of what time of the year we’re in, business decisions must be made, and such decisions must be made with the best of intentions for the company. Keeping an underperforming sales rep around for another month or two simply delays the inevitable. It costs the company more money in terms of salary, benefits, and taxes. The relationship between the sales manager and the sales rep will continue to be strained putting stress on both people and possibly others within the sales organization. Needless to say, keeping the sales rep around does nothing for either the company or rep.


Because we don’t know what someone may be going through and time of the year should not be a factor, let’s take a different view for the sake of this light debate. The underperforming sales rep has been miserable for some time. She recognizes and acknowledges that she is underperforming, and while continuing to try to sell, she is not successful. Unfortunately, while she is not happy, she also has not found a new opportunity yet, but she has been interviewing. She’s not really been looking forward to Christmas because of the stress of work. Each and every day she wants to leave and is hoping a new opportunity comes through soon. Then she is terminated. With HR being involved she is provided a three-month severance package and is immediately shown the door. The weight of her poor sales performance has been immediately lifted. She has time to relax and refresh during the holidays which also gives her additional time to spend with family and friends. And, with the severance package in place, she can now concentrate on the interview process with other companies after the holidays are over. What if? I understand this is a hypothetical, but it may be the real case. Regardless of her story, I stick by my previous post and answer. The company must do what is best for the company, the sales manager, the rest of the sales team, and in the moment not based on the time of year or date on the calendar.