Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


Did You Waste Time This Year? - December 23, 2017

I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “what a waste of time” something was, such as a concert, a presentation, a sporting event, or a meeting. It happens. We don’t have a crystal ball so we cannot predict the future. When I ask the question “did you waste time this year”, I am not referring to these minor happenings that are practically inevitable, my question is much deeper. As 2017 draws to a close, looking at bigger picture happenings in your sales career throughout the past 11 ½ months, did you waste time by not being present in the moment? Did you waste time by ignoring market conditions? Did you waste time by not reaching out to your customers more often? Did you miss opportunities to advance your sales because you were off wasting time when you should have been working?


I am not suggesting that you skip a vacation or come into the office when feeling sick. All too often, especially with ‘B’ and ‘C’ level sales people, they lie to themselves. There is a feeling they are busy, the workload is pushing manageable, and sales are okay, when in fact they are having their doors blown off by the ‘A’ level sales person. This is about time management. It’s about prioritizing your life, making time for your spouse, your kids, your hobbies, and still kicking ass in sales. It is about always living in the moment and being aware of the world around you. It is about NOT wasting time.


I developed my own time management exercise years ago, blending different approaches and professional sales trainer ideas, and I call it the quadrant. Weekends are mine. I have a wife and three children. I have responsibilities to them, other family, my friends and my faith. But, Monday through Friday is about my career choice as a sales person. My quadrant begins at 5:00 AM on Monday morning and ends at 5:00 PM on Friday evening. In each of the four categories – sales / management / professional development / personal – I list my weekly activities and responsibilities. Each and every week I evaluate my calendar, my hourly, daily and weekly schedule, and I look for ways to engage and not waste an ounce of energy or time.


During the holidays, this time of year, many sales people are feeling stressed and anxious because of their performance, or lack of performance, from the previous 11 ½ months. Many wait until now to self-evaluate, ponder their performance, and plan for the new year. However, this should be a regular (at least weekly) occurrence.


My challenge to my own team and to you is this: have you wasted time this year? No, you cannot get it back, but you can learn from this exercise. Identify those times where you feel you wasted time, missed an opportunity, or did not work to your potential. Explore ways you can avoid this happening again. Commit to better time management skills. Exercise the quadrant to your advantage. Have a great holiday season and a better 2018.

Lead By Example: Show Success-Do Not Show Off - December 16, 2017

Pompous. Arrogant. Egotistical. These descriptive words are my enemy. I’ve had these words used against me in my career and they’ve really hurt me. Naturally, I want to be liked, and I want my employees and peers to view me in good light. I would much prefer to be known as humble, sincere, or leader. It has been a number of years since I was referred to in the negative, as far as I know (lol), so how did I overcome such poor views.


There was a time, much earlier in my career, when I thought materialism was a sign of success. It may have been my choice of watering hole, vacation spot, the car I drove, or simply the logo on my shirt. More so, it was my attitude added to these things, that portrayed me in not so pleasant ways. Thankfully, this was a very short stint in my overall career.


I guess one could say that I was wise enough to see my poor behavior and make the necessary changes in my habits. I’d say I was lucky. I was mentoring a young man in his early sales career and I wasn’t much older myself. We were driving back to the office after a sales meeting when he said he was impressed by me as a sales person. Well, thank you. Except what should have been a compliment resonated with me in the fact that I was not really the person he was describing. James was full of compliments: nice car; that new suit looks great on you; I wish I could take my girlfriend to dinner at XYZ restaurant, maybe when I’m more successful like you; must feel good to have this, that, and the next thing; I can’t wait until things come easy for me like they do for you.


Things did not come easy for me, not in the least. At that point in my career, only a few years out of college, I was living in Ohio, the fourth state in less than four years. Nothing had come easy. But, it was my outward attitude that made James believe I was much more successful than I really was, and in fact, this bothered me. This was a turning point in my life and my career. Within a week I began to focus on my attitude, trying to be a better, more humble human being. I dropped the act. I started to show people who I was, who I really was, and became more open about struggles and challenges. Nothing came easy, and if it did, it was likely not a real success story. Ultimately, what it came down to, I stopped showing off, and learned how to show real success.


Twenty years has passed since James helped me more than I helped him. Not a week goes by where I don’t thank him. To this day I pride myself on being a sales and business leader that tries hard to show success based on effort instead of showing off. Sure, I take my family on vacation. I have more than what I’d call the basic essentials in life. But, I try very hard not to flaunt these possessions, as it is my goal to show achievement to my team in the form of new clients, new engagements, and general business success. Showing success has nothing to do with ego, showing off is nothing but ego. Be successful, my friends.

Recovering From A Tough Year - December 9, 2017

There are times throughout the year where I consult (on a freelance basis) to sales organizations on topics of performance, hiring, planning, and other sales related topics. Last week I engaged with an old client whose sales team has had a very tough year. Having had a few of those myself over the course of 24 years in sales, I was able to counsel them from the heart. The key to my message was “nothing lasts forever”.


Sales is a career that has many up’s and down’s. It is certainly not the only career choice with an emotional swing, but one of the few that has an emotional swing that occurs on a near frequent basis. It’s one thing to lose a deal here and there, where the emotional swing is downward, while hitting a few homeruns and the emotional swing goes up. But, what do you do to motivate an entire team with a years-worth of disappointments or losses?


My client gained a few new customers this year, four to be exact, but also lost nine. They started the year with high hopes and great anticipation that the year would be full of wins, adding clients and not losing clients, and expanding market share. However, the loss of a longtime sales rep to illness was unexpected and certainly not planned for. Client losses did not come all at one time, rather spread across the calendar year, but with little-to-no reasoning or explanation as to why the client was leaving. The sales team did not take advantage of opportunities presented to ask why and now it may simply be too late.


On a bright note, the company is stable overall, and has two new consumer facing products being launched mid-next year. Knowing the company has a survival mentality in the C-suite, it was time to put the sales team in their place, in a positive way.


Through my counseling, based on the theme that nothing lasts forever, we explored the reasoning that went into the annual plans that obviously fell short. We outlined plans for 2018 and talked about setting more realistic expectations. We discussed personal goal setting (see last week’s post) in addition to business goal setting. And, we talked about why the company will be successful in spite of the sales team members. Nothing lasts forever – even some jobs.


The sales team members needed to come to terms with the fact that their own motivation dwindled throughout the year. Not one person stepped into a leadership role, rather it appears everyone was too worried about losing another client. Instead of pushing ahead, the sales reps simply wanted to protect their individual territory. They became more reactionary instead of being proactive with ideas for their clients.


At the end of my engagement we seemed to all be on the same page and in tandem with the plans set forth by the C-suite. Somewhat surprisingly, and in a positive way, each sales rep owned their mistakes and missteps. They recognized their shortcomings and outlined business and personal goals. Each has made a commitment, not just to themselves, but to each other to support the goals of the entire organization with an eye on their own individual goals. And, management has agree to hold the team more accountable, by being more proactively involved in day-to-day and week-to-week management of the sales process.


Nothing lasts forever. Start the year with a fresh perspective, keep your eyes on the prize each and every day, and 2018 will put 2017 in the dust.

Share Your Personal Goals - December 2, 2017

Wow, the end of year is already upon us, and if you’re like me, you are well on your way for 2018 planning. Each and every year of my career I take time from mid-November through mid-December to reflect on the year wrapping up, and to give serious consideration about how I might want the year ahead to go. Planning and goal setting has always been important to me. And, setting a few personal goals into the mix of my business goals has been a mainstay. More importantly, I don’t keep these personal goals to myself, I share them with my team.


As sales people we all tend to set similar goals: revenue generation, profit margin increases, new client development, market expansion, and the like. Oftentimes, sales people relate personal goals, when asked, to these business goals. For example, a personal goal is to exceed my quota by 11.5%. To me this is not a personal goal. This is still a business goal.


Personal goals have a direct and immediate impact on your personal life. Personal goals impact your significant other, your family, your home, etc. and they can relate to your business goals, yet they are still separate. When viewed as a combination, the business goals become the means to achieving your personal goals, so why not share.


For many years I have encouraged my team members to outline not only their business goals for the new, upcoming year ahead, but also share at least a few of their personal goals. And, when I say share, I do mean share. Share some amount of detail as to why these are personal goals, what impact these personal goals will have on your life, why is that personal goal important to you, what will that personal goal mean to your family, and how can your fellow team members support you with this knowledge they now possess about your personal goals. Allow me to use a personal goal for 2018 as an example.


I was fortunate this past Tuesday to make and confirm a reservation for a family ski trip during Christmas of 2018. That’s right, one year from now, yet the reservation had to be made on Tuesday. In fact, the resort was sold out in less than 10 minutes for this specific week, and I was lucky enough to get a place. Planning ahead for a family trip over one year away is a key to my goal setting for all of 2018. Here’s why – my wife and I have a preview of school calendars for the next 3 years. My son will be a high school junior next year and then planning for college. Outside of Christmas vacation next year, my three children do not appear to have corresponding schedules for the foreseeable future, and so we decided this would be the time to take this ski trip.


Obtaining the lucky reservation for Christmas 2018 was only the first step in making the trip a reality. In order to make the trip happen, I need to hit my business goals. My business goals are to increase sales for the company as a whole, as well as increase my own book of business. I need to expand the sales team with new personnel, those ‘A’ level sales people I frequently talk and write about. I need to engage my own client base to increase their use of my firm. And, aside from my primary company, another business goal is to expand my freelance consulting.


I will not be purchasing plane tickets until late next summer or early fall. I will know then if I am on track to hit my business goals. If I am on track then the trip is a go. If I am not, well, the trip may not happen. However, I’m forging ahead into the new year with this trip as my primary personal goal. I want, no I need, my team to know about this goal. I need them to hear the sincerity in my voice as I explain what this trip will mean to my family before the kids get older and start college. I will need their help. I will need their help selling, meeting my clients expectations, and help keeping the business goals overall on track.


I encourage sales managers to take this approach and encourage your sales team members to set and share personal goals. Listen intently on what those goals are and why. Ask yourself what you can do to help your team achieve those personal goals. You do have something to gain, hitting your business goals, because most people will achieve their personal goals only by hitting their business goals. Happy 2018 Planning!

Data Analysis for the Sales Person - November 25, 2017

Let me start by saying, even though I’ve been in sales leadership for a long time, I am not a fan of over-reporting. Given all of the ways in which we obtain consumer data today, we can be inundated with reports, analytics, metrics, data, data, data, and more data. So, I’ve long been a believer in the key data points, profit & loss, and keeping it simple and straight forward.


With that said, please don’t get me wrong, data and data analysis are extremely important for the sales person / team, and something each and every sales person needs to embrace. And, once a sales person does embrace this level of reporting and information, it will become second nature.


Of course, there are the standard reports that every sales person needs to read and evaluate if not daily at least weekly. Their own customer sales stats and the company P&L broken down by account. Every good sales person wants to, or should, know where they stand year-to-date, and how their accounts (customers/clients) are doing. But, with the vast amount of data available, here are a few other key reports I strongly suggest the ‘A’ level sales person jump on.


Website Performance – How is your company’s website performing? Is the website ranking well? Can your customers and prospects find you easily through Google search? Sales people have insights into their individual customers behavior and the website should be helping them not hindering them.


Inbound Leads – Does your company receive inbound leads through the website, social media, telephone, etc.? How does your territory or market segment stack up against others within the company and against the competition? What is the average turnaround time for responding to these leads?


Competitor Positioning – Are you aware of how your company fairs in the marketplace against the competition in areas of pricing, performance, responsiveness, customer support, etc.?


Your Marketing Team – Are you engaged with your marketing team? Do you know what initiatives they are working on? Do they know what is happening in the area of sales? Have you taken anyone from marketing on a client engagement?


These are not time consuming concepts, rather these are areas of information within your company (and market space) that should give you the insight you need to advance in sales performance whether on a per client basis or overall in your area of responsibility.

A Time of Thanksgiving - November 18, 2017

A short post this week, but with a heartfelt message, thank you. I would like to take this opportunity, with Thanksgiving a few days away, to thank my colleagues. Being in a leadership position is not always as easy as one might think, especially connected to sales. 2017, for me, will end in a very different place than I had planned.


When this year began I was surrounded by a group of sales professionals that were on a path toward unmatched success. Collectively we had worked tirelessly on business planning, client reviews, contract revamps, etc. The end goal was to make 2017 the most successful we’ve had as a team. But, even the best laid plans can change, and so goes the course of our sales goals.


Midway through the year several of the key members of the sales team left the organization. The launchpad for this change was based on the sales team leader moving overseas for a new opportunity. Shortly after his announcement and departure, others felt they could not go it alone without his guidance, and thus we took a large step back as an organization.


My colleagues and partners rose to the occasion. Management team members that were not typically involved in sales began to write portions of proposals and go on sales meetings. Referrals were abundant from friends of mine and of the business for new sales people. Ultimately, we hired a new sales team lead and I am thankful for Joe.


As I reflect on this very crazy year, one full of unexpected change, I am thankful for those that were by my side day in and day out. For it is because of these team members that I did not have to “go it alone” and manage the entire change process. Because of them we will hit our slightly revised annual business goals. Because of them we are setting ourselves up for a tremendous 2018. And, because of them, I believe I am a stronger leader today than I was on January 1.


Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.

Hire Sales People at the End of the Year - November 11, 2017

This may sound like a completely crazy idea, one that is sure to irk the HR department, but hire your next sales person before the end of the year. Not only am I suggesting you hire them before the "ball drops", but get them started. I’m sure you’re already rolling your eyes and thinking, “what is he talking about”. So allow me to explain this specific hiring concept.


First of all, this approach to hiring is specific to sales people only, as I’m not suggesting you do this with an engineer or accountant. You see, sales people are a bit of a different breed, and most sales people, especially ‘A’ level sales people, immerse themselves into their new environment day one. In fact, the learning begins before they even start their first day, but much of what makes a sales person make it or not in an organization, is how well they adapt to the company culture and can represent the organization in the marketplace. There may be no better opportunity than in November and December to get your new sales person fully immersed.


The end of the year can be a stressful time for many sales organizations and sales people. There’s the end of year push to hit sales figures, ship goods, wrap up services, and work with customers/clients for their new year budgets. A new sales person can learn by shadowing the top performers in their day-to-day routines when there tends to be more deadlines looming than at any other time during the business year.


Believing that one may have an understanding about the personality of their new sales organization will come easily, yet somewhat misleading, during a “normal” time of the year when the sales pace is “normal”. However, learning culture and personality is heightened when stress sets in, and for many organizations stress sets in with holidays and the end of year push. The hope, of course, is that each person and the collective whole of the sales team all rise to the occasion and put their professional best foot forward. What a truly great learning experience for the new person.


I just referenced the holidays. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, although rather cliché, sales people entertain, entertain, entertain. There is an abundance of customer/client luncheon’s, drop-in’s to deliver sweets, or holiday parties. For a new sales person, this is the opportunity of the year to immerse themselves into the organization, meet customers/clients, hear stories, and begin to develop their own “ways” to pitch the company. Instead of sending the new sales rep on a sales call here and there, whatever is available during other times of the year, November and December offer an increased likelihood that the new rep will get their fill of greetings & meetings.


Lastly, while this time of year is hectic, there is also a bit of down time that comes with it for the new person. The new sales rep is not going to be out and about in meetings of their own, most likely anyway, and so as they’re learning and immersing themselves into the new organization, this time of year allows the new sales rep to engage in abundant sales planning. They can use the downtime coming from the customer/client side of the sales process to ultimately prepare for the start of the new year, and the start of their own aggressive sales push.


Speaking from experience, hiring and starting sales people during the 4th quarter may be the best course of action, especially if you want the ‘A’ level sales person to have a full, productive year ahead.

...You're Welcome - November 4, 2017

The season of Thanksgiving will be soon upon us. Oftentimes in the past I’ve written about being thankful to those that have made my career successful. I’ve given personal thanks too, to those close to me for their support, especially my wife and children. However, I haven’t put my time into saying “you are welcome”.


Sales people, by the nature of the professional, are criticized more than almost any other chosen career. Consumers, clients, customers – whatever you want to call them – are critical of your every step in the sales process. In fact, many are skeptical of your intentions. Sometimes you act too quickly with an email reply. Or, you’ll get the “I didn’t hear from you immediately, so I thought you gave up”.


It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how professional sales people try to act, there is always someone on the other side unhappy with the sales persons performance. Sales, however, is a two-way street. For sales people to be in business they must have consumers, clients or customers. There must be someone to sell to. And so, during this upcoming holiday season, the season of Thanksgiving, as consumers, clients and customers ourselves, let us not forget to say “you’re welcome”.


As a long-time, career sales person, I can speak with firsthand experience when I say that sales is often a thankless job. In fact, we (the sales people) are the ones always saying thank you, with few gestures of appreciation returned. Think about it for a moment, you are expected to act professional at all times, always showing your appreciation as the sales person, yet with no expectation of kind words being returned. It is your job after all.


So, this year I am vowing to take on the actions so often overlooked, and I am going to show my appreciation to those sales people I encounter daily. From store clerks to the kid at the car wash. I will say “thank you”, “you’re welcome”, and “happy Thanksgiving (fill in the holiday blank)”.


A kind gesture can go a long way. I believe in the golden rule to treat others as I want to be treated. As a sales person I know how far words can go and it is my goal to use my words to brighten someone’s day.

Be Humble - October 28, 2017

A good friend, someone I admire greatly and who also happens to be a priest, recently told me, “no amount of money or possessions will ever replace humility”. He said this in response to me sharing how I’ve been frustrated by the selfishness of some people around me in business over the past year or so. I was venting a bit when he reminded me that I should not change who I am rather stay the course. Continue to be humble, praise others for their hard work and efforts, and try not to allow frustration and jealousy to set in. I’ve been dwelling on his words, the words that have kept me awake for several nights over the past few weeks, and in context have come to realize that those I truly admire, in addition to this specific friend, are successful professionals who are educated, family-oriented, well liked, and above all humble.


Pondering his words brought to mind two real examples of people I know that are successful in their sales careers and yet worlds apart as human beings. The following are the profiles of these two individuals for you to ponder. Names changed to protect the guilty.


Susan is a 45 year old mother of two. She has been in sales for nearly 20 years. She has a bachelor’s degree and always attends continuing education programs when available. In her career she has always put her client’s need before her own, even if that meant passing on a deal here and there. She has had the opportunity to hire and mentor many younger sales people and is always quick with compliments. Her philosophy is to build up those around her, making the team stronger, instead of just herself or one other person. Susan not only gives of her time with her team members, peer mentoring so-to-speak, but never shy’s away from a volunteer opportunity at her children’s school. And, somehow, she also volunteers with several charities. Her husband, much like her, is full of compliments. He seems to always be amazed at her accomplishments with the ability to keep going.


Mary is also a 45 year old mother of two. Mary is divorced, but has shared parenting with her now ex-husband, so she can spend time working on her career. Mary has a MBA in addition to her bachelor’s degree. Her sales career, statistically, is overwhelmingly impressive. She far exceeds quota within her company and has been the top sales person the past four years in a row. Mary is a bit of a lone ranger when it comes to the sales team. She has always been very focused on the win. Closing a deal takes priority over everything else around her. Clearly this approach has worked given her stats. While Mary has been successful in closing deals, making presidents club year over year, she does not like to nor want to mentor her younger team members. In fact, internally within her own organization, she comes across cold and unapproachable. Success, being Mary’s priority, does not afford her much time to spend at the kids school or watching them in sports. Her mantra is: focus on the deal, always on the deal, it will lead to success and then I can afford to do anything else outside of work that I want.


Susan and Mary work for the same company, and in fact, for the same EVP of Sales. Two months ago the EVP of Sales was promoted to president of the company and it was time to name his successor. Mary, as confident as always in her career believe she was a sure thing, and had no problems sharing her confidence with others. Susan even believed Mary would be selected based on her performance and drive.


Susan is now the EVP of Sales. You see when it came right down to it, the executive team felt Susan had one major characteristic that Mary did not. Susan is humble. Her success shines, it always has, through those around her. She is a team player. She wants her team to be successful. She works to teach younger team members humility. She leads by example. And Mary? Well, she is selfish. She has always been selfish. Money, success and power can come and go. Being yourself, being who you are meant to be, and being humble, will carry you through the best of times and the worst of times. Oh yeah…and Mary quit…walked out…and still hasn’t found a new position. 

W's & L's / Win's & Learn's - October 21, 2017

I try not to jump on any bandwagons, but today I’m going to do so, on the topic of “there are no losses, only learning opportunities”. This seems to be a hot topic right now, as I’ve come across this theme with LinkedIn articles, blogs I follow, and multiple posts on Twitter. Maybe it’s the political climate we’re in or a business attitude shift left over from the last full moon. Whatever the reason it’s being talked about, it is a great topic for any sales leader to cover.


The idea of winning or learning has been drilled into me since I was a child. The theme was reinforced by the Xaverian Brothers who taught me in high school and on the athletic field. Then reinforced throughout my college days and right on into my career. It is simple to say, but sometimes not so simple to digest: you win some and you lose some – but you don’t really lose – you learn.


I’m not going to get all philosophical with this post, rather I am going dwell on one aspect, and that’s how to prepare for a learning opportunity (loss). No one wants to lose, especially in sales, because it means a loss of revenue and a loss of income (commission and/or bonus). I mean c’mon, no one wants to willingly walk away from earning money, right? Of course not. But, learning from the loss will ultimately guide you to many more wins over the course of your career. That is if you know how to learn from the lost opportunity.


As silly as this example may sound, it has stuck with me for a very long time. When I turned 16 years old and received my drivers license, like many teenagers, I thought I was all high & mighty. I was a sophomore in high school and was very interested in a young lady that was a senior. Oh boy did I like her. Well, not only did I have my eyes set on dating her, I thought she would absolutely say yes to me. My cousin, who was a few years older than me, pulled me aside before I asked her out and shared a concept with me that’s stuck all these years later. He said, “you know you’ve got some steep competition out there, so even if she turns you down, don’t despair, just learn from the experience and immediately ask someone else. Keep asking until someone says yes, then learn from the entire process, not just from the one yes or one no.” She said yes by the way.


His words, not just what he said but how he said it, ring true in my ears some 30 years later. Being told no is not the end of the world. Being able to analyze why someone may have chosen to say no to you will help guide you to a yes the next time. In sales, as in many life situations, being told no is part of the course you’re on at that moment in time. I’ve tried to always enter into a selling situation with eyes wide open. I try to consider being told yes and what the next steps might be in the closing process. But, I also consider what comes next if I’m told no.


Being prepared for a no can ease the pain of the actuality of that word. Then, if you are told no, take time to reason with yourself. Why were you told no? What did someone else do to get a yes? Can you change something in your sales process or pitch next time to increase the odds of being told yes? What can you do today to increase the likelihood of getting the yes nod tomorrow?


When it comes right down to it, many sales people measure themselves and others by wins and losses, but only a true ‘A’ level sales person will measure in the W’s & L’s that truly matter – win’s and learn’s.