Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

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Me: Unapproachable – Guilty As Charged - March 18, 2017

It has only happened one other time in my nearly 23 year career, I’ve been accused of being unapproachable by a few (newer) employees, and all I can say is, “Guilty As Charged”. Now, I must admit, when this accusation was lodged against me, I did almost feel criminal, and I became slightly defensive. Naturally I wasn’t expecting to be called out like I was this week, but nonetheless, it was true. And, I’m not one bit sorry.

 

You see, I’m the guy that has always been approachable, asked for help, and even referred to as the “last resort” or the “closer”. Sometimes I’d rather be brought into a sales situation sooner, but regardless of the timeframe, I have always made myself available to help. I’m the guy that hasn’t taken a vacation in over fifteen years without fielding at least one telephone call from a team member seeking advice or guidance. I would say I’ve been approachable. I’m the guy that has met my sales reps at a coffee shop at 8:45 PM on a Thursday night to help finalize the details of a proposal. I would say I’ve been approachable. I’m the guy that has represented my firm at numerous networking events, shook the hands of many an attendee, when no one else seemed interested in going (or there was some lame excuse). I would say I’ve been approachable. And, I’m the guy who’s tucked his kids into bed, and jumped on the phone in an attempt to calm down an upset sales rep because they lost a deal. I would say I’ve been approachable.

 

In all times and in all cases where I’ve been needed, I was approachable. However, as this recent accusation began to sink in, the more I pondered the past few weeks to few months, I say again, “Guilty As Charged”. But, the more I’ve given thought to being unapproachable over the past few weeks to past few months, I’ve come to the conclusion as to why. And, I didn’t need therapy, counseling or court-mandated rehab, I needed to explore and evaluate what’s been going on with me and with my entire organization. I had the a-ha moment Thursday evening as I sipped a cocktail and chatted with my wife. I am back to carrying the weight of my organization on my shoulders.

 

Urgent Note Here To My Team: don’t take this the wrong way, it is not a true, literal sense of carrying the weight of the company, more of a feeling I’ve been going through.

 

You see, for many years I’ve not only served as the head of sales and operations, I have been the senior-most lead on the sales team. I have carried the weight of the company on my shoulders from time-to-time, driving nearly 70% of the revenue by myself, but that is not the case anymore. No, not now. But, I would say the feeling of need by my team came back into play a couple of months ago, as the company was expanding. Those assigned to oversee the expansion were doing their job, yet I have not been feeling very comfortable in our sales performance. Instead of talking through these issues with my team, I closed myself off to them, buried my head in my own sales efforts, and closed deals, all the while remaining in my executive management role.

 

Most people would think this is a good thing, closing deals, generating revenue, etc. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good thing, but in doing so I became unapproachable. Even in years past, when buried by my own sales, I’ve always made time for others. I’ve always been approachable. So, what changed this time around, the second time in my entire career?

 

Besides the feeling that my own sales efforts were a necessity for growth and success, I admittedly became belligerent toward my team. I didn’t go so far as to become an asshole to them in the office, at least I hope not, rather I took an “I’ll Show You” approach with my attitude. When asked for advice or my opinion, I went against my own traditional open stance, and became much more matter-of-fact. I became someone I don’t like. I became the directive giving sales manager versus the teacher.

 

Part of my attitude lately has been driven by my team and what I’ve taken as a somewhat lack of respect. I am now surrounded by the youngest team I’ve ever worked with and instead of them seeking my wisdom, they have, at times, brushed aside my advice. You’ve read this term in recent posts, but I’ve been called “old school” more than once lately, and it has not been a compliment. While I’ve been around the block a time or two, I am not foolish to live only in the past. Sales tactics have evolved, expanding with digital inbound marketing efforts, designed to compliment traditional selling. Yet, some younger sales folks just don’t have the willingness to listen and/or appreciate the wisdom of an older sales person like myself. And, when you don’t listen, don’t take advice, fall short of your sales goals, all the while ignoring me, well then I become unapproachable. At least this is my guess at this point.

 

So, to my own sales team, I apologize for being unapproachable lately. For those that know me, this is out of character, but I acknowledge it to be true. Know this, I am not always right, nor do I want to be viewed as a know-it-all. I am simply in my role to be a teacher, a leader, a mentor, a big brother, and I will continue to do so by example. Use my experiences to further your own career. Learn from my mistakes, so you too can avoid some of the pitfalls from sales. Take advantage of my availability, bend my ear, and allow me to accompany you on sales calls. And, if you choose not to take me up on this offer, so be it. I will immediately get back to being approachable for those that want my help, appreciate the wisdom I can share, and I will outsell/outperform those that want to go it alone.

 

And on a final note, while this is a very personal story, many sales managers and executives can relate. Take my story to heart, try to always be approachable, and lead by example.

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