Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

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Not An April Fools Joke - April 1, 2017

Here I am, putting my weekly post together on Saturday morning, today is April 1st. It wasn’t hard to come up with the theme for this week, out of sheer frustration, but I wish it weren’t so. This is not an April Fool’s Joke on me, nope it is a reality I’m dealing with and it is not fun. I’ve written multiple posts over the past year or so about managing millennials in sales, becoming the elder in the group, and most recently having my experience ignored for what has been referred to as “old school sales”. Unfortunately, the declining sales performance of a few sales people close to me is not a joke today; it is certainly no laughing matter. My frustration is peeking and changes are on the horizon.

 

As often as I counsel others in the areas of sales and sales management, I am now being counselled as well. I’ve turned to Tim, a close friend and confidant, with an extensive background in successful sales, sales management, training, mentoring, and executive leadership. Tim and I are the same age, and although we grew up in different parts of the country, our careers have emulated one another for the past 20 years or so. I am fortunate to have someone I can turn to for such important advice and guidance, especially because he will be blunt.

 

My frustration with a few individuals today is not new, it has been growing for weeks, if not months. I can swallow my pride, I can own my faults, but I cannot sit back and watch my efforts and those of many others be squandered by sales people who refuse to listen. Listening skills is a requirement for any ‘A’ level sales person. Unfortunately, these few individuals have not yet honed that skill.  

 

Where this frustration stems from is simple, but the fix isn’t. And, in talking with Tim, he recently went through a similar situation. I just hope I can manage in the same way as he did. As if taken from a bad TV sitcom, I feel as though these sales people view me as an old man in a retirement home, where they visit, pat me on the head, and ignore any consideration that I’ve been there done that, and might just have a little wisdom to impart on them. As Tim put it, they don’t have a clue on what I can bring to the table, and it will ultimately be their loss.

 

Why the frustration has come to a breaking point, again no joke on the first day of April, is sad and simple. These specific sales reps performance is dismal. They are not having success on the telephone, in email, during meetings, and their revenue sold is so low that they cannot come to terms that they are at fault. A genuine lack of effort is to blame. And, to make matters worse, they are making excuses. Just when I thought I’ve heard them all, they’re telling me it is the market, the lack of qualified leads in our database, and we don’t have the proper tools for them to be successful. Did I mention they’re all still new in their careers of sales (6 months to 3 years). When I shared these excuses with Tim he told me they were all crazy.

 

Well, I’m not entirely sure they are the ones that are crazy, maybe I’m crazy for allowing this behavior to happen and continue. Let’s start with the market conditions: you cannot use this as an excuse when other sales reps in your own organization are closing deals, and you cannot say this when your competition are announcing new client acquisitions on a consistent basis. We have never, and I mean never, had a lack of qualified leads in our database. Each sales rep is responsible for their own lead generation, and while some are excelling and keeping their pipeline full, these certain reps are not taking the necessary steps to grow their leads. And, tools, what tools do you need other than a telephone. It is not hard to make 30, 60 or 90 phone calls in one day. You do not need a tool to do this other than your voice.

 

Tim reminded me that patience is a virtue. But, his words of wisdom also went beyond this old saying, and his words did not fall on deaf ears. “Patience is a virtue that will never be wasted on a person that cares about their career and the company they represent. The key is determining if the reps that are struggling do, in fact, care about their careers. And, they must also care about your company too, the two are not exclusive. Caring about their career only is selfish. Caring for the company shows a desire to be successful, and to do what is right. If they care about both, your guidance and wisdom will eventually break through to them, but if they only care about themselves, then they will pat you on the head and appease you. They will never follow your advice and guidance, they will not seek your wisdom, when they only care about themselves. For, you see, they don’t care about the company and therefore they don’t care about you, and they are smarter than you. So they think.”

 

As my frustration has grown, I am now forced to take Tim’s words to heart, which may be difficult in weeks to come. The conversations I will be having may not be pleasant. They may be downright disappointing. I will be challenging these reps to determine why they are in sales, why they work for our company, and what they plan to do to be better versions of themselves. I have a feeling I’m not going to like some of the answers, and we may be a few reps short sooner than later, but it should be in the best interest of the organization, never the rep. Boy oh boy, I sure wish this was an April Fools Joke.

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