Predictive is Like Gold: Interview with Jill Konrath, Part 2


Jill Konrath is a well-respected sales keynote speaker and accomplished sales accelerator. She is also an award-winning author of books such as Agile Selling, Snap Selling and Selling to Big Companies. If one person has the passion and the smarts to tackle today’s most compelling sales challenges, it’s Jill Konrath.

In part 2 of our interview, Jill explores common pain points for sales professionals, and dives deeper into how the growth of data-driven practices is influencing today’s sales processes.

How often do you see sales teams making data-centric decisions, or using something like predictive analytics? Is there resistance there, as if it is just “one more thing” marketing is asking sales to do or distracts from the typical way of doing things? Where is the rub in all of this?

There are certain industry segments where you see people embracing that kind of information you’re talking about, but it’s not everywhere yet. It’s in the technology community, but it’s not in all of the technology community; it’s in fast-growth companies, you know, who are really focusing on fast growth.

But if you take a look at the average company, there’s a huge lack of knowledge about the technology that’s available out there and how it can help people. Secondarily, the marketing and sales gap is huge in so many companies. Both organizations still have so much to learn about how to be more effective with today’s changing buyers. Unfortunately, too many are not adapting fast enough which makes it incredibly hard to drive revenue.

Lets say your company adopts a new technology that gives sales and marketing teams more data, insights and better context. What advice would you give marketing to help sales use that information more effectively?

I honestly think that it really boils down to helping them understand their buyers better. Just because salespeople get good data from marketing, doesn’t mean they’ll know what to do with it. Often they behave as a “traditional” seller, which results in a squandered lead. They don’t mean to; they just don’t know any different.

So, rather than just plopping new technology on the salespeople and telling them to go get ‘em, you’ll get better results if you start with a small group. Find some leading-edge salespeople who really want to embrace the technology and test it. Then, after they’ve achieved success – and you share their stories – suddenly everyone wakes up.

But there’s a huge re-training that needs to take place – especially when salespeople get notified that a person is actively looking for what they sell. Without even thinking, they’ll launch into pitch mode – which is the best way to kill a good lead. So marketing and sales need to work together to figure out how to best keep the conversation going.

For example, what you’re doing here at 6sense is fascinating to me. To know that somebody is actually searching for what I sell, even though it’s not on my website, is like gold! I mean, truly gold.

But still, the average salesperson won’t put on their thinking cap and think “if I was in that position looking for a product or service, what approach would be most effective to engage this person in a conversation?” Instead, they talk about their “stuff.” A different conversation needs to take place and it’s not something the salesperson intuitively knows how to do.

What are the sales-related concerns and pain points that you hear about most frequently?

The biggest issues I find are related to prospecting. If you can’t get in the door, you can’t sell anything. Most salespeople have a huge failure rate in this area because they haven’t changed what they’re doing. They’re on cruise control.

Also, I think it’s important to realize that cruise control is normal. Neuroscience research shows that our brain is a pattern-making machine. As soon as your brain sees you prospecting a certain way, it automates the process.

What most salespeople don’t understand is why they need to actively and continually disrupt what they’re doing. It’s uncomfortable moving into experimental mode. You can screw up, make a fool of yourself.

Yet to be successful in sales today, you have to constantly be experimenting and looking for ways to be more effective. And so you always have to be testing, testing, testing. Much like marketers test with A/B testing – we need to bring this same mentality to the sales process.

What we know today is simply what we know today. We can always be better. So, we should be looking at the tools, the technology, and at our own approach and constantly be fine-tuning.

This has to take place across a whole organization; you have to change the mindset of the entire organization to embrace change and to demonstrate that change is normal. The mentality should be that we’re always trying to improve as a sales organization, and so we’re always testing, testing, testing.

What do you see as the number one driver building a better marketing and sales relationship?

Focus on the customer. Marketing and sales need to come together and understand the buyer’s journey and what their buyer is thinking at every point. Both need to change what they do.

It’s not about stuff anymore, it’s not about leading-edge robust technology – it’s about the buyer at every stage. There’s so much opportunity for alignment, but the buyers’ journey has to be the foundation.

As we shift to data-driven agile selling, what’re some of the data points and metrics about customers that sales should know?

To me what’s important to know is what is the customer’s status quo. They need to understand the issues and challenges regarding their current way of doing things. They need to know what they can’t achieve too, based on how they’re operating today.

Those aren’t really data points, those are just business things that salespeople really need to understand—and they truly are lacking, by the way.

To have a good conversation with a buyer who’s just started looking at ways to improve their situation is essential for winning the business. But if you don’t understand their status quo, your conversation is shallow. It can’t progress. And when salespeople don’t know what to say, they default to talking mode – about their product or service.

What you’re doing here at 6sense is giving salespeople some information that helps them leapfrog where they’re at in the sales process. I mean, literally, leapfrog. But unless they know how to use that info correctly, it’s a wasted opportunity.

What’re your best strategies for engaging prospects in conversation? Tweet us at @6senseInc.

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