Testing, Testing, Testing: Interview with Jill Konrath, Part 1

Jill Konrath has an impressive resume: She’s a well-respected sales keynote speaker and sales accelerator. She is also an award-winning author of 3 books: Selling to Big Companies, Snap Selling and Agile Selling. In person, she is perhaps even more impressive. Her passion and urgency to solve today’s most compelling sales challenges is apparent.

“I try to stay on the edge of what salespeople are struggling with,” she explains, “I study the issues, figure out what’s working in today’s business environment and then share it. My goal is to slash their learning curve and accelerate their sales.”

In our interview today, Jill provides her two cents on the changing buyers’ journey, data-driven agile selling and marketing-sales alignment.

How is the buyer’s journey different today than in the past? And, to be specific, do you still view it as a sales funnel?

I think everybody knows that today’s buyers are significantly more educated than ever before. We all go online to understand how to solve our problems, reach our goals, or address critical needs that we have.

Today’s buyer is crazy-busy too and doesn’t want to be interrupted. They have zero tolerance for salespeople who don’t bring value. So, the traditional model of sales doesn’t work anymore. In fact, it’s so broken that it’s painful for an educated buyer to talk with a salesperson who hasn’t yet changed.

Can you give an example of a salesperson that has changed? What is a salesperson who is enlightened and who understands the buyer journey doing differently?

An enlightened salesperson would be doing research ahead of time to try to find the right kinds of prospects; they wouldn’t consider every prospect to be an opportunity. They’d be looking for signals that the prospect is buying.

Their company would have marketing automation system that lets their salespeople know what people are downloading, reading, looking at and forwarding to others. This would give the salesperson some context about what’s of interest right now and enable them to shape their message.

A savvy salesperson would also be looking for prospects that are similar to their current ones (company challenges, trigger events, common issues) and pursue a conversation with them – even if their targeted buyer hadn’t raised their hand yet.

What are some of the sales technologies that support this shift to more agile selling and to better informed sales professionals?

LinkedIn is probably the most common one right now. Still, it’s really amazing to me how many people barely use it to understand their buyers more. It’s an incredible resource to learn more about people – what problems they face, what their goals and objectives are and more. Also, very few sellers use it to demonstrate their own expertise by sharing links to good articles or by uploading valuable information.

I’m continually stunned that people are so in the dark ages on alert services that update you when companies or individuals experience a trigger event. By that, I mean an occurrence that disrupts dissatisfaction with the status. It could be an internal trigger like a job change, new funding, an expansion or bad third quarter earnings. Or, it could be an external one like new legislation, new technology or changing market dynamics. All these events catalyze change.

On the most basic level, using Google Alerts is a way to get started. But I honestly think people need to use a resource like InsideView, which gives you much better search parameters, totally automates the process and integrates with CRMs.

At the core, sales has always been considered an activity sport – meaning a numbers game. People weren’t hired because they were good researchers. Instead, they were hired because they were willing to make the calls.

Today, sales has become a thinking profession, and requires results-oriented planners who invest time before interacting with prospects to create an experience that is of high value to their potential buyer. And that’s not easy. But those who do it are at the top.

What does your business day look like? What do you do every day that would inspire the rest of us to be as curious as you are?

Just about every week I’m out working with sales organizations. I speak at their kick-off meetings. I do workshops on prospecting issues. So I do spend lots of time getting ready for these meetings. I immerse myself in their products/services, key decision makers, the buying process and more.

When I’m not doing that, I’m trying to figure out how to help salespeople be more effective. I am constantly, constantly learning. Because I have to stay ahead, I have to see what’s happening. I have to feel the problems that salespeople are facing and find the solutions that aren’t out there. I tell people I am on the human side of sales acceleration. You have the tools; I deal with the human side.

When we asked Jill Konrath her life motto, she responded, “I’ve never failed, but life has given me many valuable learning opportunities.”

Her call to action for salespeople is clear: you need to keep experimenting and learning, trying to be better, in order to be successful.

What ways are you experimenting and testing new sales strategies? Tweet us at @6senseInc.

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