Jill Konrath is a leading sales expert, an in-demand speaker, and author of two best selling books, Selling to Big Companies, and SNAP Selling. She helps her clients crack into new accounts, speed up sales cycles and win more business. You can learn more about Jill on her website www.sellingtobigcompanies.com
1. Your book, SNAP Selling, climbed the Amazon charts and hit #1 within hours. How did you get it to be so successful?
Lots of people read my newsletter and blog. They know I’m a straight shooter who offers fresh ideas that are highly relevant in today’s business environment. I also talked a lot about my book while I was writing it and engaged my readers in conversations related to the key issues I was tackling. So, when it came out, they were eager to read it. I had incredible support from my colleagues too. And finally, to keep the momentum going, you need to have a good book!
2. Your website says you have a “joy in selling”. You don’t hear those words together so often? Why is that and why do you find selling so enjoyable?
You’re right. Lots of people hate selling. I’ve always found it fascinating to figure out what works. It’s like a puzzle to me with constantly changing parts: a slew of decision makers who all have their own vested interests, new products coming out, challenging economic times, competitive moves. You can never get bored! Plus, you get exposed to so many different types of businesses, people and perspectives. To me, that’s Candyland.
3. In 2000 your successful sales consultancy went out of business because two of your biggest clients suddenly ended their contracts. Are there any lessons you can share with other consultants and business owners that might be working with a couple of big clients?
My business was on cruise control for half dozen years prior to its collapse. Those big companies just kept giving me project after project. I was sure that the depth and breadth of my relationships would protect me even during tough times.
Ha ha! That was naïve. When Wall Street speaks, companies listen. They don’t care about your “relationship.” To ensure the continuity of your business, it’s essential to have a broad and customer base so that you can weather any storm
4. What was the biggest factor in you going from a local consultant servicing your clients to an internationally known sales expert?
Writing, my e-newsletter and the internet. But it all started because I saw so many small businesses struggling for survival. They had great products/services, lots of talent and a bundle of energy. But, they didn’t have a clue how to market or sell their services – and it was their Achilles Heel. My desire to help them was the genesis of SellingtoBigCompanies.com, tons of “how to” articles, CDs, ebooks and sales guides Once I’d created all that, I decided that people needed to know that this resource existed, so I taught myself how to become visible online. It’s really been one step at a time. First a website, then a newsletter, next came the blog, teleseminars, webinars, tweeting and more.
5. I understand you have ARD (addictive reading disorder). I’ve never heard of that before, is that a well known condition? Do you read everyday? Thoughts on fiction vs. non-fiction? Your favourite book from the last month or two?
ARD is not recognized by the American Association of Psychiatry. I invented this syndrome so that I didn’t have to accept responsibility for my behaviour whenever I was reading and neglecting everything else. Yes, I read everyday. I scan tons of things online, looking for things that interest me. I love fiction to escape, but only read one novel per month. Currently I’m reading a lot about thinking, creativity and decision making. No favourite books though. I’m an immersive reader on topics of interest and gain insights from everything I read.
6. What’s the biggest mistake(s) you see people making in sales?
Not being prepared. Thinking they can wing it. Being effective at sales means you have to really think about things from multiple perspectives. And, you need to know exactly what outcome you want to accomplish at the end of each customer interaction.
If you’re selling, need to constantly be asking: What is your customer trying to accomplish? Where are they struggling? How can you help them? How can you get them to understand the value of making a change? How can you demonstrate your credibility without turning them off? How do you lead the meeting to your desire outcome? What questions will uncover the most important information? What strategies are needed to fend off competitors?
As you can see, there’s lots of complexity involved in getting the business. Most sellers just show up and, as a result, don’t succeed.
7. How important is cold-calling to making the sale? Is cold-calling dead? A lot of ‘new-school’ business people seem to think it is. What are your thoughts?
Cold-calling as in “dialing for dollars” is dead. It actually should never have existed. I love all the new initiatives that companies are doing to attract people to their websites, demonstrate their expertise and hopefully, capture names/email addresses that can ultimately be converted into customers.
And all that is great. But if there are companies that you want to do business with who have not yet happened upon your website, you need to initiate contact with them. It’s more of a targeted, informed cold calling. It’s research based. You have insight before you call. EVERY company should have some of these initiatives in place too.
8. When you work with clients how do you charge them? What kind of pricing structures have you found to be most effective for you?
I tried hourly billing a few times, but it affected my thinking in a weird way. I’d get mad at myself when I’d think of my clients during non-billable hours. It was even worse, when a great idea came to me in a nanosecond. How do you bill for that! So for many years I worked on a project basis. If it was hard to define up-front, I’d do bid an initial project to determine the scope of the project. But now, I’m mostly doing workshops and speaking so that’s pretty much a flat fee.
9. What are your favourite gadgets or apps that help you stay productive and organized?
I am not a techie person, nor am I incredibly productive or organized. What works best for me is to focus on a couple main things I want to get done and just focus on them. Sometimes I even feel like a real slug because it doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything. But really, I’m reading, learning, synthesizing and playing with concepts. I think there is way too much emphasis in our culture on productivity.