If you want to succeed as a consultant, you have to push past the desire for everything to be just perfect. Taking imperfect action is your ally. In this episode, the author of four bestselling sales books and speaker Jill Konrath talks about achieving success in business despite not having “the best” products and offers at your doorstep. Jill shares how she’s built a successful consulting practice and how developing effective messaging is the key to your success. If you want to know more about strategies that actually work in today’s business and consulting environment, tune in and listen or read below now.
I am with Jill Konrath. Jill, welcome.
Thanks for having me.
Jill, you are the author of four bestselling sales books. You’re a frequent speaker at sales meetings and conferences. You got your start at Xerox and you have a massive impact in the world of sales. I’m excited to dive in here with you. To get started, let’s get back to the early days at your time at Xerox where I think your career got started. At that time, you were selling more expensive products than the competition, one with fewer features and poorer quality I believe you put it. That’s going to be easy to sell, but you were a top performer. How did you achieve that? Were you able to win business consistently? How did you make that all happen even though you didn’t have the advantage of the best or the cheapest product? What was the secret? What happened there?
First of all, I’d say that Xerox had a reputation for being a strong company. The other vendors were coming in from overseas and they were establishing themselves. They may have had more capabilities and they were underpriced, but the quality wasn’t always there. When you lack quality, it becomes a risky decision for customers and new brands entering quickly into the marketplace. “Who are these people? Can we trust them?” Some people would go with them and they obviously grew. This is Canon and Minolta and companies that are big nowadays, but at the point, they were newly entering the US. What I did is I took a look at the assets that Xerox brings. I know that we may not be the fastest and we may not have these additional capabilities, but what you’re looking for is a machine that you can count on, that would be reliable over a period of time, and it’s a good investment of your money.
How important do you feel it is for people to focus on their strengths rather than trying to compensate for their weaknesses?
It’s essential to understand what your strengths are. I don’t think people necessarily know what they bring into the table. Consultants are particularly wishy-washy there. They don’t want to say that they are the best at anything and that’s true. They can’t possibly say that they are the best because they don’t have any clue to who else is out there in the marketplace. They can’t benchmark themselves. It does sound pretentious to say that you are so wonderful, but you do have certain projects that you want to work on.
When there’s a project that you love to work on as a consultant, it’s a messy issue. It’s typically something that other people are struggling with and you can’t wait to get your hands in there to work on it. If that’s something that is happening to you as a consultant, that’s what your strengths are. “Give me a problem like this. I’ll dig in and I will find the solution. We’ll test it and we’ll make sure you get what you want.” People don’t realize that you don’t have to be the best at it, but to be able to articulate the issue and the challenges that you address for people and where you find joy. I don’t think anyone wants a joyful consultant. What I think they want is somebody who is passionate about solving particular problems or helping companies erase the obstacles to achieve a specific goal that they are trying to get to.
From your experience at Xerox at that time, you clearly identified what the advantages and strengths Xerox were. What made the weakness were of the new entrance to the marketplace, the competitors, the other options. You went to your clients and those who you want to make clients, you got focused on, “Here’s the strength. Here’s what we bring.” The unknown, the negatives or the weaknesses, you put those out there. You focused on, “Here’s how we’re different.” In the case of Xerox, there’s a new entrance but they’re not tested or proven. Do you want to have peace of mind? That was a big part of what you did and how important you feel that is for a lot of consultants? A lot of people hold back. They don’t present much of that kind of strength in their messaging as they could.
There are a couple of things involved. Number one is the issue of getting people to decide to change from their status quo. That has nothing to do with what my strength should be over the competition. When somebody is currently working and doing things in their office, they’re getting by. Their world is not collapsing. They found some way to make do with whatever the situation is even though it might not be perfect. That part of selling is different because all of that, in my perspective, is showing that you understand the issues and challenges.
It’s asking about intelligent questions. The questions are more important than anything else at that point. The questions are preceded by a statement of knowledge such as, “In my work with sales organizations in the medical devices industries, I typically find that these are the biggest challenges that they are facing. Are these issues in your organization? How big of an issue?” Those questions, in the beginning, start to differentiate you immediately from someone who comes in and says, “Let me tell you about my methodology. Here’s my process of working.” Instead of focusing on the customer, where they are trying to go, where they are now, the delta between them and try to understand where you can have an impact and not move fast.Automation can be helpful, but people who are new in consulting need to experiment with their messaging. Click To Tweet
The first thing you have to do is get them to the point where they say, “We do need to do something.” That’s the first decision that they make, the decision to change and invest money in some solution. Once they get to that point, they will oftentimes look around and say, “If we’re going to do something, are there options out there?” That’s what we were talking about. “Are there options out there?” You have to do something in terms of differentiating from a consulting perspective. I spent many years as a consultant myself. I’m aware of what I am talking about here. It didn’t do good to differentiate myself upfront. What mattered were the questions I asked, the insights, suggestions, and ideas that I brought to the table. That was the crucial part. Now, we’re looking at options. In many cases, I would get the business without a lot of options, without them looking. They’d already invested so much time and they felt comfortable with me that they weren’t going to look and make a price comparison on three other consultants who are like me. That added more work to their already filled schedule. When it did come down to it, there were certain things that had to be considered. There were times where I was not the best option.
One time I found out, it was early on in my consulting practice. I was working with a nice medium-sized company with a global presence. They were based out on Minneapolis-Saint Paul which is where I live. I was competing against a fairly large training company for a project to train their salespeople globally. When it was finally decision time, they called me up. All those signs have been good, they loved what I proposed. They said, “Jill, we can’t go with you.” I said, “Why?” They replied, “Because if you got hit by a Mack truck, our entire sales training program would be wiped out. We cannot have our whole program dependent on one individual.” They were right, the risk was too much. That statement caused me to totally switch my consulting practice and find a different slant on it. I didn’t even have to go head to head with any of these big competitors out there. What I did was I searched for a space they weren’t good in. I became a niche player as a small consultant. I didn’t have to do everything. I looked and I saw what they couldn’t do well.
What was that? A lot of people reading will find themselves in a similar situation where they’re competing with larger work consulting firms. They’re looking for ways to connect in a more meaningful way to find that sweet spot. What did you identify as the opportunity?
My first business, I did consulting and I created custom-designed training programs specifically for their salespeople and what they did. That put me up against the big companies. When I got hit with the Mack truck example, I stepped back and said, “What do I do well?” There are a couple of things that I do well. Number one, I love to go into a new company and learn about what they are doing. I learn fast. I know what I am looking for and I get things going. The other thing is I hate doing the same thing over and over again. Realistically, training an entire sales organization would bore me.
Give me a specific scenario where they needed training once and it had to be good training and it had to hit them now. I absolutely love working on new product launches. When a company comes out with a new product, it is a onetime deal. They can go to their training company and they’ll do a custom design program. That would be $2 million to do custom design and roll it out. We are introducing this new product and it’s an important new product. Here’s the thing with it. Number one, it’s a onetime deal so they’re not going to go to the big companies. Number two, I can say, “I can piggyback off of whatever training program you’re using. I’m familiar with Miller Heiman. I’m familiar with this program. I know this one. Whatever you’re using, I can use their words. Give me a little background. I understand all of what’s out there.”
Number three, I found a time that there was a lot of money being invested. Any time a company introduces a new product, they’re talking about marketing dollars, how we’re going to get lead generation, how are we going to get up to speed fast. I can create a whole story about I can help them. In my sales, I talked about the importance of launching new products, the critical nature, and the fact that jobs were on the line. All these people, the marketing director, sales director, were all excited. They were watching my performance. I had ideas on how to shorten the time to revenue on product introductions and they never turned me down. Everybody was always interested in shortening time to revenue.
Some people would listen to or watch that, but they still have these relations with these existing training companies. Why wouldn’t it matter? Why would a company want to move from working with a training company they already have a relationship with someone new to work with? Why not give that piece of business to the training company and say, “Help us with this product launch?” Was the price too high or something else is going on?
The price was always high when you went with these bigger organizations. Whatever consulting you are, if you go to a bigger organization, their price can triple or quadruple for the same project. The other thing is their turnaround time. They can’t put something together fast. They have their process. By the time somebody would say, “We’ve got an issue here. We have to launch this new product.” It hasn’t worked well in the past and everything. They’ll go, “It has only been a few months.” These big consulting firms can’t come in, digest something and turn it around their time frames are long.
You communicate that as a part of your sales process with these organizations.
I can call them a few months beforehand and say, “Here’s what I can do.” I believe targeting companies is the official way to go. I don’t believe you should rely only on inbound marketing. I live in Minneapolis-Saint Paul and I have a lot of big companies in my backyard. One of the top corporate headquarters in the United States is based here. I had a database of 10,000 people. I can tell you that nobody from some of the biggest companies in my backyard was calling me. I didn’t want to travel. I wanted to work in my backyard. I had kids, it wasn’t easy to travel.
I went, “Which one of the companies around me are good fits for what I do?” Specifically, I’m in sales but I’m not in insurance sales unless you’re talking about the insurance to the corporate market. My sales are sales to the corporate market, nothing business-to-consumer. I ruled out Best Buys from my backyard. Target is in my backyard, they were headquartered here, not good a company. Some big insurance companies, but direct to consumer companies, not my company. I looked at the technology companies and the business service companies. I looked at some of the big companies like 3M which is in my backyard as well. I divided 3M into not my opportunities because they were in the Post-it notes division. I don’t make Post-it notes. I can do industrial markets. I can do ocean products, health, and environmental safety products because those are corporate sales. I did that and separated and went, “Target makes money after the companies that were in my backyard that fit my parameters and built a healthy book of business for many years without going more than 25 minutes from my house.
What did you do? You identified who the ideal client is based on the criteria that are meaningful to you, to your lifestyle and the business model. What were the next steps that you took? You mentioned that targeting is important and doing prospecting and outbound and not just relying on inbound. What have you found are the best practices when someone identified who their ideal client is to get a seat at the table?
If anybody wants to read more about that I have two books about this topic, let me be frank about that.
What are the top ones that you would suggest that these are the go-to stuff?
I am going to mention the books first. Selling to Big Companies was written for consultants. It was for consultants who want to target the corporate market and go after the bigger companies. It was written for my friends who were consultants. They proofread every chapter and said to me, “Does this make sense? Could you do this? You’re a consultant.” That was the whole purpose of Selling to Big Companies. SNAP Selling is an update on that you get new stuff. What should you do? In Selling to Big Companies I wrote in there, “There is this new thing out there called LinkedIn. I think it is going to be a powerful tool.”
I think it was in ‘95 when that book came out?
It was in 2005. My LinkedIn started in 2003. I am LinkedIn member 6632. When I first saw LinkedIn I went, “This is going to be powerful.” I had no idea how powerful it would be because when you are on the outside looking in and trying to find who to contact and all you see is this huge corporation. You have no idea where to even begin. In LinkedIn, I started seeing the names of people who are in the bowels of the corporation. I could find somebody in the technology sector. I can find somebody in a specific business unit.
LinkedIn is a place to start. Going to their website and seeing what their business units are, seeing which ones matched up with who you are. Maybe if you do aerospace, they have an aerospace division. Maybe you are in the healthcare market, 3MS healthcare, 3MS aerospace, it’s all these different things. Finding companies is if you are a consultant that match up with your background. If you come out of a medical devices company, you’ll have more credibility in a medical devices firm. If you come out of the retail markets, out of the Best Buy, you have better luck going to companies similar. It’s because you have instant credibility. You get them and that’s a great starting point.
Targeting companies that play to your own strengths is important because you can use your background as a talking point. A lot of consultants when they start they take small clients thinking they have to prove themselves with these little tiny firms in order to get references. If you want decent-sized clients, you can’t do that because working with the two-person firm to help them clarify their value proposition isn’t anything compared to working with them mid-market company or working with your business unit of a larger company. It is about credibility and it’s about being able to speak to the issues that people face. If you’re starting out, you have to look at where you come from and say, “Who do I have credibility with? I came from a company with 250 people. I was the marketing operations manager there and I am now on my own. It was a technology company.” There are a lot of growing technology companies that could use your expertise as a consultant.
How much of that would you suggest that people share upfront early on in their messaging? You’re connecting with someone on LinkedIn. They accept the connection request. The best practice is not to talk about yourself and ask the question and make it all about the other person. How much would you lead with, “This is where I come from. This is my background and expertise.” Talk a little about that.There are so many things that can go wrong that can prevent you from getting started. Click To Tweet
I wouldn’t say anything about that. If you are connecting via LinkedIn, it’s on your LinkedIn profile. If they look you up it should be there and it should be stated, it should be clearly articulated. I don’t necessarily think you might have contact people only by LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great data source. You can also do email and use the phone as well. That can be highly productive.
Phones still exist. It’s still a tool that can be used. It’s amazing how people are threatened or feel that the phone is too much of an intrusion. That’s a common point of challenge for people. It holds a lot of people back but they don’t want to interrupt. They don’t want to come across as being too salesy or pushy. What do you say to people who have real expertise, we can add a lot of value, but they are not getting in front of as many ideal clients as they could because they’re concerned about interrupting?
First of all, if you want to succeed as a consultant you have to decide to do something that you don’t exactly think is perfect. I do not like accounting. I don’t think it is fun to do that stuff. I can do it and I do. I understand it now, not because I want to. If you want to succeed as a consultant and you don’t want to go back to your old job or find another job with your tail between your legs, you’re a failure. You have an obligation to yourself to tackle sales as a skill that you are capable of learning. Most people who are consultants have the right skills, what they don’t have is the right perception. They believe that when they sell they have to put on their sales hat and that sales hat means they have to start talking about their services, their great background, all their methodology and a bunch of things that are entirely irrelevant. They’ll think that’s what salespeople do and that’s not what good salespeople do. That’s what the bad ones do.
What they need to do is to study business development as part of their professional development if they want to stay in business. If they want to grow and not be worrying if they’re ever going to get the next client or scared to death that it’s not going to work. They have to tackle it as part of what it takes to be in business for yourself. That being said, what do I say to somebody who says, “I don’t want to bother people?” The question is, do you want to be in business? Do you want to have your own consulting practice?
That’s such an important message. It’s the truth. It’s not an easy truth for some people to accept and to act upon, but it is the reality.
It is a reality, otherwise you’re going to work for somebody else and you’re never going to have your own business or you’re going to get crappy projects doing stupid stuff and you’re not going to be happy. If you want to be a consultant you need to study, read, and learn about what it takes to engage people in conversations about the issues and challenges they face. Please notice, I did not say brag about your capabilities which consultants typically hate doing, that’s what sales are about. Sales are about being a business consultant, a good salesperson, as a business consultant and you don’t feel like it. That being said, what do you suggest? Let me give you an example and I’ll use myself. This is true, this is real, and this is what I was experiencing. Before I wrote Selling to Big Companies, I would call people up on the phone, “This is Jill Konrath. I am the President of Leapfrog Strategies. We specialize in offering a full range of sales training programs for all your salespeople’s needs. I’d love to set up a time to talk with you and find out how you are currently handling your people’s needs and share with you what we might be able to do.”
How did that work?
It didn’t at all. Nobody answered the phone. Nobody returned my calls. Nobody responded to my emails, zero. Take a look at that from your customer’s perspective. First of all, they get a dozen of those stupid calls a day, if not more and their inbox is filled with even more people trying to reach them with, “My name is Jill Konrath and I’m a consultant at,” or “I am the president of nobody consulting and you’ve never heard of us. We’re in a small town. We’re not big, but I am the president.” That’s stupid and then to say, “We specialize in.”
There is a lot more detail in your books and the work you put out, but let’s fast forward. What are the better versions? Why did you go to the action then started working for you?
When I switched to this messaging, everything turned around. I would call people up and I would say, “John, it’s Jill Konrath calling. I understand that your company is launching some new products. I’ve got some ideas on how to shorten time to revenue. I’d like to set up a time to talk with you about these ideas.” I sometimes had to contact people eight or ten times, but when they hear me eight or ten times and the message will be different, but similar. They would connect me and here’s what I’d like to hear, “Jill, I’ve meant to call you. I’m interested let’s talk.” That’s what they’d say.
How much of sales do you think is lost by people not following up? Maybe making one phone call, sending one message on LinkedIn, sending one email maybe two to three maximum but then stopping at that point because they have not got a response.
The reality is that it takes eight, ten, twelve touches to reach somebody and that’s an absolute reality. What do I think about how much is lost? It’s a lot.
Is it for both of them?
Yes, because you give up before you try and you think, “I don’t want to be a bother. I don’t want to be looking needy so I am not going to call back. I’ll wait for a few weeks.” The point is that if you stopped to think about the messages you deleted this morning, do you remember who they came from? I don’t. I have no idea because we delete messages so fast that it doesn’t go into our long-term memory. You risk them up. Realistically, you can reach out a couple of times and you can put campaigns on companies. You can say, “I’m targeting this company and I know that they can use my services, I am going to do my research and I’m going to craft messaging. By the way, here’s what I am going to do.” I am going to plan my eight to ten touches from the get-go. I can map them out and I can implement them that way your research time is not wasted. You do your research and you don’t rely on one person in a particular business unit you are going after because that person might be on vacation or a massive project. You pick three or four and you slowly roll out your campaign in a period of a month or two. You can then stop and restart again in a few months.
How do you feel about customization versus automation? These days there are so many tools, there’s so much technology. A lot of people expect that they can plug in these sequences and things will work wonderful for them which is not always the reality. In your experience, what you’ve seen with clients, how much should they be focusing on customization on one-to-one messaging versus leveraging sequences and technology and automation?
When I see people leveraging automation, for the most part, they do a crappy job at it. Automation can be helpful, but people who are new in consulting need to experiment with their messaging. Most often when they start out their default messages are specialized, and they give a long list. We work with clients and give a long list and they are bad messages. People need to look at and experiment first before setting up a sequence to find out what’s working and what approaches work rather than trying to put things on autopilot. You’re better off putting ten to twenty companies, no more.
If you are going after mid-market companies and I don’t think necessarily consultants should go after the big giants. There is a logical progression. To work with mid-market is good. If you’re a small company, then go to mid-markets, go to bigger companies. It’s what gives you some flexibility and freedom and it gives you the breathing room to do things. Work your way up there and when you are looking at a bigger company, at that point, you don’t go after their biggest business unit. You go after a smaller business unit so you can say, “I’m doing some work with Microsoft.” You don’t have to be in their biggest area. You can be doing some work in the little corner of Microsoft and they’ve got you in their system. Once you are in somebody’s system in the corporate world, then they can hire you. Other business units don’t have to make an effort to bring you on board because you’re already in an approved vendor.
What’s your take on that? A lot of consultants have this impression that they need to land a big project. They go in, have a conversation with a prospective buyer and they go of creating engagement or a proposal for $50,000, $150,0000, $500,000, whatever it is they are going for a nice big chunk of business right off the bat. What’s your experience been? What do you say to that mindset as opposed to going in with more of discovery, an initial assessment and getting in front of the door with a smaller piece of business?
To me, I believe it is important to start up to get them to hire you. The simpler you can make the decision for getting hired the better. You put a $50,000 price tag and suddenly they have to go get approvals and justify it with more people. For $100,000 that’s even more. I have sold a lot of $100,000 projects that start out with, “Why don’t we start here and get a sense of what’s going on? It will be around $10,000 and we’ll know more and we can propose.” If you can get them to get you in for $10,000 or $20,000, now you are in the system. They trust you, you are working together, you’re building a relationship and they are not going to go someplace else unless you screw up and do a bad job.
We see a lot of our coaching clients where they have great success going in between a $5,000 to $15,000 project. Once they are at the front of the door that leads to the six figures and in some cases seven figures engagements after that. I know a lot of people are concerned, “Maybe I am missing this big opportunity to land a bigger piece of business.” If you do a good job, you deliver real value, there is no reason why you wouldn’t be able to continue working with that client and earn significantly more and not a lot more value long-term.There are a lot of growing technology companies that could use your expertise as a consultant. Click To Tweet
If you think about going in, you have a real opportunity and I had some big opportunities I had one with one of the major accounting firms and working with some of their business units on crafting their messaging. How do they say what they do in order to set up more meetings? This is something I understand implicitly. She wanted to get me hired. I was going to propose she hire the director of marketing in this whole thing. Hire me and it’s going to be this big and I said, “No, let’s slow down. Let’s pick three that we can get started on and tackle that in the next few months. We can get it done at the end of Q1 and we can get some momentum going.” The other group was raising their hands and said, “Can Jill work with us? Can we get Jill over here? We need messaging.”
That’s what we did and I got in like that she didn’t need to propose this huge major contract which she wanted to do. I understand the risk involved with somebody who puts that out. I understand the decision process. The more money involved, the more people get involved from the decision and you start to get people that say, “There are other ways we can use your money.” Not only are you fighting against the way they are currently doing it, but you are also fighting for the other uses of the money that may be technical in nature and it has nothing to do with you. It might be a proposal system for me.
What was the starting value, that initial engagement with them with the few months and where it ended up with the lifetime value of the client?
It started out with $30,000. It was a $30,000 contact that ended up $200,000 by the time I was done working. It was an add-on, it was, “Let’s move.” I would be working with them and I’d go, “You might not realize this but there are some issues over here they’re totaling us. What we need to work on are these people here.” It didn’t start out big. It started out $30,000 and I pushed back and said, “No. Let’s keep it small. I am pushing back on a client who wants to talk to me by bringing me in to work with consultants. This is a consulting firm again. They want me to work with their consultants to be better at consulting.
Don’t you think that creates a higher level of trust between you and the client when they are saying, “We want to pay you a lot more money.” You say, “No, just pay me less. Let’s do less first.” Doesn’t that flip the dynamic to make it into a trusted advisor and partner?
Absolutely, “Let’s get started here. I can’t figure it out and you want me to propose this? You have some massive needs here. I don’t know where we are starting. I have to get my hands around starting block then I can work with you to put together the plan, but we can’t start on this massive thing even though it is necessary we’ll start.” I was talking to them and I proposed what I felt was comfortable in starting and they’ve alternate. It’s probably increased another $20,000 in value, but it’s much less because I am keeping it under control.
I’m putting words into your mouth here, but I am guessing that it’s also because you want to service them at the highest level. You know in the back of your mind that the value will be there and it will turn into a significantly larger project down the road.
That’s what I learned over time that is going for the big deals, it’s harder. There are so many things that can go wrong that can prevent you from getting started. To me, it’s all about getting started.
Let’s talk about that. You’ve come a long way. You’ve been in this game for many years. You’ve written four best-selling books. You’ve spoken with a thousand people. You’ve worked with many companies. You have accomplished a lot. You are looking back over what you have accomplished. What do you feel that has been the biggest contributor to your overall success? Has it been the books? Has it been speaking? Has it been referrals from clients? Has it been your direct prospecting outreaching efforts? It’s likely a mix of all those, but have to say, “Looking back at my career, this one thing I did helped me to make a big leap and to reach that next level.” Is there anything that stands out to you?
Yes, but it is not what you think.
What is it?
It’s my intense curiosity, my love for solving problems.
Now I have curiosity too. Tell me more about that. What do you mean by that?
The reality is my own consulting business ran into trouble because I was too vested with a couple of big companies at that point. Both came under pressure with Wall Street and were told to chop off consultants. My business was wiped out overnight. I had to reinvent myself and when I finally came back to the market, the new Jill that I was going to be in the next decade of my life, that’s when nobody answered the phone and all calls went to voicemail. Nobody responded to my emails and I thought, “I’ve lost my mojo. I’m over the hill.” My husband told me at that point, “Are you ever going to work again?” I said, “I think so.” That was years ago. It was personal and I finally opened up to other people when I said, “Are you guys having trouble? Nobody is answering the phone.”
I realized that it was a problem everybody had. What I did was I detached from the personal aspect that, “I am a failure. I’m losing it. I’m never going to earn money again. I may go back to waitressing.” When I finally detached from that I got curious and thought, “Somebody is getting in and what do I have to do differently?” I spent a whole year researching and experimenting with different strategies. There were no books on the market and I had to figure out from ground zero on how to do this. Nobody was talking about it. They all assumed you happen to be sitting on sales books. We were sitting across this prospect, “How did you get there?”
Intense curiosity and experimentation, I finally figured out a way to do it on a consistent basis with myself and what I did was I de-Jilled it. I took myself out of it and there was a methodology underlined here. What is this methodology and I said, “I need to write a book on this because there is no book out there.” That book changed everything, but it was my curiosity that got me to the book and that got me to do the research. A few years later I was working with my clients as a consultant in a large insurance company selling to other corporations and I was working on a project. At the end of that project, there was a big event project at the end of my contact and I talked about what’s next. I contacted him a couple of weeks later. He didn’t return my calls and I emailed him. Eight contacts later I never heard from him in over a two-month period and I thought, “I must have ticked him off.” I finally wrote him an email and I said, “Bill, I have no idea what I said to offend you so badly. Please accept my apologies. It was inadvertent. If you are still talking to me I would love to chat with you someday.” I had no idea and he wrote back within 30 minutes. This was a couple of months of not hearing from him.
He said, “Jill, no. I have been swamped here that I figured you would understand and I’ll get back to you when I could breathe.” That’s new. I have never had my best client in the world tell me, “I can’t talk to him. I’m so busy.” I thought to myself, “This affects everything from a sales perspective,” and I went, “These people are overwhelmed, crazy busy and we have to change what we were doing.” I spent a whole year researching, “How do you deal with overwhelmed people? How does that apply to selling?” I experimented and tried different methodologies until I found what worked and wrote SNAP Selling, which is what I learned. After I wrote that, I thought I solved the problems of the world.
There is still something out there, I am guessing.
After that happened, people started contacting me and saying, “Jill, this stuff is working. I changed what I am doing and people are getting back to me and sales don’t get stuck in the middle. It’s working, but I am crazy busy too. What do you have for me?” I said, “I don’t have a clue. I am crazy busy as you.” I thought about it for a couple of years because I kept hearing it and I went, “I do know one thing about crazy busy.” Remember what I said that I liked to throw myself into projects? I’m good at it and I’m a rapid learner. I know how to digest information rapidly so I wrote a book for new sales hires on how to take a new sales job and get up to speed as fast as humanly possible because it was an issue.
You clearly throw yourself into things and you’re productive and accomplished a lot. When I look at what you put out in terms of books, talks and all of that. There is a lot there and I am wondering, what is your secret? What is your routine? What is the daily practice that you use that keeps you at that high level of performance? Is it some activities? Is it some supplement? I’ve heard all kinds of things when I ask this question. What are you using on a daily basis that you say, “This is something critical to me being me and having high levels of performance?”If you want to succeed as a consultant, you have to decide to do something that you don’t exactly think is perfect. Click To Tweet
First of all, being me, there are a lot of things I do and they don’t take a huge amount of time.
They don’t. Open the door a little bit for us. Give us a little look into the behind the scenes of Jill’s successful practice.
Let me say that I am a slug at times and I don’t get a lot done, because I’m curious I wonder a lot. My last book was More Sales Less Time in terms of how to get more done without getting distracted all the time. That was my issue. One of the things I did as a consultant that made a difference, first of all, I made a database and I think that a database is crucial. Anybody who doesn’t have a database is making a big mistake.
Is it a database of IO clients and prospects to contact?
No, I mean a newsletter database.
People that opt-in on your website to get something and you can communicate with them.
On a regular basis. If I had to say anything that was crucial, it was the fact that I recognized early on that a newsletter was a one-on-one communication with people who can buy my services. It was never a pitchy newsletter. It was always how to do this. It was always how to. It was related to issues and challenges that my clients asked. I became a regular in people’s inboxes and built my database. I have 140,000 and it has been consistently being that which is good because you’ll lose 20% of your database a year by people changing jobs. A number of years ago, I was asked a question that most people in my business don’t ask and it’s, “How can I give away my expertise for free and make good money doing it?”
What did you find? What did you arrive at?
It was beautiful. When I asked a different question it opened my mind to different opportunities. What did I discover? I have expertise in certain areas. The first thing that I discovered was somebody asked me to write an eBook for their website because I was good at selling and they were appealing to the vice president of sales. I said, “Sure.” I wrote it for free because they were marketing my stuff. They were told, “Here’s a good eBook by Jill Konrath.” Somebody else was promoting me and saying I was good. A couple of months later, I got contacted by Dow Jones who said what I had done for this other company and said, “We would like for you to write an eBook for us too.” I talked with him and focused on the eBook and thought, “Dow Jones, that’s a big company.” If they say I’m good that means I’m good and they asked, “How much would you charge for that eBook?” I went, “Charge?” I think it’s marketing and I said, “It’s an eBook, it’s 2,000 to 3,000 words. It’s not long. $3,000,” and they were, “We can do that.”
What year was this in to put that into context?
This was several years ago.
I wanted to calculate for inflation.
I kept raising my prices and I was up to $10,000 to write a 2,000 to 3,000-word eBook as the expert which positions me, now they have to give away that content for free, I’m the expert, it’s content. They’re starving for content if they are involved in lead generation at all because they are trying to get people who need this stuff. They’re trying to build their database. I become content baked. Other people are giving me away and I am being paid good money. Some years ago, my daughter worked for an agency that wrote content for LinkedIn. An eBook, they were charging 24-year-old, 25-year-old writers writing for the agency, they would interview people like me and they would charge LinkedIn for $20,000 for the eBook. I can do that, eBook, 2,000 to 3,000 words and I don’t have to do the layout. I’ll give them the verbiage. They lay it out, make it look pretty and they promote me to everybody.
You started off with the idea of giving things for free.
No, giving something for free. “How can I give away my expertise for free and,” there was the and there.
You are getting paid for it.
I make good money.
It’s double leverage because in this case you are getting paid to produce and you’re getting them essentially to promote you. You’re in front of a whole new audience distribution.
I would always in the eBook have to relate to another eBook written on my website so I can draw people back to my website. What matters? Database matters and any consultant that doesn’t have a database and a newsletter, they’re missing the opportunity to grow their business and to keep in touch with people.
Jill, thank you for coming on here and sharing a bit of your story and best practices. I appreciate it. I also want to make sure that they can learn more about you and your work. Let us know the best place for people to go to.
Thanks, Jill. I appreciate you coming on.
It’s my pleasure.