PowerViews with Jill Konrath: Changing Buyers Require Retooled Sales Reps

Posted by Dan McDade

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on Sep 6, 2012 2:03:00 PM

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My guest today is Jill Konrath. Jill is an internationally recognized expert who is known for her fresh sales strategies and game changing approaches. She is author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies. Jill's newsletters are read by more than 80,000 sellers worldwide. She is also a frequent speaker at annual sales meetings, kick-off events, and professional conferences.

Below, you can read highlights from our discussion or use the links to start the video from different parts of the conversation.

2012 Surprise: Slow Adoption of Technology Like Sales Intelligence Tools

Click to start video at this pointIn response to a question about what has or hasn’t happened in marketing and sales in 2012 that is surprising, Jill talks about the slow adoption of technology tools for sales forces: “People have the CRM systems, but they sometimes lack knowledge and awareness of all the different things that are available for sales people to help them be more effective and efficient in the marketplace. And I’m not saying that these tools replace good selling, but they certainly augment it. I’m just continually surprised to think that today everybody would know about that, and it shocks me.”

She says the use of sales intelligence tools is good examples of technology that is critical to sales success today. She adds, “Sales people who are knowledgeable about what’s going on in a company or an industry have a significantly higher chance of getting in. If they’re aware of certain events and things that are happening that create opportunities for them, they can get their foot in the door much faster and be positioned as an expert—whereas without this intelligence they’re just another self-serving salesperson who’s contacting them trying to sell their stuff.”

Why Reps Aren’t Meeting Quotas: Changing Roles of Buyers & Reps

Click to start video at this pointAsked about reasons why recent research is showing fewer sales reps made quota last year than in 2006, Jill says there are a lot of factors at work. She would begin by asking how quota is determined: “I see people every year say, ‘Well, we need to sell more in a company, so let’s raise everybody’s quota 20% this year.’ It’s not based on anything logical. It’s based on the need to deliver certain results to the corporation, and they don’t have the infrastructure in place to actually support their ability to do that. So I would say the goal setting is frequently dream setting—something they’d like to achieve, and it’s not necessarily realistic.”

She notes a second factor is the challenge gaining access to corporations and creating movement, a difficulty grounded in the workstyle and responsibilities of today’s executives: “When we’re dealing with today’s frazzled, crazy-busy decision makers, the truth of the matter is the only thing that they can do is protect their own time. And so they’ve got their barriers up. ‘Don’t come in here. I’m overwhelmed, I don’t answer my phone. I delete emails in 2.7 seconds.’ And so, is it harder to make a sale? Absolutely. Why would you want to meet with a salesperson today when everything’s online, too?”

She also says many companies have not adjusted to the fact that the role of the salesperson is not to convey information. Rather it is “to address critical needs and issues and goals that the client is trying to reach. It’s not about pitching your stuff.”

Many of these challenges can be traced to a root cause: “Companies haven’t realized how significantly their prospects or target customers have changed, and they haven’t retooled their salespeople to deal with this. Quite frankly, they don’t have a website to support it either. So there’s no lead generation coming in the door, and they’re relying on old sales methodology to reach highly educated buyers who don’t want to waste one iota of their time talking about what their salespeople are trained about.”

Alignment Success: Top-Down Initiative & Merge the Two Organizations

Click to start video at this pointJill notes that people are finally talking about marketing and sales alignment, but progress is slow. Challenges include “two separate silos with two separate ways of evaluating things, and it takes strong leadership at the top to get them to work together. But let’s be frank: the average sales manager or VP of sales isn’t in a position very long. I think the average tenure right now is about 24 or 22 months for somebody in that position. They’ve got to get results fast, and if they are not connected with marketing, the truth of the matter is they’re going to try to leverage everything from the sales arena, because that’s what they can control.”

Jill adds that alignment success is dependent on “a top-down initiative—we really need to merge these two organizations and have them walk hand-in-hand in order to find and attract the right people into our pipeline so that we can be working with them and maturing them over time so that when they’re ready to make the decision, it happens.”

Social Media: Know Where Your Customers Are & Use LinkedIn

Click to start video at this pointMeasuring return on social media investment is hard, Jill says, because it’s difficult to know if leads came from YouTube, a blog, a newsletter or a Tweet. She suggests a key approach: “I believe that we have to be ubiquitous in our space. That means that every organization needs to say who are my customers that I want to reach and how can I be out there in that market space where my customers are. That can be through any number of channels. It doesn’t have to be through all of them.”

She encourages sales reps to focus on LinkedIn, create a strong profile there, and use it regularly to connect and keep up to date with customers and prospects. She adds, “To me, LinkedIn is the one having the most impact right now on salespeople, and I strongly suggest that you use it.”

Jill talks about additional sales tools—beyond social media—that let sales reps connect and then monitor impact metrics. She mentions work she’s done with Brainshark lately: “If you send out a presentation to your customer, they’ll tell you who saw it and provide just tons of good tracking information that’ll allow you to really be aware of what’s happening and on top of things as a salesperson as opposed to just doing your stuff in the dark.”

Using Inbound to Get Online Bumps & Support Sales Initiatives

Click to start video at this pointAsked about the debate around outbound marketing vs. inbound marketing, Jill says she mostly recommends investments in inbound marketing because many companies haven’t done nearly the job they could attracting customers this way.

Too, many companies haven’t used their websites to full potential: “I see websites that are painful for me to look at. The reason that they’re painful is because I honestly think that they’re relying too heavily on their salespeople and outbound marketing initiatives—the traditional way of marketing. They’re not getting the online bump they could be getting by having excellent content on their site that people will come to see.”

These websites “do not support the sales organization in their initiatives. They don’t capture leads. They don’t demonstrate the company’s strength and capabilities by showcasing how they’ve helped other customers or by showcasing their knowledge and expertise in small vignettes like through these different social media venues.”

Conveying Understanding and Value: “Would They Pay to Meet with You?”

Click to start video at this pointEncouraging companies to let go of common and overdone messaging, Jill recommends companies clearly convey WIIFM to prospects: “Now add value. Show me that you as an organization really understand what people like me are struggling with on a regular basis. Show me that you’ve helped other people like me solve these problems. Help me understand that you can guide me through the decision process because it’s hard making a decision. I only have to decide on this every couple of years.”

She notes that most prospects buy based on relationships and interactions they have with salespeople, and questions used to evaluate these relationships include the following:

      • Are they adding value or not adding value?
      • Are they making me think?
      • Are they bringing me ideas and insights I didn’t have before meeting with them?

Jill adds, “This goes back to would they pay to actually meet with you? Which I think goes back to a huger sales problem which is what are organizations doing to make their salespeople these delectable people to meet with so that people will drool and actually say, ‘Omigod, I met with this salesperson, and she got me thinking, and she’s got some ideas and we need to…’ That’s what should be happening after meeting with us as opposed to ‘I got this brochure and here it is, and we’re looking forward to putting it in our circular file.’”

Concluding Thoughts: Supporting Salespeople on Their Change Paths

Click to start video at this pointJill summarizes by noting how much selling has changed and how important it is to deliver the right sales training so salespeople are equipped to meet new challenges: “I think the days are gone when salespeople can say, ‘I’m going to go out and hire ‘A’ salespeople.’ First of all, there are not enough ‘A’ salespeople out there, but if anybody thinks they’re going to get all the ‘A’ players, they’re probably smoking dope from the 60s. The reality is we need to start investing in our salespeople big time. They are the differentiator. They truly are. And if you want your salespeople to be the kind of person that a customer would pay to meet with, then you need to think differently about the education of your sales force.”

She adds sales leaders should be asking questions like these:

      • What can I do to bring them up to speed on what’s happening in our industry?
      • How can I help them understand our target customers in greater depth?
      • How can I keep them aware of the trends that are happening?
      • How can I make my salespeople experts?

Arriving at the answers and implementing effective sales training programs, Jill says, will result in prospects saying things like, “Wow, she really knows a lot, or he is so smart about what’s going on. We have to have them on our team.” She adds, “I don’t think VPs of sales are honestly thinking about how we can make our salespeople the competitive weapon. They’re just hoping they’ll deliver.”

Jill concludes, “It’s so not 1999 or 2000 anymore. The world has fundamentally changed. You’ve got good people—seriously good people out there—who are doing their best. But they literally don’t know that they need to change, and they’re not getting the support internally to change. They’re getting the support to go out and make more calls. And if you’re not making the right kind of calls, why waste your time?”

You can connect with Jill and learn more about her work by visiting her website:

Jill Konrath



Jill’s Website: www.jillkonrath.com




The next PowerViews will be with Bob Thompson of CustomerThink. Stay Tuned.


By Dan McDade

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Topics: B2B Marketing, Marketing & Sales Alignment, Marketing Strategy, B2B Sales, Sales Training, Inbound Marketing, PowerViews, Outbound Marketing

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