Margo: 00:01 Welcome to Sales Leaders Talks brought to you by Callpage. This podcast is for sales and marketing leaders who want to lead their people to success, do more, better and faster each day. Our guests are experienced sales and marketing experts who share their secrets and strategies on everything from team coaching and leadership to marketing and sales tech solutions. Before we move forward, ask yourself this question, "Do you want to excel as a leader and help your company grow?" If your answer is yes, let's get started.
Margo: [00:02] Welcome to Sales Leaders Talks brought to you by Callpage. This podcast is for sales and marketing leaders who want to lead their people to success, do more, better and faster each day. Our guests are experienced sales and marketing experts who share their secrets and strategies on everything from team coaching and leadership to marketing and sales tech solutions. Before we move forward, ask yourself this question, "Do you want to excel as a leader and help your company grow?" If your answer is yes, let's get started.
Margo: [00:37] Hi, welcome to the Sales Leaders Talks today. My guest is Jill Konrath, an experienced sales leader, a keynote speaker and an author of four best-selling books. Today Jill is going to share with us her own perspective on how sales leaders should shape coaching strategies for their sales reps and how they can assist sales reps when they face some roadblocks on the way to closing more deals. We're also going to talk about sales velocity and how to fill the pipeline with more high quality leads. I guess very interesting topics for any sales leaders today. That is why welcome to the show.
Margo: 01:16 Hi, Jill!
Jill: 01:18 Hello, Margaret! How are you today?
Margo: 01:19 This is great that you have accepted my invitation to be today on the Sales Leaders Talks. Thank you!
Jill: [01:25] Well, thank you for inviting me. It's fun to be here.
Margo: [01:28] So Jill, wherever I go I come upon your content. I see your articles... You're commenting on a lot of aspects connected to sales. So basically you have earned your your own image in sales and it took you so much time and so much effort, a lot of experience. Could you share your story how you got in sales, how you got to the point of being invited as a keynote speaker?
Jill: [01:59] Yes. I actually had no desire ever to be in sales. I thought it was a disgusting profession when I started out and the only reason I went into sales as I had come up with an idea for a business and I was a high school teacher at the time and I went to some advisors and they said, this is a really good business idea, but how are you going to sell it? You know, and who's gonna sell it, and I said, I thought this was a really good idea, and they said it is... Jill, but somebody has to sell it. And so I said, okay, I will spend one year in sales and at the end of that year I am going to start my company. Well, that was a lifetime ago. I got myself hired by Xerox Corporation. I learned how to sell. I discovered that it was entirely different from what I thought it was, that it was a challenging profession that required you to learn and grow and I just expanded my world so I never went back to my idea.
Jill: [03:04] I stayed in sales, moved into sales leadership roles, moved into technology companies, and then I'll ultimately started my own consultancy, which was many years ago at this point where I helped clients launch new products successfully in the market and probably about 30 years ago. I started reading books about what I had learned and I wrote, I've written four books since I started. The first one was "Selling to Big Companies" and that's on how to how salespeople can set up meetings with busy corporate people who don't want to talk with them. The second book I wrote was called "SNAP selling" and that was when I discovered that everybody was so busy that it was affecting the entire buying process and how they made decisions and it was what about what salespeople could do to stay relevant and to stay a priority in the decision process, and then I wrote a book to help people get up, help salespeople get up to speed faster in a new sales job, and then my most recent book, "More sales - Less Time" is about sales productivity and how salespeople can get more done in a day and to do it better.
Jill: [04:25] So that's what I do. I currently have over one third of a million followers on Linkedin. I speak at a lot of conferences, but my goal is to make salespeople better.
Jill: [04:40] Yeah. I actually when I talk to sales leaders, they say it's not easy to be a sales leader because you can always hit your targets, you can be an amazing sales representative and you can be really talented, you can be extremely productive and and you can get your things done, but when you get the position in sales leadership and now you are to manage a lot of people under you, sometimes some people find it extremely difficult to transfer this knowledge to the rest of the team. Do you believe that sales leaders should have this teacher part in themselves and always be able to share the knowledge, always be able to share the knowledge in a kind of a digestible way to sales reps and sales team. What is actually the secret to success of a great sales leader?
Jill: [05:34] That's a great question. What do I believe? I believe that the best salespeople aren't always the best sales leaders because being a sales leader requires very different skills sets and very different way of thinking. I remember my own first movement into sales leadership and discovering that I couldn't create things happening. I had helped my own people do it and it's so at heart, there's a teaching coaching component that is absolutely crucial to the success of a sales leader and it's the ability to look at salespeople on and think, how can I help them get better? Now there's one hundred ways you can help somebody get better, so it doesn't necessarily have to be the sales leader, him or herself is doing everything, but the sales leader has to be the one who is the person who keeps professional development at the forefront of each sales person's career and helps them focus on, you know, where are they running into troubles in their sales and what can they do and brainstorming ideas with them and helping them with strategy. But it's really about as a sales leader, healthy new sales people get better because you cannot succeed unless your salespeople get better. You can maybe push them and close deals for them, but that's not sustainable. You can't keep that up over time because you'll wear people off and you'll wear yourself off. So you really have to be somebody who focuses on developing people.
Margo: [07:09] And, uh, if you were in that position to, let's say, recommend something to other sales leaders. So basically a lot of sales leaders have their own plans and they stick to them. They have something in mind that, okay, uh, they should help with this particular problems to their sales reps. So they have a plan and a roadmap to implement that. But if you were in that position to recommend them something, how could they help their sales reps to progress? Should they send them to trainings more often? Should they spend more time with them? Should they just forget about metrics? Forget about the numbers for some time and just dedicate one or two days to really deep coaching sessions when they discuss and set goals together trying to get to the root of the problem together without just focusing on numbers too much? Which would be your roadmap to help salespeople?
Jill: [08:07] The first thing I'd suggest is actually just start with new hires and what you're doing when you're bringing somebody on board to your company – I see a huge lost opportunity that companies spend a lot of time and money looking for somebody who could be a good sales rep for them and then they bring them into their company, but don't give them what they will actually need in order to be successful in their position. For example, what I typically see when somebody is hired by the company is that they spend a lot of time or maybe even a short time depending on the company, learning about the company's product. Here's what we're selling and here's a little bit who we're selling to. There's really like, they just turn over to the salespeople and they say, you know, why don't you just watch these people selling or maybe go out and make some calls with these people or listened to them on the phone and then you know, you can start doing it yourself.
Jill: [09:06] Well, you know, it's like if you want to have somebody fail, that is exactly the formula to set them up as get them started like that. So what do I recommend? I recommend that you actually think about what skill sets do our people need to be successful, what knowledge do they need of the customer? This is probably the biggest gap I see in bringing new people onto a company and by the way, when you have this gap at the beginning, all their salespeople habit, but the lack of knowledge of a customer is so detrimental to the sales process and sets people up for failure. So what do I recommend I recommend? First of all, that company say, here's our ideal client profile. We we work best with technology companies in this market sector. They are growing and they have these particular problems. That's where we are most successful or we work best with the automotive market.
Jill: [10:08] You know, wherever it is that you were professing you'll have, this is where you have a chance to have the most successful, but looking within that, it's like, here are the people that we call on in this market segment that we're calling on the VP of Sales or the VP of Marketing. Here are the roles and responsibilities of the buyers that we're calling on. Here's what they're expected to accomplish every single day, here's their goals for the year and here's how they know how they'll be successful, so we need to know what these people are aiming at, you know, at the end of the year, how they'll know that they're successful and then we have to say, well, what kind of plans do they have in place to get to these goals? What's going to stop them from getting to the, to the goals either inside the company, outside the company, and then how does our product fit?
Jill: [10:57] Then the final thing is what's the status quo? How are they doing things without us mean if we're a technology company, how are they getting things done without our technology? If we're a services company and we design graphics, how are they doing it without us, and then what difference can we actually make? So the analysis and understanding of the customer is what gives people the context to sell. Because now you know who you're calling to. You know, what they're likely doing, the primary ways they're currently handling things without your solution, that problems and challenges they might be running into what they're trying to achieve. You can see what gaps exist and now you can set up a sales conversation and you can figure out what kind of messaging would be most effective and you can figure out what questions they should be asking when they're involved with in a client meeting.
Jill: [11:48] But the whole thing starts with a rich and deep understanding of a customer and that's where people start off bad. And if people, sales reps don't have that understanding, then there's a good chance that they will fail. So now we're back to hiring new people again and having to spend more money to find another good person and a territory is open and we don't have anybody calling on a certain group of customers. And so it's a very, very, very costly mistake that most people don't pay attention to. They're more interested in, you know, learning how to learn, how to use a CRM so they can track things when the essence of it is, who are we calling, how can we understand our customers and how do we shape a sales process around that. So to me, that's where you start rambling about this, but you asked about metrics.
Margo: [12:40] Yeah, I just wanted to add here because I read a very interesting book by Clayton Christensen's, Competing Against Luck. It says people have their jobs to be done. So in the end of the day they have to finish some tasks and they are being measured by the way they are completing these tasks. So if you'll actually notice this thing very precisely, that basically sales reps have to look at tasks that people accomplish each day. Those decision makers, now they are doing things how status quo looks like in our organizations. So it's framing this to the context of the client and sometimes probably sales reps have the problem to research properly before they jump on a call. How in your opinion should these proper research look like? Should it be like several hours of proper research or just, you know, just understanding the market in some particular ways. Are there any tricks or are there any strategies you would like to bring up?
Jill: [14:02] Well, I think the research is crucial and the depth of understanding that you have is important. It depends, I think on the, the type of company that you're going after. If you're going after and larger company, um, there is an expectation in a larger company that you will have done, you know, you have studied their company, you will have some ideas for them that might be helpful that you will have, you won't, you won't be just calling that you will look up the person. It's like it's the price of admission that a larger company expects you to do, that they will not give you their time unless you have spent time investing to learn about them. Now, if you're calling on small businesses and that is your target and for example, if you're one company I've worked with, their target market is entrepreneurs with between 20 and 50 employees,
Jill: [15:02] Okay, so they can look on to online to look up these companies, but the truth of the matter is most all of these entrepreneurs struggle with the same issue that they deal with and so what they've spent their time helping their salespeople understand is that in-depth understanding of the issue these people are facing, doing their jobs and growing their business and so it doesn't have to be as much time invested in knowing about each individual company because they're calling up to smaller companies, but it's a good understanding of the issues and challenges faced by the buyer that they're calling on. Let me just say too, like I call on sales managers, sales leaders, chief revenue officers, and I could always assume that they are facing issues related to pipelines because that seems to be a universal sales challenge. I could also assume that they're struggling to find good talent, good salespeople to fill their open positions and so I could consistently frame messages and plan meetings focused on the issues that they're facing and I don't have to note so much in depth about the company, but I might like if I'm going after a bigger company, I would really check them out to find out what's happening in the company today.
Jill: [16:28] What are the issues? What are their competitors doing? If they're launching new products, expanding to new markets. If they had a bad third quarter for their business and sales are stagnant. I mean I would research just because that gives me or that gives the salespeople the context to frame a relevant message with some ideas that could help this company adjust to the new changes that they are facing. And research shows that if a company is going as it's going through a trigger event, like something has changed, so there's new directions and new people and accompany a new leadership that if a salesperson comes in and mentions and addresses the issue and challenge they're facing and says that they have some insights that could help the company reach their goals or their new objectives or deal with the change that they have. A 74% close rate and I have never ever heard of anything, having a higher percentage of success.
Jill: [17:36] Then following up on a trigger event, finding a trigger event that your product or service can address and then crafting messaging that picks somebody's curiosity and then actually having meetings around solving the issue or dealing with the new emerging challenge and a new direction. That's so important for sellers to do it. Only the top sellers do. If I were leading a company right now, I would really think about these trigger events and the research and how we can be alerted and you can set it up with like Google to alert you when certain things are happening, but it gets you in having a conversation about what matters and it shortens the sales cycle. It reduces the number of competitors and it leads to more revenue, more revenue, faster, bigger sales. I mean to me sales leaders should stop saying more, more, more, and they should be saying, where can we get the best leverage on our salespeople's time? Where can we have the maximum impact with what we're doing as opposed to the more button?
Margo: [18:49] Yeah, exactly, and I do believe that the devil is in the details because it's quite like, I think, I guess that sales reps know about that. Did they have to do this research? They have to kind of relate to the customer's needs that are unique in some respect. They have to present the case studies that they have done before some company track record, but still it's sometimes it's just... it might be the right phrasing of the sentence or it just can be more balanced conversation when there is this call and it's like small things that affect the whole conversation, the whole impression that's the company to which we are selling our solution. This company understands that the sales rep pay a bit more attention to them that he really digs deeper into the needs and it's like small things. That's sometimes they are on a psychological level and you don't notice them as so hard to nail this. Do you think that sales reps just have to be really good psychologists to also apply that in the sales process?
Jill: [19:55] I think psychology is also important, but let me just say like, you know, everybody says that preparation is important, but not everybody does the research or takes the time to do it and sales leaders are creating this problem to... Let me just say that when the month is going on and they think that they're going to have a good month and suddenly it's like the 20th of the month, the 20th of December, 20th of January, and they look at their numbers and they go, oh no, you know, it's not going to be a good month. It's like this is not right. Oh No, I'm not going to meet my numbers. Then they get scared so this is bringing psychology and the other way. They get scared and they go, oh, we need to make more. We need to make more. And so they start pushing that more button and say, more calls guys.
Jill: [20:48] You've got to make more calls. You've got to get out there and talk to more prospects. You've got to go back to our existing clients and tell them about this product. And suddenly they their own nervousness about meeting their goals as a sales leader is now running off being put onto their salespeople and now their salespeople are nervous and so everybody is now making more calls but not better calls you know, they're not making their outreaches focused on contacting and setting up more meetings but not better meetings. And so the quality actually declines and it has a negative impact on sales. The hardest thing is sales leader will have to do is to control their own fears about making their numbers because if they get fearful and start pushing the more button, they will actually hurt their salespeople's performance because they'll make them scared and scared salespeople don't behave well. They, they try to rush the sales process. They make customers feel like they just want the sale, not that they care about helping the customer or the buyer achieve their objectives. So it's a real interesting dynamic. It's like, and the sales leaders actually control it and if they don't recognize their own fears and how it's impacting things, they will create fear all the way through their whole sales organization.
Margo: [22:24] So what would be your suggestions to avoid this in the end of the month, when 20th comes and sales leaders get agitated that they are not hitting their targets. So how to start from the very beginning, to have this more holistic approach when there is first of December, let's say, and there is still one month ahead – how to be more balanced and how to actually set the right pace of closing the deals? How to help sales reps to be more productive each day, not just when the end of the month comes?
Jill: [22:57] I think the whole thing starts with focusing on creating a learning organization where the whole company is focused on getting better and what that means. I mean I've talked about how it's so crucial at the beginning of a sales person's career to bring them into the company and to help them get up to speed the right way. But if you take a look at everybody in the sales organization, there's only a few salespeople who are doing great. Those are huge opportunity in the middle of the sales organization to help people get better. So you asked about metrics earlier, um, I believe that it's important to be tracking certain metrics in terms of completion and, and when I say that what's important to me is, is you know, okay, you made X number of calls either in person or on the phone and you sent out this many emails and here was your conversion rate, you know, only one out of 20 people you talk to, you know, responded to you or you know, you had a conversation with only one out of 20 people. For the whole thing should be not if that's where the sales cycle starts.
Jill: [24:10] And we have to always start with where the sales cycle begins because that's where you have the most impact. So if you say, okay, what if I could help this, you know, what, if all of our salespeople could improve 10%, just 10% on their conversion rate at the front end of the sales cycle. So rather than making 20 calls and getting one person, what if they were able to make – I don't do math in my head very well – but what if they were able to double that and make twenty calls and get two responses now? Wow, that's twice as many opportunities. So tracking conversion rates is important. And then saying to salespeople, look, Margaret, here's where you're at – you are making one out of twenty attempts to reach the customer is successful. And this is this: "let's work on" how you can get better at this.
Jill: [24:59] So rather than coaching them on everything, let's work on this thing at the beginning of the sales cycle, which is what's causing new challenges right now, but you can also take an experienced sales professional and you can work with them on that. And you could say, you know, let's take a look at yours. Oh, you're closing four out of every 20 calls that you're making or emails that you're sending out – you're not closing, you're converting to the next step. What would happen if you could do that? And what could you change? And so to be able to brainstorm with people, to be able to give them some ideas to put them together with colleagues, uh, that kind of stuff. And have everybody in your whole sales organization working on getting better at something at the same time. And they choose where it is. If it's a new person, it's always at the front-end.
Jill: [25:45] But if you take a look at experienced sales pros and you say, well, what could make it better? Um, well, let's see. They could get better – they could increase the number of opportunities they have. They could increase their deal size. That's interesting. How could we increase deal size, you know? And if you could increase your deal size 10%, how would that impact your overall sales? They could improve or speed up the velocity of their sales. So things move faster. I mean these are all the things that you can work on. And then people could each have their own specific growth challenge to get better at. And by the way, a sales leader should have his or her challenge growth challenge to get better at too. Because the whole organization has to be a learning organization and the leader should be talking once a week or once every two weeks about what they're doing to get better at this and, and you know, and where they're going next week. And brainstorming about how to ensure that what's coming up in the next week is being done at a higher level.
Margo: [27:01] Yeah. So, uh, do you believe that it's, it should be just the mindset that the organization should be with this learning mindset or it should be just some kind of framework or some system that should be established and be in place in an organization. Some kind of like actions that sales leaders should take each time he's thinking about his sales reps? How to frame it in some kind of scalable repetitive processes.
Jill: [27:28] Exactly. That's exactly what I believed that it should not be you know, once here, once there. Sometimes when we get around to it. Right now, if you look at statistics on coaching, sales leaders think that they are coaching a lot, but if you ask the salespeople, most of them don't feel they're getting pretty much coaching like very little and yet coaching and investment in coaching time is a whole lot more important in developing your people. Then analyzing your, your numbers and your spreadsheets. That's where you could have the highest impact as a sales leader is by helping each person on your team get better what they're doing. So what should it be done? Yes, it should be an expectation that people have that they have goals with each of their sales reps and the sales reps, the sales reps, sign off on the goals.
Jill: [28:19] They say, yes, I really want to improve this because I understand the impact it will have on my success. And, and they should have some ideas on what they're gonna work on and they should be checking in on a regular basis, like once a week or once every two weeks to see where the sales person and what they're learning and how they're learning. It can be through conversations with peers that can be through podcasts, through reading a book, it could be through attending a training program is a lot of different things, but everybody should have something to do. It should be a regular process and an expectation from the top of the sales organization to the bottom.
Margo: [28:55] Okay, so in case a sales leader already knows that he has to do has to do this, this and this each time he's coaching his sales reps, but how should he like note or make notes of everything he is saying or the feedback he gets from, she gets from sales reps, should it be, I don't know, like just putting it in some details like in Google docs, should be solving in some Excel how to track this coming down to really like, you know, detailed approach.
Jill: [29:27] I mean it should be something like that and in some way to officially track. I mean there are some softwares out there that that actually help people do it. If you're using Salesforce, but there are, but it doesn't have to be through a technology. It can just be through setting up a system where you know, here's how we communicate – the rep says, yes, the rep can actually sign a document, you know, and just send them an email and the rep consented back and say, yes, I agree. This is what I'm going to work on for the next three weeks and here's what I'm going to be doing to learn it, you know, and they make an agreement and every week when they talk, it can be, you know, what are you learning what you're doing? Let's talk about how we can use this in the upcoming week, but the rep needs to get ownership of it.
Jill: [30:13] It needs to not be an assignment, but the rep has to go, oh, if I could improve my conversion rates and, and, and have more people respond to every email I send out, I have more prospects, you know, oh, that's great. You know, I just need to work on that. So it's, it's a focus on let's get you better, let's get more prospects in your pipeline. Let's ensure that more demos lead to the next step. Let's ensure that more proposals, you know, you win more deals because when you go up against competitors, you're better than your competitors. So there's so many things that everybody in an organization could get better at, but an agreement is important between the sales leader and the salesperson and it should be a regular process and that's something we get to every now and then when a leader has time, it should be regular.
Margo: [31:06] Okay. And if you were to give like some universal advice to sales leaders, some really solid strategies that anyone in any sales organization can implement. So what would be your general recommendations? Something to start with to improve the process and to manage the pipeline?
Jill: [31:26] Well, let me just say, the first thing I'd suggest that they do is just start hiring for perhaps different characteristics. I would suggest that they look for people who are curious and are learning new things because in our business environment today, there's always change, uh, um, suggest that they look for people who have overcome hardship to achieve success in that they, because sales is hard. It's not easy to keep going at it when rejection is your thing, I'd suggest that they look at creating solid onboarding program so that the new people that they do hire have a greater chance of success and that alone will make a huge difference for them because they're not turning over salespeople all the time because salespeople can get up to speed. I'd suggest that they think and map out their sales process and say, what are the skills that are needed to be learned?
Jill: [32:27] What is the knowledge that needs to be learned at each phase of the process? And where can we start? I'd suggest they look at key, um, key metrics that they can work on from a skills perspective, like conversion rates from first call to second call from demo to close or proposal. I mean, those, every time there is a movement to the next step, there's a fall off. And if we can track with the fall offs are and just help salespeople understand, I'm not tracking you because I'm, you know, I'm going to be punitive and mad, we are tracking this so you can see where you need to improve the most and where your best opportunity is for making changes and learning something that will give you a chance to succeed more and earn the money that you want and live the kind of lifestyle that you want to have a really fun, challenging job that you're growing in. So those are just some things. I mean I could go on and on, I guess.
Margo: [33:23] Yeah, it's hard to be a great mentor, but it's even harder to hire people who have higher chances to be more independent in what they're doing and having more chances to also learn so fast to outperform a sauce reps from the competitive company. So it's quite challenging. So Joe, could you say us where we can find your books and where we can read more about your experiences and also about your recommendations.
Jill: [33:52] Um, I would suggest people go to my website which is Jillkonrath.com. And, and, and they, all, four of my books are listed on my website, all four of them are available on Amazon so you can get them that way, but they can, people can download a preview a couple chapters from each of my books on my website. Plus I have a ton of free resources there.
Margo: [34:13] Yeah, yeah. Actually I've checked some of their resources recently. Yeah, you've got quite a lot of them and while it's probably took you a lot of time to gather the experience first and then translate it into downloadable resources. So basically we are recommending everyone to ge them. So thank you a lot for this interview, Jill!
Jill: [34:39] My pleasure, Margo.
Margo: [34:42] Thanks for listening to this podcast episode. If you enjoyed our today's talk, please leave a positive review on iTunes. It will help us reach more people with sales and marketing strategists. In case you want to enrich your knowledge with more marketing and sales tips, click the link in the description and download our free materials for this episode. Thank you and goodbye!
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