It was a lucky double stroke of good fortune recently that sales thought leader Jill Konrath would be coming to town and that I was not on the road myself. The organization she spoke at invited me to attend as I am a prospective member for them and also a friend of Jill’s. There was no plan to write anything afterward, but I felt compelled to since I think it would help others who are looking for corporate sales training or for a great speaker on selling for their association to learn from.
Jill first appeared on my radar in early 2006 after she launched her first book, best seller and award-winning “Selling to Big Companies” which helped smaller companies get their foot in the door to bigger companies. It was a huge success, and put her in with the top sales enablement trainers and speakers in the world. Last year she wrote the (also best selling) book, SNAP Selling: Speed Up Selling and Win More Business With Today’s Frazzled Customers. Although I’ve known Jill since 2006, I have never seen her “in action” training from the front of the room, so could only write about how much I enjoyed her books and award-winning blog.
Over the last 27 years I have been to hundreds of sales training sessions – first as a seller in the technology space, where I learned from the best of the best. Companies like IBM, Apple, and HP used to put on mammoth training sessions – where you’d go for a full week or more of sales training to learn all you needed to make sales. As an avid learner, and former teacher, I always loved this part of my career. Later as sales leader, then a trainer myself – in tech, then distribution, and finally financial services, there were hundreds more sessions.
So you can say I’m a tough critic, being taught by the “old guard” big names who have written dozens of books and, as I recall, seemed very impressed with themselves.
This leads me to my day with Jill Konrath at the front of the room. She is a confident presenter on a subject that she is a master of. Not only can she speak in the front of the room or train large teams, she writes eloquently and voraciously about business-to-business selling.
Her session started out very interactively – pulling the large room of people together working to understand the life of a crazy-busy prospect. It was brilliant in that not only did everyone really get to think (and feel) for a few minutes about what it really IS like to be so busy, but it also got the audience fully engaged.
Konrath asked the room full of small business owners and professionals to give a shout out of their voice mail message as if she was playing them back on her phone – offering a loud, verbal “DELETE” after nearly every one of them (sometimes DURING some of them). A few attendees were taken aback, as if she should have been a little more polite about it. I felt that uncomfortable feeling another speaker can get where you say to yourself, “Uh, oh – where is she going to take this next?”
She finished the role-play and brought the conversation full circle by speaking candidly with everyone, saying, “THIS is what your prospect’s life is like – and you are using old selling strategies to reach them – which is why you are working harder than ever and for lesser results.” She had her audience’s full attention.
From there, Jill spent the rest of the time giving real examples of what DOES work – learning the language of your buyer while eliminating all of what she calls, “self-puffery.” Konrath says going on and on about yourself and your company is “totally and grossly inappropriate” (one of my favorite phrases of the day). Yet we see this all the time STILL.
Konrath’s usual crowd for sales training are B2B sellers and this group was professionals who don’t identify with being in sales – therefore the very first hurdle to get over that took some time in this session, which was handled in a very strong way. Konrath admitted she was not a “born salesperson” and that what she is teaching are skills that nearly anyone can learn. For people not in sales as a profession, they need to “get” that what they don’t like about sales is bad sales experiences – not admirable ones.
I’d love to see Jill in a full day with a room full of sellers – for now I can clearly say that her self-effacing style and roll-up-your-sleeves helpful examples are what resonate with attendees to get more out of their comfort zone and try her ideas for reaching “crazy-busy” prospects. While she is refreshingly approachable, she is also clearly committed to being tough with people on what they should stop doing or saying – and how their website and content needs to deliver messaging that resonates with your target buyer. She generously offers free resources at her website Jill Konrath. Subscribe to her Fresh Sales Strategies blog– she’s connected to the top resources in sales enablement today with huge readership of her newsletter. Her latest posts are about groundbreaking new research on sales effectiveness.
Lori Richardson speaks, trains, and blogs to fast-growing B2B companies needing better sales conversion rates. Her company, Score More Sales also offers B2B prospecting services. Subscribe to the Score More Sales blog, Sales Ideas in a Minute for twice-monthly quick tips that work.