Ongoing learning, monotasking key to success with “Agile Selling” — Q&A with Jill Konrath


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Agile Selling
Jill Konrath’s new book AGILE SELLING is a good read. Instead of pushing yet another sales methodology, you’ll find practical advice that most any sales professional can put to use immediately.

Plus, I like the title! “Agile” is a good term to describe how reps in today’s customer-empowered world must operate. There is no training program or methodology that will assure success. To perform well, reps must learn how to get most out of their individual talents, motivations and creativity.

Here are five questions I asked Jill in an email interview.

1. Why did you write this book?

Virtually everyone I talked with was overwhelmed. They were struggling to keep up with all the changes going on. They were working harder than ever before, but seeing diminishing returns.

Prospects expectations had changed; they wanted ideas, insights and information. This was new for most salespeople. In addition, they had to learn about new products/services, adjust to evolving market conditions, call on different buyers, address new competitors and more – all while trying to meet their quota.

Trying to keep up with everything was crucial to their success, yet few knew how to quickly learn new info or pick up new skills.

Since sales acceleration has always been my passion and I’m a master of rapid learning, I had to share my expertise with others.

2. How do you contrast Agile Selling with Challenger, Consultative or Solution Selling?

Agile Selling is foundational to all of them. It’s about a mindset that leads to success. It’s about what it takes to rapidly learn new information so that you can be a challenger, solution or consultative seller. It’s also about the habits of top sellers that really make a difference.

Agile Selling also integrates new research from neuroscience, social psychology and other fields. By knowing how our brain works, we can structure our learning, strategizing and time to maximize success.

3. CSO Insights’ 2013 “Sales Performance Optimization” study found just 31% of companies meeting or exceeding their revenue plan, and only 58% of reps made quota. Why hasn’t $billions spent on sales methodologies and tools paid off in higher sales attainment?

Great question! First off, training itself has never solved the problem. Very few companies think about how they’re going to institutionalize the learning. Sales management isn’t on board. Or, if they are, you wouldn’t know if from how they react.

Everyone is focused on meeting the numbers. That’s the #1 priority in the organization.

Instead, it should be people development. If you up-skill all your salespeople and your sales management team, you drive more sales. If you consciously create a ongoing learning lab, where everyone is focused on “getting better”, you also create a unique competitive advantage: knowledgeable, helpful salespeople who become invaluable and indispensable.

4. What is a sales “habit” that would help reps improve their performance?

Stop multitasking. It’s killing your productivity. Research shows that your brain is functionally incapable of doing two things at once. Yet we do that every single day – and may even pride ourselves on being good at it.

What we don’t realize is that takes much longer to get everything done. With everyday work, you pay a 20-40% penalty. When you’re learning something new, it can take up to 60% longer.

Monotasking is in. Multitasking is out.

5. Can you give a quick example of a story that would get buyer interest and motivate them to act?

What most salespeople don’t realize is that our brains are wired for stories. Stories pique our curiosity. They pull us in. They get us thinking. And, they’re remembered far longer than any facts or figures we can share with our prospects.

For example, here’s a story I’ve used:

One of my recent clients was a B2B sales organization similar to yours. They were selling into large corporate accounts – which as you know can be really tough. Adding new logos was a key initiative for the year, yet all the VP of Sales heard from the reps was that no one answered their phones, called them back or replied to their email.

He was pulling his hair out, trying to find ways to get more high quality prospects in the pipeline. Worse yet, making more calls didn’t seem to be the answer. Buyers seem to have put a barricade around themselves to keep salespeople out.

I came in and did a workshop with them. As part of the session, each rep had to target one major account they wanted to land as a new client.

And guess what happened. Three months later, 78% of the reps had set up initial conversations with these targeted accounts. Opening the door was crucial for their success; if you reps are on the outside, there’s no way they can meet their numbers.

A good story starts with a description of a scenario that our prospects face and we can solve. It addresses their issues, challenges and goals. From there, it briefly mentions what your company did for them. And finally it talks about the outcomes they’ve achieved. It’s important to remember that our prospects have to be the heroes, not us.

Jill KonrathJill Konrath is the bestselling author of 2 award-winning books: SNAP Selling (#1 Amazon bestseller) and Selling to Big Companies, a Fortune magazine “must read.” Her newest sales book, AGILE SELLING, was released on May 29th, 2014. In it, she shows salespeople how to succeed in a constantly changing sales world. Jill is also a frequent speaker at sales conferences and kick-off meetings. Sharing her fresh sales strategies, she helps salespeople to speed up new customer acquisition and win bigger contracts. Her clients include IBM, GE, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Staples and numerous mid-market firms.


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