#053 Jill Konrath – Why Sales Leaders Must Learn to Lean Back

October 5, 2020
Scale Your Sales Podcast Jill Konrath

You will love this conversation. We talked about what sales leaders need to do now. Jill gave survival strategies and we talk about how diversity in sales sucks. It is an honour to have Jill Konrath on Scale Your Sales podcast.

She is the International speaker and author of 4 bestselling sales books—Selling to Big Companies, SNAP Selling, Agile Selling and More Sales Less Time. With over 1/3 million followers. LinkedIn named Jill as their #1 B2B Sales Expert in 2019. And Salesforce recently selected her as one of Top 7 Sales Influencers of the 21st Century.

The legacy that Jill has created is outstanding because people are continually naming her as their Shero. She says 20 years ago she looked around and saw that all the sales experts out there were bald white men. As a woman in sales, Jill was tired of seeing this and realised she was the most bothered by it and so stepped up and has continued to champion women in sales.

In these challenging times to come out strong, Jill advises number one, to learn how to control your fear, the minute you go into fear mode, which can happen because nobody’s buying anything. You can’t get out and see people the way that you used to or have meetings, and everything’s different. Fear can overtake, it stops your brain from working, giving you fewer options, in terms of what can be done. She says to grab a hold of our fear and take a look at what is it that we could do to calm ourselves down.

Second, you need to open yourselves up to learning new skills.
Some people have been doing the same old, for a long time, and it’s worked for a while. But what happens when you run into a recessionary period being average is no longer enough.
Everybody has to figure out a way to step up their game and turn yourself into a learner and somebody who is focused on improving all aspects of your sales process. Take a look at it from the front end and say, “where am I not doing well? Where am I running into resistance?” She says get comfortable with the virtual world and become cognizant of people’s reaction to everything that you’re doing.

Only one out of seven salespeople take a serious look at what happens in their sales calls and evaluate post calls for:
What they do well,
What worked,
What was highly-effective,
Where they ran into problems and
What they could change.
and that those people who
Research shows that those willing to be brutally honest with themselves are the ones who discovered better ways and succeed because they are continually evaluating and testing to improve.

Jill recalls when she first moved into a sales leadership role at Xerox at the time. She remembers as a salesperson’s that thinking, ‘how can I make fewer calls and be more effective?’ You significantly enhance your chances of success. You learn who they are and what their issues and concerns are, you become very focused on what are they currently doing today – without your solution, your service or your products or technology.
Well, they are getting their work done, said Jill, but with some cost and inefficiencies and maybe some opportunities that they’re missing. The more familiar you become with your customers, the greater your success rate is because you will speak their language, you will focus on what matters to them.
You will be able to ask questions that are highly relevant and of interest to them. The goal is to increase your effectiveness, which means you are always learners.

As a sales leader, you have people; your sales team will be afraid. They’re scared they’re not going to make their quota. They’re afraid that if they don’t make their numbers, that they will be terminated, that they won’t have enough money to feed their themselves or pay for their rent. It’s a scary time.

Top sales leaders right now must focus on their culture, their people and be more in touch with their people regularly, talking a human talk. As opposed to saying, how many calls did you make last week, let’s talk about your numbers and where you are at?
Focus on the person ‘so tell me about how are you doing right now? Be interested as a human being because you want them to be successful and ask, ‘how can I help you?’ The best sales leaders are very focused on helping their people improve what they’re doing and very conscious of the culture, concerned and catching up as a human being and focusing on we’re here to help you. The whole team is here to help you; let’s work together. Jill says this is now part of being successful and that they’re in a different job right now, that require other skills.
When Jill worked with reps, you could see the ones who were aggressive. And the result of this was the prospect would put up barriers. If you’re leaning forward and intense with your people, you are scaring them away. So what a sales leader must do is lean back and focus on the human being in front of them, to see what could make them better.

The fact that we can’t meet us human beings makes all of us out there alone in these challenging times. It’s more important now than ever before because everybody spread out around the world, and we are not getting what we need from a human perspective.

Some top leaders who are really doing well in sales leadership always focused on their people. The top leaders have loyalty and connection with their people, who know that they were being supported throughout these tough times as well as in good times.

Talking about diversity in sales, Jill acknowledged that there are some industries that are doing well with diversity, but for the most part, “they pretty much suck. Let me be real honest with that.” They say we can’t find female candidates. Well, are you looking? And you think people wanna be like the slimy people that are trying to shove things down peoples throat and manipulate them. And have you read your job descriptions,
looking for ah hunter, go-getter. Jill says everything is all screwed up, and this does not appeal to women. Women are highly effective in sales.

Gartner research states that women perform at higher levels than their male counterparts; they stay in a job longer, is a huge factor. You have two people you can hire about the same in terms of capacity. But the women tend to perform at higher levels, they stay longer, so you don’t have to recruit as often and train and on-board and hope that they work out. There is a huge business case for women in sales. Then the research also shows that from a business perspective, having a diverse group of people allows for faster decisions and better decisions.

So why don’t people do that? Because people hire people who look and sound like them, Jill says, something has to be done about it.

She recalls that she was a diversity hire and not brought on board because of her great potential. Jill was a high school teacher when she decided to go into sales. Xerox had a mandate from the federal government of the United States that they had to have a workforce that represented their communities. Each city had its own diversity numbers that they had to hire.

Xerox, didn’t think women could sell technical things like copiers. They just didn’t think that we were capable of doing that, said Jill. But within a couple of years of hiring women, they learned how to look for characteristics that were totally different from man. The guys answered they were motivated by money
But women said, they want to do a good job, or focus on my customers, or that they wanted to make a difference. Within a few years at Xerox, eight out of the top 10 reps were minority and female.

Diversity is a smart business decision. Jill and I agree that it would be really good if companies would set quotas and committed to diversity.

We talked about overcoming isolation, and Jill recommended to get on a phone call, not a zoom and stay in touch with human beings. Jill has personally called friends from high school that I haven’t talked to in years just to get out of the business world. Having a wonderful conversation makes you feel connected to the world.

Jill also suggests getting out for a walk. Our bodies need the outdoors; we connect better. Put in your headphones and call your friends and have a good meaningful conversation. The isolation is overwhelming to so many people.

If Jill was on a desert island on her own, she said she would take her cell phone because she could learn things find new ways to be engaged, read books, learn new ways to build fires, be more effective and just keep sharp. That little thing gives her connection to everything she needs including 101 ways to make coconut for dinner tonight:-)
Thank you, Jill Konrath



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