Labcast: Selling Bigger, Selling Faster with Jill Konrath

September 1, 2011

For early and expansion stage companies, achieving rapid growth via bigger clients is a clear goal. It’s also a daunting challenge. In this episode of Labcast, Jill Konrath, Chief Sales Officer at Selling to Big Companies, calls in to offer some fresh ideas that young companies can use to help speed up the selling process and reel in bigger fish.

Selling Bigger, Selling Faster with Jill Konrath

Jill is the author of Snap Selling (2010) and Selling to Big Companies (2005). For more information, you can check out her site at and follow her on Twitter @jillkonrath.


Brendan Cournoyer: Hello once again everyone, and welcome to this episode of Labcast. Today we are joined by sales strategist and speaker Jill Konrath. Jill, thanks very much for taking the time.

Jill Konrath: I’m so glad to be here today.

Brendan: Now, one of your themes really focuses on selling to bigger companies and bigger prospects. For early in expansion stage companies, there are definitely some unique strategies involved when it comes to communicating and selling to some of these bigger clients. Isn’t that right?

Jill: There are absolutely some strategies, and a lot of companies are not geared up mentally to go after the bigger companies. They think that they have to prove themselves with the smaller clients and smaller customers first, which actually becomes a real challenge for them from a business perspective.

Brendan: Sure. Some of the things you talk about is coming up with some fresh strategies to kind of input into your sales processes. First, what are some tired strategies that you see or that you talk about that some people are still using that just aren’t working as well as they used to?

Jill: What do I see? One of the big things I see is that people are directed to make tons of calls and that quantity is the most important thing. We need our salespeople to get out there and make the calls, make the calls. We don’t want them doing anything else but making the calls, and so people are given lists. They’re given tons of people to call. They sit them down in front of the phone and say make the call. That certainly is something you can do, but people on the other end of the line that you are trying to reach are so incredibly busy that if you are just dialing for dollars, you actually sound like a typical sleazy salesperson, even though you as a seller have tried to sound as gracious and as nice as you can.

You don’t even realize that you’re sounding just like 300 other people that tried to reach that decision maker today. So that to me is probably one of the worst things that I think companies can do is focus on the numbers as opposed to first focusing on the quality of the call and the effectiveness of the message and preparing the salespeople to have a conversation with an educated decision maker who may know more about their offering and the issues and challenges that it addresses then the salesperson herself.

Brendan: Well, it sounds to me that what you’re saying here, and this is important in all selling, is really knowing who your prospects are. I’d imagine that when you’re speaking with people, you’d spend a good amount of time discussing sort of the unique processes and behaviors of some of these bigger clients and these busier clients and sort of talking about exactly what they need to hear when you have them on the phone.

Jill: What you’re saying is absolutely correct, and I’d just like to expand on it from a different perspective too to bring this in. When I have worked with young technology companies, growing technology companies, I work with entrepreneurs who have invested their heart and soul into building the business to get it to the point where it’s at. They love their technology. They breathe their technology. They sleep with their technology, and they have this misguided belief that their prospect is doing the same and all their salespeople need to do is get them in front of the prospector to talk about their product and everything will just flow from there. They are so sadly mistaken, because they clearly don’t understand what it is about buying. They don’t understand their customer in enough depth to position things and have the conversation with the customer.

If you take a look at it, most salespeople are hired and they’re trained on the technology too, and they don’t know who they’re calling, what their issues and concerns are, what they’re expected to accomplish. They don’t understand their crazy, busy day. They don’t know that they have 59 hours of work sitting on their desk, and they don’t even know that people go through their emails and delete emails in 2.7 seconds; which by the way is why emails aren’t returned because they’re lousy emails and they’re deleted so rapidly. So there are all these things that salespeople really, really honestly need to know in order to be effective. It is so not about the product. It is about the conversation related to the prospect and what they’re trying to do and how you as a seller can help them get there.

Brendan: Now, a lot of the sales trainers and speakers that I’ve talked to really put an emphasis on getting people on the phone, having that face-to-face engagement. Do you adhere to that? I know a lot of younger sales reps prefer to just send out a bunch of emails like you said. Do you abide by the fact that really it’s much better to really get that face-to-face over the phone engagement rather than just everything being written, written, written?

Jill: Yes, I agree that it’s important to do both though. The reality of it is it’s taking oftentimes eight to ten touches or sometimes even more to have an actual exchange with a customer, whether it be an email exchange or a conversation on the phone. So you really need to, as a seller, be proficient in both email and voicemail and talking on the phone because you don’t know how your prospect prefers to communicate. It’s not about how you prefer to communicate. It’s about how the person you’re trying to reach wants to communicate. Yes, there are some things that can be transacted by email for the most part, but the reality is you do need to have a relationship with someone and actually talk with them at some point, and so it is good to get on the phone and not to avoid it. I know what you’re saying because I have two kids that would much rather text me and email me than talk to me on the phone.

Brendan: Another one of the themes that you speak to, and I know your book “Snap Selling” talks about this, is it’s not just about selling, but selling faster. What are some of the ways that reps and managers can speed up their sales process, and why are some sales processes slower than they should be?

Jill: The first thing that I would say is to focus on effectiveness. The reason so many sales processes take so long is because the salespeople are doing the wrong things. They are delaying everything. They are just not connecting with their customers because they are pushing, and then their customers feel the push and push back. They pull back, I should say, and don’t want to move ahead with somebody who is trying to rush it. So you need to focus on how to be more effective with the person, and that relates to actually being focused on their issues and their concerns and their needs.

But I would say too that you would want to take a look at something I call trigger events. Those are those things that happen within the customer environment or within the business environment surrounding them that actually change priorities within an organization. For example, if a sales team knows that when companies expand, it’s a good time to use their product or service, then salespeople should have either Google Alerts or some technology or software like an Inside View or Sale Fuel or iSell has some software that really allows them to know when people are experiencing these events that change priorities. I mean there’s a whole ton of events you can look at – mergers and acquisitions, downsizing, third quarter earnings, relocations, announcements of new products. Anything that might trigger a need for your product or service is something you should be tracking. Then you can go in and contact that person with almost a first mover advantage by leaving a message or sending an email and say, “I know that you recently got some venture capital funding to grow your business. I have some ideas on how you can more effectively leverage that investment to tackle, to make better inroads into larger corporate markets.” So you tie your messaging into what happened, and then it gets you in the door faster on a priority issue which makes the whole thing go a lot faster.

Brendan: I have one last question I want to ask you. You have a great interview on your site that you did with Seth Godin. I love to tease it out a little bit. One of the points that you discuss in that conversation is how to become indispensable to your customers. To me, that seems to really track back to not just making the new sale but to renewals as well. I was hoping like maybe give us some ideas or one idea as far as what sales reps and managers can do to really become indispensable to the people they’re talking to.

Jill: Really it becomes about being such an educated seller that you can continually bring your customers ideas, information, and expertise that can help them manage their business better. Some companies that have software as a service model, a lot of times they’ll just do it by improving the product. But also as a salesperson, it’s about being able to go back to your prospects when there’s improvement and saying, “You know, John, I was thinking of our earlier conversation, and you had mentioned that this was something that was important to you. I’ve got some ideas that could help you. We’ve just introduced some new technology that can make a difference.” Or it could be about understanding their business processing so well that you can actually send them a resource that is maybe not relevant to your product or service but simply helpful. Being invaluable is about being helpful. It’s about sharing ideas, information, and expertise. It’s not about push. It’s about helping. More than anything else that’s what it is.

Brendan: Well, Jill, thanks very much again. I really appreciate you taking the time and sharing some of those insights and ideas with us. Once again, I want to remind people that they can find more from you by checking out your two books, “Snap Selling” and “Selling to Big Companies,” and they can also check out your website. Is it

Jill: That’s it.

Brendan: Excellent. Thanks very much again, and hopefully we get to do this again soon.

Jill: My pleasure.

Content Strategist

Brendan worked at OpenView from 2011 until 2012, where he was an editor, content manager and marketer. Currently Brendan is the Vice President of Corporate Marketing at <a href="">Brainshark</a> where he leads all corporate marketing initiatives related to content, creative, branding, events, press and analyst relations, and customer marketing.