Jill Konrath is a globally recognized sales strategist, speaker and author of Sellidng to Big Companies, SNAP Selling & Agile Selling. Her expertise has by featured by ABC News, Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, and more.
Tell me about your career.
After four years as a high school teacher, I came up with a brilliant idea for a company, roped a few friends into doing it with me and then created a business plan. We met with a SCORE volunteer to get advice on ensuring its success. I’ll never forget the fateful moment when this retired General Mills executive said to us, “Great concept. Very doable. Now … which one of you three is going to be selling it?”
I looked at him in horror, totally disgusted at even the thought of selling and blurted out, “I thought you said it was a good idea.” He replied, “It is Jill. But someone has to sell it.”
Needless to say, I ended up with the short straw. Within the year, I’d landed a job at Xerox, selling copiers. I committed myself to learning as much as I could in one year – and then was getting out of sales entirely.
That was a lifetime ago. Xerox taught me how to be customer-focused and consultative, obliterating my preconceived notion that it was a sleazy and manipulative profession. In the five years I was there, I achieved extraordinary success and was promoted many times. Then I moved into technology sales and finally I sold services.
After eight years, I finally did start my own company – a sales consultancy, focused on sales training and new product launches. I loved the challenges of constantly working with new companies, creating new strategies and helping salespeople get better.
For the past ten years, my focus has been on sharing what I know with a wider audience. That’s why I speak at lots of conferences or sales kick-off meetings. It’s why I write my newsletter and books. It’s why I give away tons of free stuff on my website.
What role do you think social business plays in today’s sales environment?
Everyone is online these days – to learn, research, evaluate, connect and share. If you’re not there, you’re missing the boat! For companies, it starts with having a resource-rich website that attracts the right buyers and nurtures them through the sales cycle. For salespeople, it means leveraging social resources to identify buyers, learn more about them, initiate conversations and build credibility.
What are some of your favorite tools for social business?
If you’re selling B2B, LinkedIn is a must have. From my perspective, it’s where a savvy seller can have the most impact and realize the best results. Twitter is a secondary player, made easier by tools like HootSuite or Buffer. Personally I write a weekly newsletter and blog. I have tons of videos on YouTube. I also use Join.me and Skype.
For companies, I think it’s essential to have blogs – and newsletters that highlight the great content they’ve created for their buyers.
What do you find interesting about the social business space?
The multiplier effect. Today small businesses with limited resources can create a market presence and reach that, up to a few years ago, could only be achieved by companies with huge budgets. Also, that it’s so easy to collaborate on projects using tools like Basecamp. Or that you can so easily set up video meetings with people across the globe.
How has the way we work changed thanks to social media?
For salespeople, the changes have been dramatic. Inside sales (remote selling) is growing by leaps and bounds. Busy buyers, who can find everything online, don’t want to meet in person all the time. Remote meetings are becoming a de facto standard in many industries. Collaboration tools make it easier to work across large buying/selling teams who may be dispersed globally. Buyers can easily check out a salesperson’s claims or a company’s reputation. Everyone is willing to offer an opinion or a critique these days!
What are three of your favorite professional blogs?
I like blogs outside my area – especially the kind that challenge your assumptions and make you think. Some of my favorites are:
This post is part of a series of profiles on some of our favorite social business, knowledge management, employee engagement, sales & marketing, and customer support experts.