Best-selling author and sales strategist on her criteria for hiring sales managers

Ladders recently spoke with best-selling author, sales strategist and industry thought leader Jill Konrath about her recent book, what technology has had the most profound impact on the sales industry, and her criteria for hiring sales managers. 

Why did you write ‘More Sales Less Time,’ your most recent book?

Today, virtually every salesperson and sales leader I know is overwhelmed and exhausted. They have too much to do and are under constant pressure to make their numbers. Their day is consumed with email, LinkedIn, CRMs and other sales/marketing apps. In and out. All the time. It’s never-ending.

I know because that’s how I felt too! After several years of this, I decided there had to be a better way to work – so you could have a life AND meet your sales goals. I spent a full year immersed in the research and experimenting with myself. It changed my life.

In More Sales Less Time, I share how sellers can recover one to two hours per day. AND, better yet, how doing this makes them more strategic, creative and successful in selling.

Companies spend millions on new technology to increase productivity – yet do nothing to tackle the biggest issue impacting it.

Jill Konrath
Jill Konrath

What are the best practices that sales managers and salespeople can apply from More Sales Less Time?

There are lots of best practices, but it all starts with distraction management. That’s the biggest challenge we face. For example, just leaving your email program open all day l guarantees you’ll waste hours/week, going down rabbit holes that take you away from work that matters.

Even checking an incoming email quickly—for 30 seconds—has a recovery time of 10-20 times the length of the interruption. We need to erect barriers too because literally this media/tools are irresistible. It’s human nature.

What technology/innovation/platform has had the most profound effect on the field of sales in the past few years, and why?

Without a doubt, the plethora of information on the internet in combination with the great content resources on a company’s website. It totally changed buyer’s behavior.

First off, buyers can do in-depth research on any issue, solution, product/service, competitors, and even a company’s reputation. And, they can easily be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data out there – that can even be contradictory.

Today’s buyers expect sellers to have done their research too. They have zero tolerance for “canned” emails, phone messages, presentations or demos. They expect meaningful conversations about what matters to them.

What are the biggest challenges, from a technical and/or business standpoint, that those in sales face nowadays?

According to Forrester Research, only 15% of executives said their meetings with a salesperson met their expectations—and most sellers didn’t get a second chance. That’s a huge failure rate.
Buyers today want to work with a knowledgeable resource who can help them make sense out of the challenges they face, help them determine if it makes sense to change, and also give them guidance on how to make the best decision.

Companies need to invest in their salespeople. Period. They need to help their sales force understand how their customer is currently doing things—and the business ramifications of continuing with the status quo.

Sales leadership need to focus on increasing the QUALITY of their sales meetings/calls instead of the QUANTITY—which means that coaching is essential.

Finally, companies need to teach their salespeople how to maintain momentum by facilitating the decision process – which is an entirely new skill that few sellers have mastered.

What would be your criteria for hiring sales managers? What should you look out for?

• A learner who’s constantly looking for new ways/strategies to increase effectiveness.
• A coach who is willing to invest significant time in up-skilling all salespeople on the team.
• A track record of success to include more than 2-3 years as a sales manager in one company. (Note: Turnover in less than 18 months indicates performance goals were not reached.)

Big picture, do you feel the worlds of sales and marketing are converging, and if so, is this a good thing? Or should they remain their own distinct fields? Please explain.

Yes, they are merging—and it’s long overdue. They are both key players in the revenue equation. Marketing handles awareness/demand generation. Sales brings in the business. And, let me add Customer Success to the mix; they keep clients and expand relationships. All of the areas need to be in alignment, even though their charters are different.

What are the key steps that salespeople should take when it comes to cold calling/emailing?

  • Keep it all about the buyer: their issues, challenges, and objectives.
  • Short and sweet: Less than 90 words for email; less than 20 seconds voicemails.
  • Pique curiosity; make them want to learn more.
  • Plan “campaigns” of 10-12 “touches” via all mediums including social.

To get more details, check out my numerous free resources on this topic, especially these.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?

“You haven’t failed. You just haven’t figured it out yet!” I told that to myself over and over in my first year of sales. Ultimately, it became a mantra that I use any time I run into seemingly insurmountable obstacles—even today!

What has been the most satisfying moment of your career/proudest career achievement, and why?

In my career, I’ve won lots of big deals. I’ve written 4 bestselling sales books (Selling to Big Companies, SNAP Selling, More Sales Less Time, and Agile Selling). I’ve spoken to large crowds on five continents…and the list goes on.

But the most satisfying moments of my career are when I hear from individuals who tell me that my work has a big impact on their life. That’s when I feel the best!