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  • Personal Branding Interview: Jill Konrath

    Today, I spoke to Jill Konrath, who is the bestselling author of Selling to Big Companies, and the author of SNAP SELLING. In this interview, Jill talks about the characteristics of successful sellers, what snap selling is, how to break through the noise and make the sale, and more.

    What are the characteristics of successful sellers?

    Good question. The best sellers that I encounter have these qualities:

    • Learners: They’re curious about learning new things. They read and ask lots of questions. They never get stale.
    • Thinkers: They analyze what they know about a prospect’s situation, plan out the best way to approach customers, pull together long-term strategies, and change things when they uncover new information.
    • Customer-Focused: They know that they’ll be successful if they can help their customers achieve their goals and objectives. This also means the work to acquire business savvy.
    • Resilient: When they encounter problems, they don’t fold. Instead, they treat them as challenges that they haven’t figured out yet.

    Why did you write SNAP Selling?

    I believe that we’re in the midst of a fundamental shift regarding what it takes to be successful in sales. And, there are literally no sales books out there that address this topic.

    It’s caused by a combination of factors. Most important is this “crazy-busy” issue. Today’s prospects zealously guard their time; it’s their most precious commodity. Every time they encounter a seller, they run through a mental checklist to determine if they should continue or end the conversation.

    Unfortunately, most sellers don’t know how their prospects are thinking and haven’t adjusted their sales approach accordingly. Nor have they taken into account how their prospects use the internet to search for information about issues, educate themselves on solutions and review feedback on the option.

    Instead, they still try to set up meetings to better understand their prospect’s needs and persuade them to use their solution. When everything a prospect needs to know is online, they have no need for the traditional salesperson. However, prospects still need a lot of help. And, the seller who embraces the new way of selling will prosper.

    What do you mean by “SNAP Selling”?

    SNAP is an acronym that stands for 4 key sales success strategies that sellers need to use today. Briefly, they are:

    • Rule 1: Keep It Simple
      Because crazy-busy prospects cannot handle complexity of any sort, savvy sellers will do whatever it takes to make it easy for make a change from the status quo.
    • Rule 2: Be invaluable
      Overwhelmed buyers want to work with experts who continually bring them fresh ideas. You, the seller, are now the primary differentiator – not your products or services.
    • Rule 3: Always Align
      This is all about relevance and risk. When you’re aligned with their critical business objectives and core beliefs, people will want to work with you.
    • Rule 4: Raise Priorities
      It’s an absolute imperative to work with frazzled prospects on their priority projects. With their limited capacity, that’s all they can currently focus on.

    In SNAP Selling, I focus on numerous strategies that sellers can use to implement these new rules. Being aware of them is simply not enough. And, most people aren’t even aware of how they’re adding to the complexity or that they sound just like every other salesperson when they approach new prospects.

    We are all inundated with information now. How do you avoid becoming part of the noise?

    We’re all overwhelmed with information these days, so it’s a great question. The first thing to do is define noise. From my perspective, it’s “stuff” that doesn’t contribute to helping me get my work done. With that in mind, I’d suggest that you:

    • Practice ruthless relevance. By this, I mean that every contact with your prospect must be focused on a critical business issue, a challenge they’re facing, an objective they’d like to achieve. And, if you can send info on something that is a high priority today, then you’ve really got a winner. (Rule #3: Always Align; Rule #4: Raise Priorities)And here’s the kicker: Your product or service offering is NOT relevant. So don’t send anything on that.
    • Think small & parcel info out. Our natural tendencies as a seller is to give people all sorts of good info upfront – so they really know how great we are. Unfortunately, that has exactly they opposite affect we’re hoping for.

      Short emails are better than long ones. Send the message over multiple contacts. Only attach one PDF, not three. Only send one link, not five. Only have one purpose per email, not six. (Rule #1: Keep it Simple)

    Hopefully you get the picture. It’s very tied in with the SNAP Rules. And, by providing this good information, you also practice Rule #2: Be Invaluable.

    How do you locate a decision maker’s name? That can be really tough too.

    Yes, it can! If you’re calling a bigger company, you need to focus in on which business unit or division you want to get into. This is the due diligence at the front end that’s necessary. Once you know that, you can begin your search in earnest.

    You can do Advanced Google searches: “Vice President, Sales” “General Mills” “food service” to identify possible decision makers. You can also do the same thing on LinkedIn, with a current job search parameter.

    To find contact information, you might want to use some of the excellent and low cost resources out there: Jigsaw, ZoomInfo, Netprospex are just a few that come to mind. From these databases, you can extract email addresses and contact information.

    Finally, you can pick up the phone, ask to be transferred to the functional unit (marketing, customer service, legal, manufacturing) within the division. Then just ask for help, saying that you’re trying to reach the person who is responsible for the business issue you address.

    How can you speed up the decision making process without being obnoxious?

    Here’s some good news for you! Any obnoxious, pushy behavior actually sets you back so you don’t want to do that at all. I don’t believe in closing early and closing often. It simply creates barricades to your success.

    I always tell sellers that if they really want to speed up their sales, they need to slow down. It’s one of my Paradoxical Sales Principles. Here are some things you can do.

    • Focus on their business issues and objectives. I know I’ve said that a lot, but you don’t have to make a gazillion calls if you’re talking to prospects about what’s important to them.
    • Leverage trigger events. Identify factors the create opportunities for your business (e.g., new markets, relocation’s, new laws, expansions, mergers) and pursue those companies. They make decisions faster.
    • Eliminate complexity. Many decisions are simply so overwhelming that people decide that it’s easier to stay the same.
    • Show them how to make a decision. If they don’t deal with product/service decisions like yours very often, they need guidance.
    • Always suggest the logical next step. Before you leave, make sure your next meeting is on the calendar.

    Between your first bestseller and this book, what have you learned about sales, social media, and how both collide?

    Selling to Big Companies was written in 2005 when social media was in its infancy. Personally, for business-to-business (B2B) sales, I think LinkedIn is the best resource. There are so many ways you can use it. I love it for researching prospects and finding names. Also, since prospects check you out online, it’s a great tool to showcase your own expertise via your description, recommendations, answers and more.

    My customers and my customer’s customers are spending minimal time on Facebook or Twitter. I’m experimenting with both of them because that’s my job, but I wouldn’t invest a ton of time and effort in this area.

    Also, I like blogging and YouTube because both of these mediums can be used to attract targeted prospects. I think all small businesses should embrace these because they’re inexpensive, they showcase expertise and that have a huge magnifier effect.

    Jill Konrath’s fresh sales strategies, provocative insights & practical advice help sellers win business with crazy-busy prospects. She’s an internationally-recognized author and popular speaker at annual sales meetings, kick-off events and professional conferences. Her newest book, SNAP SELLING, has already received rave reviews from industry leaders. Jill’s award-winning first book, Selling to Big Companies, has been an Amazon Top 25 sales book for 4+ years. Her clients include IBM, GE, Microsoft, Accenture, Staples, 3M, Hilton, AAA, Cox Media, Medtronic, UnitedHealthcare, Bombardier, Business Journals and many more. She also publishes an industry-leading newsletter and widely-read blog. Most recently, she also wrote Get Back to Work Faster, a game-changing book showing job seekers how to “sell themselves” in the new economy. As a thought leader, Jill is frequently quoted by top business media such as: ABC News, Success, New York Times, Inc., WSJ, Entrepreneur, Business Journal, Selling Power and Sales & Marketing Management.

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

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