One of our core values at SalesLeadership is continuous improvement. I am always looking for information and resources that add value and revenues to our clients. My good friend, Jill Konrath, has provided yet another resource for professional salespeople with her new book AGILE SELLING. In an information overloaded world, Jill helps professional salespeople keep up with rapid fire changes needed to win business.
Below, please find some thoughts that Jill shared with me about her new book. You can also download a free preview at www.agilesellingbook.com.
Colleen: What made you write a book about AGILE SELLING?
Jill Konrath: Shortly after SNAP Selling came out, tons of salespeople said to me, "This is great info on selling to today’s crazy-busy prospects. But I’m frazzled too. How can you help me?"
Initially, I thought it was a time management problem. But, after pondering it a while, I realized it was a bigger issue.
Too much was changing: customers, products, buying cycles, the economy, competitors. It was literally impossible to keep up at the same time you needed to meet your numbers. Plus, the sales skills needed for success were changing too.
Since one of my core competencies is being an agile learner/seller, I knew it was time to share my expertise in this area. Plus, there’s some fascinating research on this topic that I wanted salespeople to know about.
Colleen: You are so right. We no longer have the luxury of "ramping up." How does being an agile seller help you close more deals?
Jill Konrath: Great question. Today’s prospects know that there are tons of options out there. What they’re really looking for is someone who can bring them ideas, insights and information that can have a positive impact on their business.
Agile sellers know this. And, they fully realize that they’re the prime differentiator – not their product, service or company. So they’re continually focused on becoming an invaluable resource, investing time learning and growing in their profession.
It shows. They get more meetings from their prospecting efforts. More of their initial conversations turn into ongoing dialogues. And more of their proposals turn into signed contracts.
But here’s the real deal. Agile sellers have learned how to learn. That means it takes them less time than their peers to absorb new information or pick up new skills.
Colleen: I love what you just said. Agile sellers have learned how to learn. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Alvin Toffler. "The illiterate of the world are not those that cannot read and write. It is those who can learn, unlearn and relearn."
What are three things a salesperson can do to ramp up quickly on new knowledge and skills?
Jill Konrath: Here are a few things I think can make a huge difference for all salespeople – whether they’re experienced pros or new hires.
- Learn how to learn. It all starts with a deep dive into the new subject or skill you want to master. In AGILE SELLING, I go into detail about the six primary rapid learning skills: chunking, dumping, prioritizing, practicing, sequencing and connecting.
By studying them, you can quickly get yourself up to speed in any sales job you ever take. This will make you stand out from everyone else. It truly is your ticket to long-term success.
- Focus on your mind-set. Sales is rife with failure. Rather than beating yourself up, it’s crucial to turn these bad times into valuable learning experiences. Try to figure out what went wrong. Brainstorm how you could have done things different.
- Practice safe selling. Okay. A little play on words here, but the reality is, it’s essential to role play anytime you’re learning anything new. Otherwise, you’re guaranteed to sound like a total mush mouth as gobbledygook spills out of your mouth. Yes, it’s embarrassing to look stupid in front of your colleagues. But it’s even worse when you’re in front of your prospects.
I’ll stop here. I literally could go on and on because I have a gazillion ideas on this topic.
Colleen: We both know that sales managers are critical to building learning cultures. What can sales managers do to promote and build AGILE SELLING cultures?
Jill Konrath: As a sales manager, you need to start by banishing fear from the workplace, which is easier said than done. Salespeople are already under intense pressure to deliver results. Many are worried if they’re going to make it or not. This feeling of fear creates tons of problems, which you [Colleen] so eloquently discuss in your book, Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success.
So here are a few things I recommend:
- Create learning labs. Engage your salespeople in finding “better” ways to do things – like getting response to emails or phone messages. Share any breakthroughs with the rest of the team. Discuss why it’s working. But don’t stop there. See if you can improve the results even more – or in different ways.
- Turn problems into challenges. Problems suck the creativity and energy right out of people. When your people encounter issues (e.g. aggressive competitors, slowed decisions, changing market dynamics), turn them into challenges. Ask your team: How can we address this? What are more ways we can do it? The key is to stretch them into new ways of thinking so they can find fresh solutions.
- Set a good example. Any leader who expects his/her salespeople to become agile learners, needs to become one too. Read a book a month on leadership. Attend webinars on important business topics. Start your own peer group, focused on being better at what you do.
These practices help new salespeople get up to speed faster. Plus, they’ll engage experienced sales pros and challenge them to up their game too.
Colleen: Jill, thanks so much. This book is spot on. I read it, highlighted it, tabbed and re-read it! My recommendation: buy the book now!
Chief Selling and Learning Officer