Among the many topics that Kendra and I discuss how cold calling and whether it is an ineffective use of a sales rep’s time; what a “relevant event” is and what it can do for lead generation; and how to make yourself into an authority in your niche market.
Joining me on this episode of Accelerate! is Kendra Lee, author of The Sales Magnet: How to Get More Customers Without Cold Calling, and Selling Against the Goal, and President of The KLA Group.
How to uncover leads without cold calling — how to figure out who on your list really is interested.
How to use events to generate prospects.
Why events can help position you as the authority people look up to, and want to work with.
Kendra explains the Attraction Trifecta (personal attraction, digital attraction and collaborative attraction) and its essential role in developing new prospects.
Kendra describes the steps you need to take to become a real authority to your prospects.
What’s your most powerful sales attribute?
Who is your sales role model?
What’s one book that every salesperson should read?
Selling to Big Companies, by Jill Konrath.
What music is on your playlist right now?
Katy Perry, and Queen.
Andy Paul 0:35
It’s time to accelerate! Hi, I’m your host, Andy Paul. Join me as I host conversations with the leading experts in sales, marketing, sales automation, sales process, leadership management, training, coaching, any resource that I believe to help you accelerate the growth of your sales, your business and most importantly, you.
Hello and welcome to Accelerate. I’m excited to talk to my guest today. Joining me is Kendra Lee. Kendra is a top IT seller, a prospect attraction expert and author of some popular books including The Sales Magnet and Selling Against the Goal, as well as president of her own company, the KLA group. Kendra Lee, welcome to Accelerate.
Kendra Lee 1:17
Well, thank you for having me today, Andy.
Andy Paul 1:20
Well, my pleasure. So take a minute. Introduce yourself. Maybe tell us how you got your start in sales.
Kendra Lee 1:26
Oh, my story is such a fun one of how I got started in sales. I actually started my career in accounting. And I always say I started my sales career in accounting. And I enjoyed accounting, but I always felt like there was something more. And I’m sure many sales people would say the exact same thing.
So when I moved into sales, IBM was doing an initiative they called Back to the Field, which said basically they had too many people in their headquarters and overhead positions, and they were going to turn them into salespeople. And if you weren’t successful, you were out.
Andy Paul 2:13
What an easy way to fire people.
Kendra Lee 2:16
Exactly. Exactly right. Because when I stepped forward, I said, you know, that sounds kind of fun. My manager looked at me and he said, there’s no coming back if you’re not successful.
Andy Paul 2:30
Well it’s not like they gave you a choice, right?
Kendra Lee 2:34
Well, they gave me a choice if I wanted to go into sales, and I raised my hand. But then they didn’t give me a choice to come back if I didn’t like it. And then they gave me just the drag of the drag territory.
Andy Paul 2:50
I’m sure. Because the whole program was to get you to leave, not to be successful at sales.
Kendra Lee 2:55
Right, they were trying to reduce their headcount.
Andy Paul 2:58
Gosh darn you, Kendra Lee. You refused to leave.
Kendra Lee 3:00
I refused to leave. I was successful. So yeah, they gave me a territory that had not generated more than $300,000 in the previous three years and handed me a $1 million quota for one year. Needless to say, I did make my quota on the last days of the year. And then, interestingly, the next year, I went on to rank in the top 2% of all salespeople in IBM and continued to do that. So go figure, I liked selling.
Andy Paul 3:44
Yeah, they should have done that Set You Free program or whatever it was, they should have done that earlier. It’d be surprising how many good people they’d find in their company that were better salespeople than the salespeople they had hired.
Kendra Lee 3:57
And it was funny because I had tried to go into sales with them before that, but we had to take an engineering test before they’d let us in. And I really wasn’t very good at engineering.
You’re an accountant, right.
Exactly. So I think I attribute my success to the fact that I had the business degree. I can have business conversations with people about why they should make the decisions.
Andy Paul 4:25
So how’d you get from there to starting your own company?
Kendra Lee 4:28
Oh, that’s even more fun. So I’m doing very well at IBM. And they said, you know, you’re doing so well, you should go into management. And they had me start, literally from the ground up, a team that was supporting all the smallest clients within the company. So the ones that they really couldn’t afford or didn’t want to field– you didn’t want to put a salesperson over, a direct sales person.
So I actually started a whole client support team, built the team, built the processes, built the training. And we did it all with contractors to support the low end accounts that IBM wasn’t sure what to do with.
Andy Paul 5:19
Well when you say contractors, do you mean actually people go out and touch these clients? Or were you like an inside sales account management function?
Kendra Lee 5:26
We became an inside sales account management function all at the time staffed with contract employees, not full time employees, which was new.
Andy Paul 5:38
Yeah, for IBM very new, right?
Kendra Lee 5:40
Yeah, at the time that I did it, it was brand new. So I did that. We were very successful, put all the processes in place, put everything together. And I just felt, you know, I really wanted to sell. I missed the selling aspect. So I went to them and I said, I’d really like to get back into direct selling. And they said, oh, Kendra, you’re doing really well where you are. We’ve got big plans for you. You need to stay where you are.
It’s like no, I really do want to sell. I don’t really want to do this management thing. And they said, no, no, no, no, we need you where you are. This is a big program. We’re going to take it across the country, and you’re going to be a critical cog in the wheel. And I said, no, I put everything together. I think you can do it on your own. You don’t need me, you’ve got everything. And we disagreed, so I left to go somewhere that I could sell.
Andy Paul 6:39
So what’d you go sell at that point then?
Kendra Lee 6:42
Then I went to a company that has since been folded in – gosh, I don’t even know which company they’re with now – but a database company called Sybase. And I actually chose them very intentionally. When you sell for a big company like IBM where you’re well known, and at the time the phrase was nobody’s ever been fired for buying IBM.
Andy Paul 7:08
Yes, fear, uncertainty and doubt. The FUD factor, fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Kendra Lee 7:14
Exactly. So I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my sales ability even though I had made Golden Circle, which is top 1% to 2% of sales reps worldwide. I just felt like it was the IBM name. And I wondered how good I really was. So I chose Sybase because they were number two to Oracle. And I went in with the goal that I wanted to see, was I really as good as it seemed at sales.
And were you?
I was. And my other goal when I went in is my territory had all been new business, and it was very small with an average sale of $15,000. So going into Sybase, I said, I want to do a million dollar deal. I want to see, am I as good as I think I am and can I sell something besides pots and pans?
And I gave myself two years to do it. And then I said, I’m going to go start my own company. Don’t know what the company will be. But two years, I’m going to do that. And within six months, I was the top sales rep at Sybase, and I’d done my million dollar deal. So that’s when I said, oh, I guess now I have to go do what I thought I was gonna go do and start a company. So that’s my story.
Andy Paul 8:43
Well, there you go. That’s a great story. So when everybody starts a company– I mean, was there a particular problem you were trying to solve that you thought you were gonna solve with the company that was your niche that you’re filling. What was that?
Kendra Lee 8:56
It was really interesting, because I wasn’t sure what the company would be. And when I achieved my goal, I sat back and said, okay, I’ve given myself two years to do it. I’ve done it inside of six months. I said I was going to leave when I accomplished it. Am I going to hang out for the next 18 months because I said that’s what I would do? Or am I going to go start a company? And if I am, what is it?
So I decided, because I’m a goal oriented person, that since I’d set the goal and achieved it, it was time to move on. I stepped back to see what it was that had made me successful in sales to see if I could determine what should the business be. And when I stepped back, I realized that throughout my whole sales career, I had had managers who came to me and asked me to train my peers in how I was so successful at hunting and lead generation.
And so that’s when I said– and actually, it’s what made the client support team that I grew so successful. And then it’s what got me to the top spot at Sybase so quickly. So I stepped back and looked at it. And I said, well, there’s something, because apparently not every sales person can do this. And most sales training doesn’t teach you that. I went through extensive sales training at both IBM and then at Sybase. But they never taught you how to prospect.
Andy Paul 10:46
So you’re talking about training people to do what you could do. So what was uniquely your skill set or point of view about sales that you were training.
Kendra Lee 11:00
I was training them how to uncover leads. And when I started, it was focused around, how can you go and generate leads without having to just cold call people? How do you start with a list? How do you figure out who the list should be? And then how are you going to uncover those people who really are interested without having to cold call down your list?
One of my very first sales jobs while I was in training was to call people to invite them to a seminar. I was handed a list of 300 people. Call them. Yeah, what a waste of your time to call 300 people if you don’t know if they have a need. So what was unique about what I was doing is that I was figuring out who were the people that were interested that I should spend my time with. And that’s what I started training people in when I was still at IBM and Sybase.
Andy Paul 12:15
Okay, that’s a really critical skill. So how were you doing that? How were you finding out? If you’re presented with a list, let’s say a plain list of companies and names, how are you finding out the right people? What are you training people to do, let’s say?
Kendra Lee 12:33
What I did was the precursor of what we all do in marketing automation now and the lead gen strategies that we see today. I started with the list and then did lead generation activities that would get people to respond, so I knew which were the ones that were most interested. So I might run an event. There was a whole year where I ran quite a lot of events. I had nine different industries in my territory.
So I would choose a different industry to focus on. I would align with some other people that were interested in that same industry. And we would put together an event that looked like it would appeal to people and then use that to identify who was interested. I did letters because this is before email. I’m dating myself.
Andy Paul 13:36
You can call them emails.
Kendra Lee 13:38
But I sent letters to people and said, I’m going to be in your area. I served Colorado, so I was going to a remote area. I’d say, I’m going to be there. If we should meet, tear off this bottom piece of paper and either fax it back, or call me, or mail it back. And people would respond. So I used all the things that were precursors to what we can do now so simply through the marketing automation. And that’s what I taught people to do as well.
Andy Paul 14:15
Interesting. Question for you. So in today’s environment and with companies you work with, is there still a role for the physical event? And I say this as an example of, I had one client I worked with a few years ago that was very religious about holding physical seminars and hold them around the country at various places, but could do half a dozen to 10 a year. And even in this era of webinars and so on, they actually converted at a much higher rate.
Kendra Lee 14:53
They do convert at a much higher rate. Because if somebody is willing to get in their car and drive to you, or depending on the event you’re doing, because you and I speak at different events, they’re willing to get on a plane to go somewhere, they’ve got a qualified interest. Because it takes so much more time for them to do that.
Andy Paul 15:17
Yeah, I think companies overlook that, the value of the physical these days. Because again, a webinar, it takes work to put on. But it’s a much simpler event to manage and to put on. And even though the follow up in the confirmation and so on, that process should be identical whether it’s a webinar or physical seminar. But think that physical, especially small and midsize businesses, I know you work a lot with those, it’s a great tool.
Kendra Lee 15:42
The reason I think that people don’t consider face to face events as much anymore is that they’re chasing after a number of attendees. And we do work a lot with small and midsized businesses. So we’ve got some businesses where they’ll run a lunch and learn, and they’re going to put it in their conference room. And at the most, their conference room will hold 10 people.
As an IBM sales rep, I ran the events and I bought the donuts. I licked envelopes to send out the invitations. I reserved a conference room to have it in. So here I was with no other resources in that giant company, because my territory didn’t get a lot of respect. So I did everything the same as a small business owner would.
And I think that people are so busy chasing after, well, I’ve got to get 30 people to my on site event if you’re a small business. If you’re a bigger business, you might say we’ve got to have 200 there. And really, you just want the right people there. And sometimes if you get 6 in your conference room or 20 in your seminar room, training room, those could be the best qualified people. And you don’t need to go for that number.
Andy Paul 17:13
Yeah, the number is how much you need to earn return on the event. And it could be one, right? Depending on what size the order that they get. Yeah, absolutely.
Kendra Lee 17:26
You’re doing a lunch and learn in your own conference room. All you’re paying for is lunch.
Andy Paul 17:30
Pizza. Yeah, pizza. So in your book, The Sales Magnet, you talk about offering a different approach to prospecting. As I read it, it’s more about making yourself an authority in your markets.
Kendra Lee 17:48
Yes, and that’s what we’re talking about when you have an event where you offer to go meet with someone. You become the authority that people will look up to and want to work with. And since I’ve written the book, we’ve expanded on that to talk about creating recognition ROI or return on your recognition investment.
Andy Paul 18:25
Alright, let’s come back to that. Because first let’s talk about your– you talk about your trifecta of attraction. And then we’ll talk about the base, and we’ll come back to your recognition ROI. I think that’s a great term. So tell people what this trifecta of attraction is as sort of your platform for your prospecting.
Kendra Lee 18:42
Yes, the attraction trifecta are three different groups of ways that you can gain access to new prospects. The first is personal attraction where it feels very one to one. And you’re using things like email, and your phone, and letters. The second is digital attraction, which is where you’re using the internet and strategies related to it like articles, and blogging, posting on LinkedIn, social media, social networking. And then the third is collaborative attraction strategies. And those are the strategies where usually they’re pretty resource intensive. And when you collaborate, you can have a much bigger impact, things like the online events, the local events, PR.
Andy Paul 19:45
Okay, so sort of one plus one equals three type thing. So unpacking those three things, we’ve got the personal attraction strategies, on the surface, email, letters, networking, everybody talks about that. But what do you advocate that’s a little bit different to how they apply these to become compelling, to have people want to listen to your message.
Kendra Lee 20:08
There’s several things that you do. First it starts with finding your focus on a specific niche, especially in sales. You see companies who, in their marketing department, will say we’re focused on healthcare. And they’ve chosen an industry niche, or manufacturing or distribution. When you’re a salesperson, you have to be smart about how you spend your time. And so you want to choose what are the niches you’re going to go after. And I learned that very early on when I was handed nine different industries to support.
Andy Paul 20:51
Yeah, that’s too many for one person.
Kendra Lee 20:52
It’s too many, and you can’t have a common message that’s going to appeal to anybody. I mean, I had bowling alleys and law firms.
Andy Paul 21:02
Wait, so IBM was selling to bowling alleys?
Kendra Lee 21:05
Yes, I sold three bowling alleys in one year.
Andy Paul 21:10
Wow, that’s a great niche. Of course it’s a dying niche. There aren’t many bowling alleys left, but yeah.
Kendra Lee 21:16
Hey, you know, you make hay where you’re given the barn, right?
Andy Paul 21:20
Well, I think the thing with finding the niche, especially if you’re trying to build an authority, is that the key is the size of your authority is like inverse proportion to the size of your niche, right? I mean, you want to be much more focused. Because the more focused you are, the bigger in proportion your authority becomes through that focus and through your knowledge of what they need.
Kendra Lee 21:44
That’s exactly right. And as a salesperson, you can be an authority. And you don’t have to be the authority on your product from a technical perspective as much as from how does your product or solution help that particular niche. And you’re looking at it from that business perspective. You don’t have to say these 10 features are the ones you absolutely have to have. Instead, you’re talking about these are the types of results we can help you accomplish.
And then you’re talking about how your niche did it. That’s what makes you the authority. And your authority comes, from in today’s day, in publishing. So you can write blog posts and publish them on LinkedIn. Being active in social media and engaging with other companies that are in your niche so that they hear and they see what you’re doing. So there are things that as a salesperson you absolutely can do and don’t have to wait for your company to do.
Andy Paul 23:02
And when it comes to that content level as a sales rep, and we’ve talked about this, is part of the value of the internet is you don’t have to create all this content. It’s out there. You can find articles and other information that’s relevant to your prospects and share it with them. It has the same impact in many respects.
Kendra Lee 23:25
Well, you can. But I think that to be a real authority, you don’t just want to serve up other people’s content. I think that you want to have some of your own. And that’s not to say that you have to blog once a week, maybe not even once a month. But you have to share your own opinions, your own observations. And you can also serve up other people’s content. And as a rep, that’s really easy to do, because you can just write something in response of something that you’ve read.
Andy Paul 24:00
Well, that’s true. But I mean, what I’ve found in my experience is it’s extremely difficult to get an individual rep to create blog posts, for instance, original blog posts.
Kendra Lee 24:11
It is. However, I would imagine the people that are listening to your podcasts, Andy, are those who want to excel. And so some of the things that we’re talking about–
Andy Paul 24:21
Nothing but the best and the brightest listening to this show.
Kendra Lee 24:24
Right! And so if you’re the best and the brightest, you’re looking to say, how can I distinguish myself from my peers? How can I outsell my competition? And sometimes those things aren’t the easiest things to do. Well, usually they aren’t. That’s what the difference is.
Andy Paul 24:42
Right. But I think some of that authority, though, too, which to your point earlier, which I thought was a great point, sometimes it could be a tweet, an original tweet, about something. It could be an original comment on a LinkedIn discussion group or comment on a Facebook post that is original. I’ve seen several people just last year build up their authority in the space you and I are in as sort of sales thought leaders, really social driven with very little original content but a lot of original thought in just smaller bites.
Kendra Lee 25:14
Absolutely. It’s the original thought being shared with their target market where their niche can see it. Yes. It does not have to be an entire 600 word blog post. And few sales reps have time for that either.
Andy Paul 25:30
Yeah, if they have time for that, we would want to have a discussion about it unless their pipeline is impeccable. So you talked about collaboration, and I just want to delve into that for a second. So how do you collaborate? I mean, what’s that really look like? Obviously there’s a giant webinar. But what other examples are there that make sense that sales reps could really get involved with?
Kendra Lee 25:56
Social media gives you a lot of opportunity today to collaborate in ways that we never used to. And I think it’s actually underutilized for that purpose. We see people go to LinkedIn to do their prospecting. But we’re not using LinkedIn or Twitter necessarily to go find others that we could collaborate with.
You definitely can collaborate on events like you mentioned. You can collaborate on content development. You can collaborate on sales opportunities. One client that we’re coaching is a large, big data company, a normal small, medium business. And they serve the Fortune 500 Enterprises. So it’s really hard to gain access to a CIO of a Fortune 500 Enterprise unless you’ve got an in.
And they collaborate with other reps in companies that they know are also selling to those same Fortune 500 CIOs. And to wrap it around to my comment on social media, you may not know those people. And you may not know people who do know those people. But you can certainly access them through social media and start engaging with them and strike up the conversation so you can collaborate. So that’s an example.
Then just having the conversations through social media and suggesting that you collaborate and what could you collaborate on? And together, brainstorm. We see people who collaborate on books. You know that. So there are all sorts of things if you’re thinking outside the box and we’re using today’s tools that we can collaborate on.
Andy Paul 28:07
Yeah, and to your point, a power of social media – LinkedIn in particular, let’s say – is you can find common connections to, let’s say, prospects. And it could be someone– like you said, it’s not necessarily you asked for an introduction. But you collaborate on something. Let’s think about a different way to approach it. Because, quite frankly, people– actually I see lots of it personally.
I get a LinkedIn email or something saying, hey, I was introduced by such and such, or I see your connection with Joe, Joe Blow, could you provide me an introduction type thing. And I think people see that those don’t have a lot of value. But that same person could be, don’t ask for an introduction. Say, is there something we could work on together that’d benefit both of us?
Kendra Lee 29:00
And you know, I’d be curious in your thought here. We’ll turn it around, and I’ll ask you. I don’t see as much collaboration on actual work with a client as we used to do. Do you?
Andy Paul 29:14
That’s an interesting thought or question. You know, I don’t know if I know the answer to that. I mean, I like the approach and I’ve used it in the past and looked for opportunities to do that. Because I think that it’s this part of give to get type thing, give all you have and you’ll get all you need type. Work with other people that you can give to that you’re gonna make a difference to them. And maybe together you can make a difference for somebody, a third person all together.
Kendra Lee 29:48
Yes. The Go-Giver approach.
Andy Paul 29:51
Yeah. Go-Giver. Love Bob Burg’s books. So we’re moving into the segment of the show where I’ve got some standard questions I ask all my guests. The first one’s a hypothetical scenario. I pose you, Kendra, have just been hired as a sales leader at a company whose sales have petered out a little bit, stalled a little bit. They’re a little stuck in the mud. And CEO and the board are anxious for you to come in and start turning things around. So obviously Rome wasn’t built in a day, but what two things could you do your first week on the job that could have the biggest impact?
Kendra Lee 30:25
First one is shadowing the sales team that we already have to assess what’s working, what’s not working, start getting a sense of what’s going on. The second, because I’m an accountant by nature, is to examine the numbers and see what secrets they might be holding that could direct me in where to place my attention for the second week.
Andy Paul 30:58
Okay. Well, that’s fair. So now some more rapid fire questions. You can give one word answers or elaborate if you wish. So the first one is when you, Kendra Lee, are selling your services, what’s your most powerful sales attribute?
Kendra Lee 31:13
That’s a good one. Relationship building.
Okay, who’s your sales role model?
Kendra Lee 31:30
Yeah, I can picture– Zig Ziglar. Thank you. I’m seeing a picture of him and I couldn’t remember his name. Zig Ziglar.
Andy Paul 31:38
So what’s one book that you’d recommend every salesperson should read?
Kendra Lee 31:49
You didn’t prepare me.
Andy Paul 31:51
Well, I never prepare anybody. This is what makes it so much fun,
Kendra Lee 31:53
Selling to Big Companies by Jill Konrath.
Andy Paul 32:00
Kendra Lee 32:02
I’ve got a lot of books.
Andy Paul 32:04
I know, it’s hard to choose one. I know. Alright, so last one question is what music’s on your playlist these days?
Kendra Lee 32:14
Oh, so I have a wide variety. My playlists that I listened to when I was younger, Katy Perry and Queen.
Ah, good. That works.
Kendra Lee 32:31
It always surprises people.
Andy Paul 32:33
Why? What do they expect?
Kendra Lee 32:35
I don’t know, but they’re always surprised.
Andy Paul 32:39
Music knows no age. So there you go. All right, well Kendra, great. Thanks for being on the show. Tell people how they can find out more about you.
Kendra Lee 32:50
They can follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter at Kendra Lee. And Kendra Lee KLA is my Twitter handle. Or of course, visit our website, KLAGroup.com. If you want to send me an email, I always check my email, and I’m happy to respond.
Andy Paul 33:13
Kendra, thanks for being on the show again. And I have to admit, I’m probably not the first one to say this, but every time I say your name I picture Sandra Lee.
Kendra Lee 33:22
Well, thank you. Kendra Lee!
Andy Paul 33:25
I know, I’m just too much into the old pop culture, I guess. So anyway, thanks again. And remember, friends, make it a part of your day every day to deliberately learn something new to help you accelerate your success. An easy way to do that is to make this podcast, Accelerate a part of your daily routine whether you listen in your commute, in the gym, or make it part of your morning sales meeting. That way, you won’t miss any of my conversations with top business experts like my guest today, Kendra Lee, who shared her expertise about how to accelerate the growth of your business. So thanks for joining me. Until next time, this is Andy Paul. Good selling, everyone.