On today’s episode, Jill Konrath. Usually I have a few sentences introducing the guest. But, I’m thinking, do I really need to do that with Jill?
She’s been one of the leading sales experts of the past 20 years. She’s authored multiple best-selling books. She’s a fabulous speaker. And, quite frankly, she was my role model as I got into this business of writing and speaking about sales. Now when I asked Jill to come back on this show, I had to make her a promise that we wouldn’t talk about sales. Or sales advice. No “how-to” stuff.
Instead, we talk about Jill. Her career. Her life. Her successes. Her work in helping support and enable generations of women to pursue careers in sales. As much as we can learn about sales from the “how-to” tips and techniques, we can equally learn from the examples of successful people in our field. People who have taken chances to succeed on their own terms. And who have inspired others to do similarly.
Andy Paul: Jill Konrath. Welcome back to the show.
Jill Konrath: Thank you, Andy Paul. It’s good to be here.
Andy Paul: It’s always a pleasure to talk with you, my friend.
Jill Konrath: Thanks. Same.
Andy Paul: So, so question for you is what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?
Jill Konrath: So that’s a great question to start with. I’ve learned. Um, I am extraordinarily impatient and I, when I. Something stymies me and getting in my way of moving forward. I spend time spinning in circles until I know what to do. It’s driving me nuts.
Andy Paul: And you’ve noticed this more during lockdown
Jill Konrath: Well it’s yes.
Andy Paul: Exacerbated.
Jill Konrath: Of the one things I was really planning to do was be connecting with people on some new initiatives that I was, you know, heading into and suddenly the doors slammed shut, and it literally was like, ah, how can you stop this? I’m ready to go that way. But I can’t talk with people or meet with people like I want to,
Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. And when will it end?
Jill Konrath: Oh, I don’t know when, when my spinning and or all the situation in the country, then. I have no idea. Uh, I think sometimes, you know, I mean the situation is the unique that we’re in right now. And I think it’s affecting everybody around us. And I don’t think any of us really know how to deal with it in a way that is totally, um, like we’d like it to be. But I think we will slowly adjust.
I’m starting to throw myself into learning some other things that I think are important as prerequisites for the directions that I want to be going in. So I’m taking some initiative now because I can’t go forward and plan A. So I’m working on plan B, C and D.
Andy Paul: Got it. Alright, well, we’re not really going to talk about sales per se today, and we’re gonna, we’re going to talk about you and, and your career journey because you are an inspiration for many in sales, not just women, but men as well. I mean, including me, I remember, I remember the first time we met you probably don’t remember, but, um, gosh, I think I was more nervous to meet you then I, I had been to meet any other sales icons, if you will. I mean, I just heard you speak in an event and my, my first impression was, wow am I intimidated by this person.
Jill Konrath: I’m so not intimidating
Andy Paul: Well, maybe, maybe not, but yeah. But I mean, you just, you, I mean, I was just getting into this business of writing and putting myself out there as an expert or whatever, and, and you just, yeah, you, you had your shit together.
Jill Konrath: Thank you. I worked hard to get the shit together.
Andy Paul: Well, we’re gonna, we’re gonna talk about that. So, uh, and I’ve told you this before and other people that, you know, when I got into this business, I talked about you being a role model is, um, yeah, you were one of the models. I, I, I think I just started slavery really copied what, what you did though. It didn’t work out nearly as well for me as it has for you, but, uh So let’s start in sales, your sales career. At the beginning, you started your sales career with Xerox back when they were a big deal known as a great training ground. So, so coming out of university of Minnesota, why sales?
Jill Konrath: Oh, I hated sales. Um, I didn’t, I was a teacher at first. Um, but I hated teaching even more.
Andy Paul: What now, what’d you teach?
Jill Konrath: I was going into that
Andy Paul: No, no, but I mean, elementary school, middle
Jill Konrath: High school. I taught the high school level.
Andy Paul: High school. Okay.
Jill Konrath: Yes. And it was not a subject you’d see me teaching, but anyway, I really pretty much hated it. And I tried to get a job and nobody wanted to hire me because I was a woman with a degree in education and I didn’t meet their criteria of a successful person.
Yeah. So I finally, after a few years decided that I would start my own company since nobody would hire me. I’d start it with put together a business plan roped together. Some friends went to see the service Corps of retired executives, a government agency from the SBA. Gore. And the guy said, and he was a VP of marketing from retired VP of marketing from General Mills. So he said, this is an excellent plan. Your timing is absolutely right. I look at the three of you and I know you can do this. And then he said, now, which one of you three is going to be in doing the sales. And I abhored sales. And I think my friends did too. And they looked at me. And no, they weren’t looking at each other. They looked at me and I turned and looked at the guy and I leaned forward. I pointed my finger at him and I said, I thought you said, this was a good idea. And he said it is Jill, but somebody has to sell it.
Andy Paul: So, what was the idea? What was the, the company?
Jill Konrath: Okay. I’m from Minneapolis and Minneapolis at that point in time had the six largest corporate headquarters in the US and what I had discovered in my research was that for the first time ever companies were having a hard time getting executives to relocate because women were now in jobs and professions in the workplace and they didn’t want to leave. And so I came up with a relocation concept to help companies move and to help them make the family transition easier for the female spouse, who is typically the one who had to come along with them. And how to make it really easy for the trailing spouse to integrate into the community, get a good job here and be off and running.
Andy Paul: Wow. Great idea.
Jill Konrath: It was a great idea. It was a great idea, cause it was critical issue for businesses. And we have so many corporate headquarters here, but anyway, the guy said I had to learn how to sell. So I said, okay, I’m going to go into sales for one year that one year and I will go back to starting the company, but I got myself hired by Xerox and I was so.
At first, I mean, at first I was like the consummate student. I was there for one year, so I had to learn it all in one year. So that, I mean, that was a big deal that affected me in my whole life.
Andy Paul: So you went into a planning just one year?
Jill Konrath: One year. And that was a lifetime ago, obviously. Um, yeah, but I said one year, and at the end of the year, I thought I’m having so much fun. This is I’m so blown away by this and I’m not going to go back to my idea. So I told my friends. Goodbye. If they want to start the company themselves, they could. And, and so I stayed in sales.
Andy Paul: So, what was it that was different than what your perception of previous, you know, prior perception of it was, was, I mean.
Jill Konrath: Well, I mean, as everybody who hasn’t been in professional sales before, I mean they think slimy, manipulative, greedy, a scumbag, um, things like that.
Andy Paul: Yeah.
Jill Konrath: And I discovered because I was at Xerox and they trained you on what worked and the skill that I discovered that Xerox promoted more than anything at that time was the ability to ask good questions.
And I was always good at asking questions. And so I became successful very fast and I didn’t have to do any pushing. In fact, I hated closing so badly. It feels so unnatural to close that I would do everything I could to make somebody say, how soon can we get this, Jill? Or which model should we be getting Joan?
So everything I did was to get them to say that, and you know, where do I sign? That’s all I wanted was to get them to say, where do they sign? Where do I sign? I didn’t have to sell it all. And I discovered, it was fun. And it was interesting. I was out with meeting all these people from all these different professions. It was expanding my world exponentially from, you know, the little world that I grew up in to boom, I was meeting all these different people, doing all these different jobs. It was like the world opened to me. That’s all I can say. The world opened to me and I was extraordinarily successful, very fast, but I have to say the reason I was successful was because I committed to learn itinayear. I didn’t say I’m going to try and see if sales will be good. If I can do sales. I said, I got one year to learn this. And when you say that you throw yourself in with all your heart and soul and, and when you, you do have failure and things go bad, you can’t let it get you down. Like probably one of the worst things that ever happened to me was, um, again, cause I was on a crash course to learn.
I had read a book on selling to executives over one weekend and I went, Oh my God, oh my God, that one account I called I cold called last week, the person I was dealing with was the executive assistant. I really screwed it up. I should be talking to her boss. So the next Monday. I called the boss. And I said, I understand your making a copier decision. I’d love to come and talk with you and share with you how the Xerox can do it. He said, sure, come on in. So I went in and was waiting in the lobby to meet with the CEO of the company and, and down comes Tinsey, who was the secretary, administrative assistant.
Andy Paul: And- You remember her name?
Jill Konrath: Oh yeah.
Andy Paul: Oh yeah. Okay. I just want to make sure, these are the names you never forget, but yeah, go ahead.
Jill Konrath: No, yeah, and Tincey, said Jill, what are you doing here? And I said, well, I’m here to meet with Mr. Big. I have no idea what his name was. And she said, why is that? And I said about your copier decision. And she looked at me and she got right in my face and she pointed her finger at my nose. And she said, I told you, I was making the copier of decision. You had no right to go around me. And she just laid into me and yelled at me worse than my mother ever had in front of a lobby of people. And I fainted dead away on the floor.
Andy Paul: Wait, wait, wait, wait. You literally fainted?
Jill Konrath: I fainted. I, well, it was such a shock to be treated liked that.
Andy Paul: Yeah. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to laugh at you, but it’s an interesting image.
Jill Konrath: You thought it was funny.
Andy Paul: Yeah.
Jill Konrath: I was humiliated. Okay.
Andy Paul: Well, yeah.
Jill Konrath: that was in the days when skirts were rather short too, I might say. And, um, and, and so when I came to on the floor, it was not in a very graceful position. The first thing I did is I pulled my legs together. So, um, it would not be obvious to the rest of the world, you know?
Andy Paul: Yeah.
Jill Konrath: Yeah. So, and then she said, are you, they up, they helped me to a chair, put my head between my legs. And she said, are you okay? And I said, yes, I’m fine. And she looked at me one more time. And she said, don’t ever come back here. And I never did. When I finally got my strength together, I walked out of there and I walked into my car and I burst into tears and I was sure my career was over. And then I said to myself, Oh, God, Jill, this is the most humiliating thing that has ever happened to you in your entire life. You faint. I’ve never fainted in my life before, um, the fainted dead away. You’re with Xerox and what are you going to do? And, and, um, and literally because I had committed to a year in sales to figure it out, I literally said to myself, okay, Jill, you is screwed up what did you learn? What did you learn? Cause you can’t do that one again. And it was real clear to me what I learned. You can’t go around somebody, you know, to go to their boss. I didn’t know that. It did say that in the book I was reading, it said you should be selling to executives. So I went there, um, but that’s, you know, that happened, but I literally had to pick myself up off the ground and brush myself off and say, you know, what did you learn?
Because, and I had to say, Jill, you didn’t fail. You didn’t fail. You just haven’t learned that lesson yet. And so I was constantly for a whole year doing that, kind of talk to myself about it’s not failure. It’s just a valuable learning experience. You haven’t figured it out yet.
Andy Paul: Well, so a question about the interaction with Tinsy. Cause this is something that, that, um, you know, I find that I found myself when I was starting sales. This is this, this idea about being comfortable with people in positions of authority.
Jill Konrath: Oh, I was terrified.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I had the same, same issue.
Jill Konrath: Yeah, no, I would have much rather Del somebody who, you know, didn’t have a position of authority. I didn’t have any confidence. You know,
Andy Paul: Right. Well, that’s hard. So how do you think you developed that just through repetition or this determination, or was there some moment where it sort of struck you as like, well, I’m just, I’m just talking to another person.
Jill Konrath: Well, let me just say the thing started to work. If you constantly keep yourself in a learning mode and say, Ooh, that didn’t work. What do I need to change? And so then I became a, an experimenter and I became somebody who was constantly, um, talking to my colleagues and saying, how would you handle this?
How would you handle that? Um, and getting advice from everybody. And I remember at one point, um, I was in another customer situation was a little bit dicey and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I don’t remember the exact situation, but I remember at that point, having been trained in it my a guy named Jim Ferrell.
And, and I said to myself, as I’m, you know, dealing with this massively bad situation, I’m sending myself, what would Jim Ferrell do? What? And so I borrowed Jim Ferrell’s brain and I said, well, Jim Farrell would say this. So I said what he said, and they had calmed him down. I was like, Oh my God, I borrowed Jim’s brain.
I wouldn’t have known how to say that. But Jim, he knew how to handle it situation. So I did all sorts of things to keep my fear at bay, to deal with my failure. And let me just say that those things that I learned doing that, I mean, they’ve been with me my entire career, you know, I mean, every time I go into a new phase and things don’t work out, I’m totally flexible saying I’m in a learning phase.
You know, that’s a valuable learning experience. I haven’t figured it out yet. I know I will, but I just got to get myself time research and study and experiment.
Andy Paul: Well, I think that’s such a valuable lesson because for anybody listening to this, such a people early in their career is that yeah, there’s going to be failures and especially in sales, right. More often than not oftentimes, um,
Jill Konrath: And then, and then you have your, let me just say then, you know, even when things get good, you could be thrilled, you put into a new territory, you know, and have to start all over. And maybe you’ve been dealing with the, you know, the finance department now you’re over in HR. It’s like, Oh, that’s like a shock. you know, or, or we get COVID-19 or we get. Uh, our recessionary economy, every one of those things is a new challenge that we have to figure out. It’s not like we can keep going, doing the same old things. We have to literally say, Ooh, that’s not working and not just do more of, what’s not working, you know, because so much of sales is more and more and more, but it’s not working.
What can I try? What can I tweak? Do I have to reverse the order? I remember, um, when I, you know, it was research on how to deal with crazy busy buyers. Realizing that the whole presentation format, you know, PowerPoint presentation, client presentation format that we had been using for forever was no longer effective because their attention span was so minuscule that you had to literally jump to the key points at the end of your presentation right up front.
And you, you know, you literally had to talk about, you know, we’re here today to talk about how your company can increase, speed up, reduce this. Let me give you some examples of how we’ve helped other companies do this. And then we can get into the details. But if you did that, you caught their attention.
Yeah. Are willing to listen to anything. You said you went and tried to build the case. Let me tell you about our technology. Let me tell you about our services and you know, our methodology and all that bullshit. Um, you would lose them and then they wouldn’t want to. Talk with you and be gone or they rope objections and say, no, you know, we’re really, we’re fine here.
We’re not that interested, but you created the objection. So it’s the mindset it’s constant experimentation to try to identify where you run into trouble and look at options for how you might’ve dealt with things differently and then be willing to do it and look stupid because you know, you’re going to fail me to try new things at first.
Andy Paul: And so one of the fears that I, along those lines that I have about many of the sales organizations I interact with today and so on is that is they don’t seem to be giving their younger sellers, the freedom, the flexibility to experiment in the same way.
Jill Konrath: I know. They want people to follow the script.
Andy Paul: Yeah. And it’s, how can you become the best version of yourself if you don’t or aren’t enabled in order to go out and experiment? I had a boss. I was fortunate to have bosses early in my career. Same thing. It’s like, yeah, we had a process, but then we had a lot of freedom within that, that process to produce.
And as I always like to say, they gave me enough rope to hang myself, but you know, I had the freedom to go develop my own unique way of what I felt was unique to me, own way of selling.
Jill Konrath: Well, I know like when I was at Xerox, I mean, and this is just going back to my very first years in sales. I mean, they had, like lot of people have now they have, you know, uh, standards for how many demonstrations you need to get, how many calls you need to make, you know, and all that kind of stuff in. And I remember having, um, real strong arguments with my boss. About that, because I was like one of the top few people in our regional office and I was significantly below my colleagues and the number of calls that I had, or the number of demos that I gave.
Andy Paul: Me too.
Jill Konrath: You too. You failed calls too?
Andy Paul: Oh, I, I made him nervous cause I had a thin pipeline,
Jill Konrath: Yeah, and I did too. And, and, and they would
Andy Paul: but was also president’s club, every year.
Jill Konrath: Me too, when they say you need to make more, you need to make more. And I said, why should I be making more? I think I should be making fewer. Because if I pick out who I’m going after, and if I work with them and to have a good meeting with him, I have a really high close rate and they have to have to work so hard to get there.
You know what I mean? It never made sense to me. Well, there’s always more and more and more. It’s like they should have been looking at me and say, what the heck is she doing? Why is she able to blow out the numbers here with fewer prospects, fewer, you know, demonstrations, fewer proposals, fewer everything. Why is she able to do that? That should have been the question, but instead it was, you need to make more calls,
Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, and you think about in terms, this is, you know, it’s not unusual, especially in SaaS companies that AEs have this requirement to have their pipeline coverage ratio, you know, five times the number they need to hit for the month in their pipeline. And I rarely hit to my pipeline coverage ratio, because for me, if, if I, to your point, if I qualified a prospect, they were qualified to buy exactly what I was selling, not a product like mine.
Jill Konrath: Right.
Andy Paul: And so I knew that if I got them qualified to my standards, they were going to buy.
Jill Konrath: And I always looked at, you know, my job was to create. And a lot of people are really against us today, but to, but it’s how I’ve operated my entire career to create opportunities out of thin air. Um, and, and not wait until people are actually looking to change, but to get in and talk with people before they’re actually thinking about a change so you can bring them some ideas on how you, you can help their business grow more profitably, reduce their costs, you know, speed up, whatever it is. But it was always me taking a look at who are the best people for this, you know, what are the characteristics of them? I think even today, you know, with everything, it’s not the internet that you can find out. You know, you can learn so much about people. And I would look for trigger events, like what are the things that are happening to, to my clients that, that would cause them to not be happy with their status quo. And if you could track and follow the trigger events, you could really, you know, you could get in there early, you could establish the relationship as the professional who brought in the ideas. Maybe they would look at at other people, but maybe not because you were just easier to work with them. They got that. You got it.
Andy Paul: Yeah, well, and that’s such a critical point because people, you know,, we look at the way we train sellers today and this is, this is actually true. Going back forever. The way we historically train sellers is there’s never education for how to make them smarter about business, to be able to have the acumen that you talked about here, that you can have that conversation and stimulate thoughts on the part of the buyer about something they hadn’t previously been contemplating.
Jill Konrath: Right. And to me, that’s where you have the strongest power, but let me just say this too. Companies aren’t teaching people, this stuff and they should, but that does not preclude that any individual seller can take it upon him or herself an expert in the field that they’re in because then their life will be a whole lot easier if they can delve in and they can learn this kind of stuff they can figure out they can go back and look at their. And, and have interviews with their existing clients that they, especially the ones that they switched over from a competitor or from an old way of doing something. Intervie, ones that switched over in the last six months, they can get really good value propositions. They can get stories that they can tell people they can practice their stories. They can figure out how to integrate them. You know, I mean, there’s so much a person individually can do. It’d be great if, but I would say that anybody who’s listening, don’t blame it on your company. You have the individual ability to become a, um, a top performer.
Andy Paul: Well, and to have knowledge about business. And I think I recommend to people just do simple things to start with. I mean, my dad, when I got out of college, first thing he said was you have to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. And so, and yeah, like not on the op ed side, but on their business news. And for years, you know, every day I just scanned the wall street journal and read some articles in depth but I picked up a ton of business knowledge. Right. Um, you know, I, I had taken accounting in college, so I knew how to read financial statements and so on. But my first job selling accounting systems to the small midsize businesses, um, yeah, I had to learn all the general ledger applications and every one of my customers was a tutorial on how a business operates, how they make money. And, and this is knowledge that it’s not just learning your customers specific marketplace. It’s learning business.
Jill Konrath: It’s learning business. Right. And I came out of an environment where I had no background and nobody told me to read the Wall Street Journal. Um, but I did read the Minneapolis St Paul Business Pages and subscribed to local business magazines. Cause I worked out of a local, you know, selling locally and you just start talking to people and if you ask the line, if you’re not afraid to be stupid, if they say we need this to happen to say help me understand that. I mean, people are more than willing to share it. Most sellers are afraid to look dumb.
Andy Paul: Well, I, I tell people one of the biggest influences on my career for learning how to sell where my customers.
Jill Konrath: Yes.
Andy Paul: They taught me how to sell to them.
Jill Konrath: Right. And then tell that and they taught me, let’s say taught you how to sell to them. They taught you how to sell to a lot of people like them
Andy Paul: Yeah, exactly. Well, a question for you in your early years of Xerox, what was your quota? Do you remember?
Jill Konrath: Um, three copy machines a month.
Andy Paul: Dollwar wise what’s that? Oh, you did rentals. Sorry.
Jill Konrath: Well, we did a lot of rentals at that point. So it was, I mean, we’re actually a SAS business back in that time, sort of, you know, I
Andy Paul: forgot about that. Yeah.
Jill Konrath: programs, but, um, you got points. Each machine had different points based on the value of the machine. So it wasn’t a direct dollar correlation ever. And then we got extra points if we sold supplies with it, you know, and got them hooked on Xerox supplies, you know, the razor blade.
Andy Paul: And you probably had a supplier’s quota. Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
Jill Konrath: And maintenance contracts. I mean, so we had to sell the whole shebang.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Although you couldn’t make presidents club. Yeah. Even, even when I was selling computers, we had a forms division might have had a forms, quota that I had to, uh, in order to hit president’s club. So.
Jill Konrath: Yeah. I mean, to me, what I understood too, though, it wasn’t just the, the machines were not necessarily the big profit center of the company, you know, the, the, um, the toner and the maintenance contract were the profit centers. And so when you understood that, it’s kind of like, oh, I get it. You can’t just sell something. You have to sell. It goes with it because it’s part of the whole package. I mean, it’s part of what makes a profitable company
Andy Paul: The razorblades are more profitable than the razor.
Jill Konrath: That’s right.
Andy Paul: So you got promoted pretty quickly though.
Jill Konrath: Yeah, I suppose.
Andy Paul: Yeah. And so what was, what was, what was the hardest part of that transition for you?
Jill Konrath: Um, I was warned about it from my sales manager before I took the position. He said, um, you will be surprised Jill when you move into a sales leadership role that. Most people aren’t working as hard as you are. I was really surprised. It’s like, I took what I was doing real seriously, you know.
Andy Paul: And were you the youngest person? I mean, when I got promoted to my first management job I think I was younger than all but one of the people I was managing.
Jill Konrath: No. I was younger than someone older than others.
Andy Paul: Yeah.
Jill Konrath: Cause, I mean, Xerox at that point in time hired a lot of new college grads and I had, I’d been teaching for four years, but then I also had some outsstate people who were, who were, um, older because out-state Minnesota interact a lot of really good jobs. And to be working for Xerox was really good job
Andy Paul: So outstate, meaning outside the Twin Cities?
Jill Konrath: Outside the twin cities and more the rural areas, the secondary, tertiary cities, they covered a lot of territory. Geography wise.
You know, where in Minneapolis, you might have a zip code or not even a whole zip code if you were downtown.
Andy Paul: But you had half the state, you said you were working in Wisconsin, some too right?
Jill Konrath: Well, no, my reps were, yeah, yeah. Yeah. My reps had half of Wisconsin.
Andy Paul: I find it interestin. Then after Xerox, you went to work for it and I hadn’t heard this name for a long time. You went to work for CPT and, um, it was a standalone word processor.
Jill Konrath: You make that sound odd. And it was except we have standalone computers these days, which
Andy Paul: I know, but
Jill Konrath: Which are kinda the same thing, but you know what, let me just say that when I was in Sierra, I saw that computers and technology was where the world was tipping. And I decided that when I, when I left, I would jump into the technology sector and, and learn technology. And it was a fascinating jump for me. And, and what probably was even more fascinating for me at that point. And for many, many years is I really hate technology, which most people don’t know. Um, because I’m kind of out there from a technology standpoint, I sold technology. I qualified for president’s club selling technology, but um, I really don’t like it. And, and that is my strength.
Andy Paul: So how, how so?
Jill Konrath: I mean, my regional office was right in the back. I mean, our corporate headquarters were right down the street. So whenever a company, the company was launching new technology, they’d come to our regional office first, you know, cause we were kind of the test test kids. Um, and I think introduced the product and we, we sometimes have three days with the trainee on these new technology, things that hooked it all together, the LANs and all that kind of stuff.
Andy Paul: Oh yeah. Local area networks. Yes.
Jill Konrath: Overwhelming. And I was selling unit space, operating systems, and I don’t understand technology. And so I was the one who at the sales meetings, I kept raising my hand and saying, okay, I can learn everything and what you’re talking about, but what are people currently using now to do this work? How, what is the current situation? How are they doing things in their office during their factory or, you know, in their accounting department or an HR? How are they doing this without all this stuff you have? And they look at me and they’d say, Jill, that’s your job. You’re in sales. You go figure that out. And I’d say that you guys I’m talking to the tech people and the marketing people, and they’re saying, and I’m raising my hand. I kept saying, but if you tell me what they’re currently doing, what issues and challenges they’re facing, what they can’t achieve that they achieve and I was, I’m looking for the business case. I was looking at, you know, who is the right person to call them? You know, what is the situation that creates the highest need for this product or service, you know, what is it that they’re using? What are the issues and challenges sell against? And then what is the business case for making the change?
And, and they kept saying, Jill, you’re in sales, you should figure that out. And you know, so yes I did. And pretty soon I was back training the entire corporate office about the business case. Because I would figure it out. And then I left and started my own consulting firm, working with technology companies. My, I mean, if you asked me who was my prospect, I would say I work with companies who love their technology too much.
Andy Paul: Yeah, who were a solution in search of a problem?
Jill Konrath: Yeah, so that’s and they’d say, what do you mean? I say, well, when they’re launching new products, they literally blow their opportunities at the front side because they send their salespeople out there ready to talk all about the stuff. And that doesn’t work. And what really works is to give them an understanding of- tell them about the product and say, okay, now let’s put it in context. Here’s the kind of company you’re going to call on. Here’s what they’re currently using. Here’s the problems that issues and challenges they’re facing and, and here’s how you can help them. Here’s the business case. And I work with companies then to help them understand that part.
Andy Paul: Well, and there was, this may be surprising to some people listening to this, but yeah, back in those days, I certainly experienced that myself as is. Yeah, companies were really ready fire aim in releasing their tech products.
Jill Konrath: Well, let me say, I still think many of them are. Um, and even if they’re kind of aiming at the right market segment, they don’t understand the business impact of what they’re bringing to the table. And I see it. I can go onto a company’s website quite often, and I can tell where they’re, where they’re at.
And like, I remember a few years ago, I remember calling LinkedIn years ago and saying, you guys are missing the boat here. You’re selling the technology you got to sell. You got to figure out, I say it may work in California where you got all these tech nerds, but I’m from Minnesota, I’m from the Midwest. And there’s a lot of really good people here that don’t get why your stuff is valuable. And so they had me come out and talk with them. About what they were doing.
Another one, my clients, and out in the Bay area where they love their technology way too much. I mean, they came out with something where they were one of the first cloud-based products and everything that they did was we’re cloud based we’re cloud based. And I kept saying, guys, I’m from Minneapolis. We don’t know-
Andy Paul: You kept defaulting to that.
Jill Konrath: But I think it means something, you know, like what is it, what problems are they having? They’re not cloud based. And I kept, you know, I keep making companies go through that, but I literally can go to a website and see are they talking about their stuff, their technology that they love too much. Are they talking about the business issues and challenges that the customer is facing?
so going through all this and in the first few stages of your career, um, you know, you were there weren’t many women in sales at that time. And so what were you encountering sort of. Both. Yeah. Within the corporations selling to customers that maybe quite frankly, hasn’t changed much in the, those times.
Oh, I see. I tell you a couple of things. I mean, I got, um, I got guys trying to pick me up a lot, um, at tell me about the problems that they had with their wife. Seriously. I heard I a lot of that. Um, I would, because I always loved training people and it was always like, give me somebody new to work with and show them how to do this.
And I take out these young males that were being hired and I’d be leaving the sales call and my job was to show them how to do this. And these guys kept the, the, the buyers. Kept looking at the guy that I was with, you know, who’s, I mean, I’m probably five, seven, 10 years older than that young one, you know, and they’re looking at the kid, like he’s, he’s the knowledgeable one and I’m the, I’m the, you know, the trainee.
But, so there was a lack of credibility that was just assumed, you know, I didn’t have the credibility. I had a curiosity value, I think, but not the credibility. So again, like I said, I wasn’t somebody who liked to talk a lot about my product and service. I really liked the questions and getting people to want it. Um, so I’ve just led with questions, but, you know, for the most part, I was fortunate to be hired by a company who was forced by the government to hire minorities like women and African Americans and Latinos. You know, was forced with contracts on the line. And within a few years of, um, hiring, bringing in people of color, bringing in people of different sexes and orientations, um, the business unit I was in at least locally, 80% of the top sellers were female. We quickly proved ourself. Given the chance with Xerox did a really good job of working with us. You know, in terms of understand, they had to learn how to do things. Cause like in the interview process, they used to always ask, you know, like what motivates you and what they really wanted to hear. I’m really money motivated. I want to make it, you know, ton of money and I want a big fancy car, blah, blah, blah. And like hardly any of the women answered that that way. And so they didn’t think they were capable of selling because they weren’t money motivated.
Andy Paul: And that part at that perception seems like it’s still persist to a large degree.
Jill Konrath: Oh, my God. Yes.
Andy Paul: I mean, I felt like I was maybe, you know, you and I were hired roughly around the same time at the sales is, is for the first time is, yeah, my entering cohort of people that were my peers, a large fraction of its was women, the top performers. We all got promoted this group about the same time. Pretty early. Yeah. My first full year as a sales manager. Yeah. In our region, at least 50, if not 60% of the top performers and sales managers were women. But then things seem to sort of progress seems to have sort of stalled at some point.
Jill Konrath: Right. I agree. It has. I mean, there was a point in time when you’re, you know, you want to talk about my career. I mean, there was a point in time I kept saying, okay. Especially when the internet came along and I could see who was out there. And I was always fascinated by what I could learn on the internet. And all they were featuring was male speakers. And I kept saying, where are the women? Where are the women? Why aren’t there any women out there writing books? And why aren’t there any women out there speaking? And I, I said it for a long time. And finally I realized that I seem to be the only one really upset that there weren’t a lot of women out there and I realized, okay, Jill, clearly, nobody else is doing it and it bothers you immensely. So you’re the one who’s going to have to step in and start filling the gap. And that’s why I changed what I did at that point.
Andy Paul: So you changed the name of your company and you wrote your first book Selling to Big Companies.
Jill Konrath: Um, yes. I didn’t change the company. I kept my company name and tech, but I wrote Selling to Big Companies. But by the time I wrote Selling to Big Companies, I already had a very active website. My corporate website at that time was Leapfrog Strategies and I had 10,000 subscribers to my newsletter, you know, by then. So I was out, I mean, I put out a newsletter starting in 2001. Um, and. And, you know, I really studied hard, you know, I told you I’m a learner. So like, if I’m going to, if I’m going to write a newsletter, I’m going to figure out how to get subscribers
Andy Paul: And so how’d you do that? That’s, that’s a, that’s a ton of subscribers, especially back then.
Jill Konrath: Oh yeah. I know. Um, but I, but I studied it. I mean, I literally studied it because it was, if you’re going to do something, you should do it well and writing a newsletter that nobody reads is stupid. I mean, that’s a waste of writing time. So I did research everything I could and started activating all sorts of different strategies than I’d ever done before, because it was clear that, you know, I had to do things.
I remember when I was first writing my first book, um, I started writing the book and then I stopped about three months into it, uh, three chapters into it and it’s not a book that I ever published, but, um, I went Jill, if you’re going to spend all this time and effort to write this book, then you want people to read it.
Again, I’m going back to this. And that means people have to know who you are. So then I stopped and studied how to sell books. How do you get a publisher? Because I didn’t want to self publish. I wanted a New York publisher, a big publisher to get it out there for me. And how do you get it sold? And it’s set one of the things that said, I remember vividly that if you want to have your books be successful, you have to be a speaker. And I went, “Oh shit, hate to speak.” I just hate to speak. And so then I learned how to become a speaker and threw myself into understanding that. So you see that when I get something on my brain that I want to do that I’m in, it’s like I’m in service to a concept like, you know, we needed women out there.
Well, that meant I had to be visible. I had to create a website and I had to look like I was intelligent and have a well done website. And when I put up my first website, I studied over 200 websites and I noted what I liked and didn’t like, and then my whole job was to create a sticky website that people would sticky. They’d stay there a long time and that they would sign up and give me their email address.
Andy Paul: Right.
Jill Konrath: Yeah. So I studied it. I don’t know I would do these things, but I was in service to the fact that we needed a woman out there. And then with selling to big companies, I’m writing a book and they set up the speakers, Oh God, Oh God, I need to speak. I mean, I can get in front of 30 people, but a crowd, you gotta be kidding. I’ve only done it a few times in my life and my knees were shaking, but then I, I did it.
Andy Paul: Yeah.
Jill Konrath: started working here and, and becoming that. So, you know, for me, it’s been- what I’ve been doing my whole career is in service to a message that I want to share.
You know, even when, like, you’ll like when I say this, but when I wrote Selling to Big Companies, I had read a book called your higher purpose. And it said before you undertake any task in life, stop to say, what’s my higher purpose in doing this. And so. I had read that book, you know, about a month before I started writing.
And so I said, okay, Jill, what’s your higher purpose? And I immediately like, Oh, I’m going to show people how to sell the big companies. And my brain literally came back screaming at me and said, no. And I went okay. I mean, my literally my whole body side of me said no. And it was like a shock because I was so clear that my purpose was a how to book, but I paused. And what came in or answer popped into my brain that I would have never thought of, but it literally said, no, your message is your, your higher purpose is to make people feel that it’s possible.
Andy Paul: Hmm. I love that. I love that.
Jill Konrath: How to book made me the hero, you know, I’m so smart. Here’s how to follow me. The make people feel that it’s passable meant that I had to share stories like fainting or, you know, other stories where I had failed miserably or been embarrassed in what I learned. And that’s how I learned this stuff. Cause if I could show that I had all these warts and then I’d still succeeded, people could relate to it and they go, Oh, I’m not the only one. I’m not the only one. And literally Selling to Big Company, starts out with my business failure on purpose because I knew once they understood my higher purpose, I understood.That I had to do my ultimate vulnerability at the front end.
Andy Paul: Well, I think it’s such a valuable, valuable lesson because yeah, the world is full, increasingly given, you know, LinkedIn and so on full of, of how to, um, But very little about why. And, and I think that this is, to me, that ties to your sort of, you know, what is possible, you know, we’re, we’re hooked on this idea of transformation as opposed to, um, getting incrementally better to achieve something. And it seems like you’ve, you’ve dedicated yourself as a very deliberate process of trying to become the best version of yourself and not necessarily as a transformation, but as a Hey, I’m going to get involved in the subject and educate myself and see where that leads.
Jill Konrath: Yes, but you know, people need to know that, you know, every one of these things has been a huge gulp moment, you know, it’s like, Oh my God, I have to speak, Oh my God. You know, gulp. And then, because I feel strongly that what I’m doing. Is important. I will take those steps and go through the painful learning process or the highly educatable, valuable learning experience of becoming good at something I don’t know about or an understand yet, or, or I’m just feel needs to be shared.
Andy Paul: Well, I think it’s a process of reinvention
Jill Konrath: Yes.
Andy Paul: And yeah, I look at my career I’ve had like nine, nine points of reinvention, but part of it was really driven by far. Most of us, it was really driven by this, this desire to what can I learn next? That’s really interesting. That will keep me interested as I go through life.
Jill Konrath: Um, yeah, mine has been driven partially by boredom. I have what I would call a very low boredom threshold. And as soon as I learned something and have mastered something, I’m no longer that interested in it. And I, I feel a need, like, you’re kind of saying to move on and even like, all my books driven.
They’re not just me writing. They’re driven by problems that I’ve had to solve. You know, it’s like every book is a personal problem for me, you know? And it’s like, Oh God, nobody’s answering the phone. All calls are willing to voicemail. Nobody’s getting back to me. Ah, you know, and then, then finally stepping back and going, it’s not just me. It’s happening around me now. What do I need to learn? How can I figure this out?
Andy Paul: Yeah. I remember when you were immersing yourself in, in research for, um, More Sales, Less Time. Very similar.
Jill Konrath: Which is all about, you know, helping crazy busy salespeople get more done, working less. And I became, I mean, I read it everything I could not just on time management, but just in a whole variety of areas that impacted what was sapping my time or how to work that, I mean, I just became a constant learner and then I started experimented and I actually spent the full year experimenting with myself cause I had a personal goal cause I was so tired of being online all the time. And I mean, I just didn’t feel like I had any fun anymore. Yeah. So, I mean, for me, it was a puzzle that needed solving.
Andy Paul: Well, just as a last few minutes we have Harris is yeah. One of the concerns is there not enough young voices, I’m writing books about sales these days and sort of leading the charge from a thought leader perspective for the next generation. So what advice would you give to people? Who yeah. Maybe have same idea.
There’s something. I think that problem that needs to be solved that they come here contribution too. But what are the first steps that should be taken to make that happen?
Jill Konrath: Wow. Well, I don’t know. I mean, I think you have to throw yourself into a subject and then either start writing and speaking about it. If you want to make a difference for other people, you can’t let the, what you’ve learned and the journey of learning you can’t let that go to waste. You know, to me, it’s, it’s really important that you share. What you learn and there’s so many vehicles for sharing these days. Let me just say for me, like one of the first books I did and you’re talking young people, but I remember when I first started selling in my first two jobs, you know, whether it was a Xerox and selling technology, um, you know, the first time I ran into a new competitor, for example, I would usually lose to that competitor.
Andy Paul: yeah. Right.
Jill Konrath: they, I just didn’t know how to sell against him, but after coming up against them more times, I finally saw what they were doing, what strategies they were using, what lies they were telling me, you know, but I saw that kind of stuff. And then I figured out a way to, you know, put them at a disadvantage and to, you know, um, get them more interested in what I was selling.
Andy Paul: Right. Make them worry about you, I
Jill Konrath: Right. And then, you know what I did, as soon as I figured it out, it was like, okay, now I’ve got a repeatable pattern here. Right. I call together my college and say, you guys, I figured out how to beat this competitor. Let’s do a workshop on it. And I’ll tell you what I’ve learned. I mean, I literally was doing that.
Nobody asked me to it. Wasn’t on schedule, but I would put together a workshop on how to do that. then get other people to talk about it and we just focus on it. And then, you know, again, it would happen, you know, a little bit later something would happen or are we are selling a new product and we needed more ideas on how to sell it.
And it wasn’t working real well. I was like, I throw myself in, learn it, learn it. If somebody’s, you know, doing that and wants to share their ideas. I mean, there’s no reason that you can’t do ad hoc sharing on your own to help other people do it. Now that positions you as a thought leader in your own organization. Um, and it also gives you more confidence in your own ability
Andy Paul: And, and in your knowledge, your ability to you’re, you’re going to be less fearful to share that.
Jill Konrath: yes, you know, then to share it online. And it’s really hard to share some stuff online at first. It’s very threatening if you haven’t done it before, especially when somebody says that is the most stupid ass idea I’ve ever seen.
Andy Paul: Invariably, somebody will say that too.
Jill Konrath: Yes, I have a will. And, and, you know, if you haven’t done that kind of stuff before, where you put yourself out there, it’s like, God, you just want to crawl in a hole.
Um, but yeah, you have to kind of tiptoe in bite. To me, it was easier starting with my, my own colleagues about how to do something or what I just learned. And you can do it just by, you know, having running experiments in your own company and talking about the different experiments that you’re doing. You know, Hey, you guys, everybody want to work with me tapping how to do this. Cause we’re all having trouble here and getting people together. I mean, that kind of stuff is really good. From an overall development standpoint, you get stronger in your own capabilities. You position yourself more for a sales leadership role. If that’s what your direction you want to take. I mean, there’s so many good things to come out of sharing.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, I mean, I think you a, as you share, as, as you know, it’s been written about before, but you know, you’ve talked about this as, you know, you, you learn through, through teaching others, what you really believe. And I think that’s really important is you talk to her earlier about someone’s successes or book is showing what’s possible is because you’re sharing your own stories, your own journey, which is, you know, with LinkedIn as a primary business platform, right, has evolved very rapidly over the last several years to being one of these platforms where increasing that content is around people sharing their journeys. And that’s a great place to start. Right. This is document what you’re doing and then I still think there’s tremendous value as you’ve done multiple times is long form content. You know, a book forces you to lay something out, um, more completely.
Jill Konrath: That’s a lot of work.
Andy Paul: It’s a lot of work, but also I think it has outsized value compared to, you know, listening to a podcast or reading a blog post or so on. Um, so as an investment learning investment books are still important. And I said, we need, in sales will need people under the age of 40 writing sales books.
Jill Konrath: Yes. But you know, I don’t know if we’ve ever had a lot of people under the age of 40 writing sales books. It seems that somehow in your late thirties, people are really developing a sense of, I really get it. You know, I’m confident in my own knowledge that I could write a book. I mean, there’s a personal learning curve of confidence in what you’re doing that it’s, you know, you can do it. You’ve been in different jobs. You’ve repeated it several times. You know, you’ve got the track record, you know, it’s not, you’re not a one job wonder.
Andy Paul: Yeah.
Jill Konrath: And I’ve seen people, I mean, I think, you know, moving into that kind of role in your late thirties is really where people are most comfortable, are finally comfortable with what they know and their willingness to share it with other people.
Andy Paul: Right. Well, it’s still under 40, late thirties. The general idea being, as you says, we need more voices, more new voices and yeah, just don’t rely on, on the short form stuff you can do online. But yeah, what’s the story you’re gonna tell in the book? So, all right. Well, Jill, we’ve run out of time, but it’s been fantastic to talk with you. Do you want to provide any clues about what’s next for you?
Jill Konrath: Oh, I’m like I said, at the beginning, I’m still spinning, but I’m feel a real need to um, take what I’ve learned in this lifetime of, um, business and sales and move it more into what we can do in this country to pull people together and become the country we’re supposed to be.
Andy Paul: Love it. Excellent.
Jill Konrath: I have no idea what that means though, but that’s what I’m working on, how to create a different future, a better future.
Andy Paul: Love it. Okay. Well, I want to, I want to learn more about that. So, um, Maybe next time. When you’re ready.
Jill Konrath: Okay.
Andy Paul: Have you on and talk about it. Alright, Jill, a pleasure as always.
Jill Konrath: My pleasure. Thanks Andy.