What Really Makes the Difference in Sales
Asked by a client to explain her success, sales consultant and author Jill Konrath realized that the most successful salespeople had attributes that went beyond their sales techniques and skills. “Because they were just ‘things’ I did, I had totally disregarded their importance,” she writes in her new book, Agile Selling. Specifically, Konrath writes, it was her ability “to rapidly acquire knowledge and develop new skills, combined with the flexibility and strength needed to withstand challenges and leap on opportunities” that she believes gives her and other highly successful salespeople the edge. Getting up to speed quickly and rapidly adapting to changing conditions are the two core elements of what Kornath calls “sales agility.”
Such agility is especially valuable today, in the age of self-educated buyers who complete 60 to 70 percent of the sales process on their own. Only after acquiring the information they need to make a choice, Konrath writes, do buyers call in a few vendors and start negotiating. Thus, sales success today, she explains, depends on knowing more about the buyer and his or her business, providing value through ideas, leadership and guidance, and providing buyers exactly what they need when they want it and how they want it. Quickly.
Konrath also emphasizes that sales agility requires a new mindset, one that keeps sellers moving forward through challenging times. The first step is to recognize that sales success is a choice, not a right. There will be struggles and doubts, she writes, but agile salespeople decide that they are going to choose success over failure. To achieve this, they have the mindset that obstacles are opportunities; simply taking this attitude, neuroscience shows, reenergizes the brain. Agile sellers also reframe failures as learning experiences and believe in continuous improvement: for them, performance goals are “getting-better” goals.
From Chunking to Prepping
The bulk of the book consists of short, snappy chapters that provide techniques and strategies for learning new information and picking up new skills quickly and acquiring the habits that allow sellers to bounce back more easily from setbacks and stay motivated. For example, Konrath offers six rapid learning strategies that bypass the trial-and-error learning of the past. These strategies are:
• Chunking, or breaking down big subjects into smaller, more manageable chunks.
• Sequencing, or prioritizing the chunks of small topics.
• Connecting, which is the highly valuable practice of linking new skills and information to something you already know.
• Dumping, which is the habit of storing information out of your head and into a place where you can find it later.
• Practicing, a basic habit often overlooked by sellers but which can make a big difference.
• Prioritizing, which is the practice of not attempting to multitask, but rather recognizing that for the best productivity and effectiveness, you need to choose and focus on one activity at a time.
Konrath’s guidance for picking up new skills fast is equally insightful and easy to digest. She offers, for example, the clues that a seller can use to know if he or she is losing the connection with a buyer, including raising of the eyebrows (revealing skepticism), tapping of fingers, heads moving slightly back and forth, uncommitted responses, lack of eye contact and crossed arms. Another chapter offers “recovery” strategies, as when a sellers puts off a buyer because of excited over-aggressiveness (the best strategy: take a step back by explaining, “I get really excited about how we might be able to help, but I don’t know enough about your business, yet – tell me more”).
In the last section of this info-packed book, Konrath focuses on the success habits that agile sellers possess. In a chapter called “Optimize Your Attitude,” for example, Konrath tells the story of a salesperson whose results were being “killed” by the recession. When she accompanies the salesperson on a call, she discovered that he started every pitch with, “So, how’s the recession impacting your business?” The conversation, Konrath writes, went down from there.
Konrath is a veteran sales consultant. In Agile Selling, she shares the wisdom of the highly successful who know that it’s not just about degrees or experience; mindset, attitude and the right habits can make the difference between success and failure.