30 Blank Pages to Fill with Jill Konrath

In This Episode



What it Was Like

Jill was “nerdy!” growing up.

Unlike most nerds she had a social mother.

So Jill learned how to be social as a nerd.

30 blank pages to fill

Jill liked the Yearbook in High School because she loved the idea that she had 30 blank pages to fill.

Jill was a high school teacher and hated it.


Same kids.

They never got older.

Always dealing with 15-16 year olds.

Then she got an idea to start her own company.

Put together a business plan.

Presented it to service corps.

Then the asked her who was going to do sales?

She said I thought you said this was a good idea?

Yes but someone has to sell it.

So Jill agreed to go do sales for 1 year, even though she hated it, so she could learn it.

She went to work for Xerox, and never wound up going back to her original idea.

Meanwhile back to childhood.

Jill liked history and loved to read.

Mostly science fiction.

Favorite Author Isaac Asimov

She studied education- to become a teacher.

When she learned to develop lesson plans she learned to ask people questions to make them think.

When she went to work for Xerox they used something called “SPIN selling.”

Types of questions to ask

Situation – what are you doing today?

Problems – What are the problems you’re having?

Implication – what other areas are affected by these problems?

Needs payoff – what benefit would there be if you could achieve these things. What would happen if we could eliminate these problems?

From this perspective it makes sense how you go from teaching to sales.

Jill was bored. The students weren’t.

Curriculum was already written.

Jill did not have her “blank pages.”

What Happened

Jill went into sales just to learn it, and found she loved it so much, she never left the world of sales!

But after the birth of her second child, she couldn’t do corporate America anymore.

She took a year off and then started her consulting firm.

Working with corporate America as a consultant is very different. You don’t have to sell your soul to do the work.

Initially Jill did not go after big corporate clients. First she had to get some experience.

She went after small businesses initially, but they don’t value sales, and they don’t want to pay for it.

So she had to find people who VALUE what she offers.

The unfulfilled niche!

Launching new products!

Then she started getting the bigger companies, and getting hired for one project would lead to others.

She lived on the St. Paul side of the Mississippi and it would take a long time to get to Minneapolis.

So she decided to only work with companies on her side of the river.

This was two major companies; 3M and Summation.

Then pressure from Wall St. lead to cut-backs which meant Jill was cut.

Soon no one was answering her calls or emails.

She thought about being a waitress. This was her backup plan – what she did in college. She knew how to make good tips.

Jill had to hone in on her value proposition.

Go after smaller accounts.

When you’re a sales consultant with no clients it’s really embarrassing.

Then she started asking people if they were having trouble prospecting. Turns out everyone was having this problem.

It’s not personal.

Now it became a puzzle.

Solving a puzzle is a lot more fun than feeling rejected.

She was able to keep some little jobs to keep her going.

Meanwhile Jill would play around with different responses and literally found a way to get people to respond to her.

Then she decided to write a book about this.

She wrote the proposal and next thing she knew she was on the phone with various publishers.

The book came out in 2005 called, “Selling to Big Companies.” It was written for the smaller salesperson who needed to figure out how to get the large companies to talk to them.

Bottom line Jill continued preparing even when she had no work.

Then opportunity met preparedness and everything changed.

Now Jill has 5 books written:

  1. Selling to Big Companies
  2. Get back to work fast – Was taken off the market because it’s dated.
  3. Snap Selling – how to sell to busy buyers who don’t wind up moving forward even though they tell you they will.
  4. Agile Selling – for someone who gets hired to sell and has to sell
  5. More Sales Less Time – For people who are selling amidst digital distractions like email and facebook and everything.

What it’s Like Today

Where do you start with someone who hates selling?

You start by agreeing with them!

Selling is disgusting!

Because our perception is based on the idea of the used car salesman.

“Pitch” is a disgusting term. You are absolutely right to be disgusted by it.

The works bookkeeper in the world sucks at math, so how are you going to put someone who sucks at sales in a role where they have to sell?

No one will be good at this unless you figure out what selling really is.

Selling is a skill.

But it’s not the skill most people think it is.

It is the skill of being interested in and focused on customers.

You have to get on the phone with strangers and talk to them but this doesn’t have to be in a bad way.

I am not an accountant. I analyze numbers to help businesses grow!

Selling is about talking to people in terms they can understand.

You explain what you do in terms of what “THEY want.”

How is their money being spent and where are there opportunities.

When Jill changed from saying she’s a sales trainer to describing the problem they encounter with their sales team, she got a different reaction. She describes things in terms they can relate to.

Jill shortens time to revenue on a new product.

They key is knowing who your ideal client is and what they struggle with.

The importance of “good questions.”

When Jill was young and started dating, she didn’t want to just go on one date. She wanted to make sure they would ask her on a second date.

She was a nerd and did her research. She found that guys like to be asked questions.

So if “Doug” was a hockey player and a football player, what 10 questions can she ask him?

Jill prepared her questions ahead of time.

Sometimes she would forget her questions. So she would excuse herself to the restroom and review her questions.

Next thing you know the guy tells her they can’t believe how much they have in common with her.

Smart people will come prepared for a conversation. Write down your questions. You can even say that you prepared for today’s meeting.

Just have a conversation.

Try just asking someone to tell you what is going on, and then take notes. If you feel weird taking notes, ask if they mind if you take notes.

You don’t have to “trick” anyone into buying something. Just be real.

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