Episode 66: Accomplishing More Sales in Less Time – Jill Konrath

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 66: Accomplishing More Sales in Less Time - Jill Konrath
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How many times per day do you pick up your cellphone? We all do it — mindlessly scrolling through our social media news feeds when we get a free minute, glancing over at every chime and vibration our phone makes throughout the day. While this behavior isn’t unusual, it’s definitely not beneficial. New research has shown that even these small interruptions are adding up to be huge distractions, sucking up tons of valuable time in the workday and leaving us feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Today’s guest, Jill Konrath, is a recognized sales consultant and speaker whose new book, More Sales, Less Time is all about getting more done in the time that we already have!
Episode Highlights:

  • An overview of Jill Konrath’s past books
  • What can More Sales, Less Time teach us?
  • Fighting distraction: How you can get at least one hour of your day back
  • Escaping the email trap
  • Taking a break and getting more done
  • How to leverage trigger events


Books by Jill Konrath:
Selling to Big Companies
SNAP Selling
Agile Selling
More Sales, Less Time

Visit Jill’s website for free ebooks and other resources

Episode Transcript

Marylou: Hi everyone. This is Marylou Tyler. I am thrilled today. Finally, I’ve been waiting to speak to Jill forever. Jill Konrath is with me today. She’s a bestselling author. I’ve read all her books. I’m sure all of you have her books on your shelf. We’re here today to talk about her new book, More Sales, Less Time.                     Jill is a recognized sales consultant and speaker. She speaks at Kickoff meetings and a ton of places so you probably even heard her speak. Welcome, welcome, Jill to the podcast today. Jill: Thanks for having me, Marylou. Nice intro. Thank you. Marylou: I know that we’re talking today about More Sales, Less Time. Can you give us an idea of the other three books that you wrote in case people are just getting acquainted with you? Jill: Sure. I’ll go in chronological order. The first one I wrote is the book called Selling To Big Companies. It addresses a problem like the fact that salespeople don’t get their emails and their phone calls returned and it’s what to do if you want to land a larger client and they won’t respond to your messages. That’s really what it’s about. It’s about small businesses primarily in terms of how to get into the bigger clients.                     My next book is called Snap Selling and it’s all about how do you deal with busy buyers. People who seem interested but they just get caught up in their other priorities at work and just can’t move and your sales get stalled.                     My third book deals with the issue of how do you get up to speed fast. That’s called Agile Selling. That’s for somebody who’s new in the sales position and wants to be proficient as soon as humanly possible. What to do if you take a new job.                     My newest book is More Sales, Less Time. It’s really about the time issue that we’re all facing today. The fact that we’re on email and we’re working so hard and we’re working too hard from morning till night and we’re dying inside. Marylou: Of course, the quotas keep going up, up, up, up because people think since we have more technology now, we should be able to do more because we have automation to help us. Jill: Yes, the quotas keep going up. I’ve never seen anybody lower quotas. Marylou: No, that’s for sure. What is the main method of the book that if we were to stop right now and end this call, what is the main thing that you’re really focused on teaching us in this book? Jill: The main focus is really that there are so many things that we can do to regain control of our time and our day which then allows us to sell better. It’s really looking at time and it’s looking at sales and what it takes to be at the top of your game all day long, all week long, all month long so you can do what you want to do in your work and perform at the level you want to perform at and still have a life. Marylou: In the book itself, do you focus primarily on sales skills or are you also leveraging process and technology? What’s that mix? Is it focused on mindset or is it focused on leveraging people, process, and technology together? Jill: Let me be real clear. First of all, let me just say that my other three books all deal really with sales skills and mindset. This one is a real switch for me. It actually came about from the standpoint that I was working from 7:00AM till I shut down at 11:30PM. I was exhausted and I said there’s got to be a better way. I actually spent a year researching what everybody was saying in terms of how to get control of your life again so you can do the work that you’re trying to do but do it at the best level possible. I literally felt at my own that I was performing below expectations, that I was not at the top of my own game and so I guess I just spent a lot of time researching.                     The first thing that I really discovered that kind of blew me away was the issue of distraction and how as sellers, we are living in a distracted state all the time. It is expanding our workload by 20% to 40%, meaning it takes longer for us to get everything done. Plus the fact that we are operating from a distracted space. It means that the quality of our thinking is not as high as it could be.                     At a time when we need to be as savvy as possible to be competitive in this world of sales, we are operating at a subpar level because most of us are clueless about how distracted we are and the impact it’s having on our day, our week, and our performance. Marylou: Wow. I remember reading in the book something about time wasters and how we can reclaim them. I don’t remember the number but were you saying in the book you can have at least one hour? Jill: Yes, everybody who is listening should get at least back every single day just by making some of the changes. Some of these changes are very, very simple. In fact, I just read a blog post on one of them. Email is consuming us as sales people. We have an addiction to email and by the way, it is an addiction because our body does release dopamine, which is a feel good hormone, every time we check emails and every time we see that we got a new email in our inbox. It’s literally an addiction.                     We got our cell phones in our hands and we’re constantly checking in and out email all day. That in itself is really causing a huge issue. I had no idea that total distractedness that was coming from that perspective. Marylou: I was hoping you’d say that because it’s interesting I was just flying home from visiting my daughter in Boston and as I was waiting at the gate to get on the airplane, everyone was just checking their phone. I could see the thumbs moving. Jill: I just wrote a post today. It’ll be coming out on my newsletter momentarily.  I used a program. I found a program, an app called Unroll.Me. It goes through all your emails as they come in and anything that has an unsubscribe in it, it puts it in a roll up type of thing. Every morning, I get an email from Unroll.Me that says you have seven new subscriptions in your inbox yesterday. You have a choice in terms of what to do with them. I click on this link and then I have a choice. Do I want to keep that email in my inbox because it’s a valuable email coming to me, do I want to unsubscribe from it, or do I want to put it into a roll up, meaning that during the course of the day I get one email with maybe ten email messages in it so I can look through and select which ones are important to me or I want to read. I took a snapshot today of how many I had unsubscribed from in the last 18 months. I have unsubscribed from 1,813 newsletters. Marylou: That’s crazy. Jill: Isn’t that insane? Marylou: Yeah. Jill: We buy things online and we get emails from places that we buy things from. We are involved in some sort of causes of things that we’re very interested in. Whether it’s a Corvette Club or the Sierra Club, people are engaged with things like that. We get on people’s mailing lists. We download an ebook or we sign up for a webinar and suddenly, we’re getting a message jeff@anycompany.com. We unsubscribe from that, the next thing we know, we’re getting message from jane@anycompany.com. It’s just like, “Oh my God, leave me alone, will you?”                     But think about it. 1,813 emails from that I’ve unsubscribed from are probably sending me a message once a week, at least. Marylou: Right, at least once a week. Jill: You know how much that time that takes? Huge. Marylou: I know that with my folks who are mostly process oriented, we put things in blocks. The email process, if you will, is a block. In the morning, they can check their email. They allocate a block of time for that and then again in the evening before they go home. This will be the business developers whose job is to really stay on the phone most of the day so we pick the day and we block it out in single tasking efforts in order to try to eliminate distraction or reduce it and get them focused on a serial number of activities with one typical tool like phone activity would be 30 minutes to 90 minutes straight through.                     Are you finding in your research that that also is a good process? Jill: Absolutely. It’s absolutely what people need to do and yet most people, if you take a look at them, the way they’re operating this kind of haphazard, they have a whole list of things they want to get done today and they come into the office or they get out of bed and see all their email messages. They’ll delete as many as they can and they get to their office and they sucked into email.                     Getting sucked into email right away is the worst way to start the day. It’s like not even focusing on what matters and so there is a process and a methodology, exactly as you describe where you sit down first and you say what are the most important things that I need to get done today that will have the highest impact? To ask those questions quietly to yourself, like not in a frenzy about what has to get done but just what are the most important things. And then to block the time like you’re saying. Literally, half hour block for this, half hour block for that. I’m going to check email. For some people, they have to be in email more than others. It depends on what they’re selling and the urgency that they really do need to respond. It’s very different based on different jobs. For some people, their job is to respond to messages that come in as fast as humanly possible.         My man was talking to one company yesterday where when somebody pushes a button, it says they want information, they’re down to a seven second response time. Marylou: Wow. Jill: Because it matters that much in their competitive business. But if you take somebody who for example is running a company and they’re also doing their sales and they’re doing the work, for those people, the urgency isn’t the same. They could respond in two hours and it probably wouldn’t ruin anything.                     What people have to do is they have to really get a sense of what is the real urgency of email. When I did it, I went for days. In the weeks that I did it,  I think there was only one email that needed a response within half an hour which told me that my constant checking of email was a real bad waste of my personal time and that I would be much better served checking it every two and a half hour as opposed to constantly being distracted every time a new message came into my inbox. Marylou: It’s interesting because I know people are listening to us thinking, “Where do I begin? I feel so overwhelmed.” That word overwhelmed is for becoming this gigantic word floating around my head lately. Where would I begin? Let’s pretend I’m an executive sales person. I’m selling into larger accounts and I’ve got a lot of balls to juggle. I really want to be able to do this so that I can move from this sheer will of trying to get something done to more habit. Where would I begin? What would I begin to look at? Is there a priority order thing that I would look at? Jill: The reality is you have to start with the distractions. You have to start with minimizing the distractions because that’s what’s giving us the overwhelm feeling, that’s what’s preventing us from our best thinking. It’s what is extending our work day, our hours.                     Personally, I found that technology was what was interrupting me but there were many things I could do to leverage technology to regain control of my life. Something as simple as turning off all notifications on all your apps can be crucial.                     I think I read that 75% or 80% of the people just don’t do anything with their apps. They’re just picking on their cell phone and they get interrupted with everything: every Facebook mention, every news alert from their newsfeed, and they just bing, bing, bing. What are the latest scores on the baseball game? Their life is just a series of interruption.                     By minimizing those kinds of distractions, you can really get some space in your day. Reduce the frenzy and the feeling of the overwhelm. Once you have cleared the space, cleared open space, then you can focus on what is the best way to use the time that you have and then we move into time blocking, the quiet time at the beginning of the day. I really believe that people have to start with the distractions and eliminate them or minimize them as much as they can because anytime we are in a constant state of being distracted, actually our body releases a lot more cortisol which is a stress hormone so we really are working against our own best interest because when we have stress, we don’t think as well. The number of options we’re able to come up with is more limited. We’re less able to solve problems. We’re less creative.         All that kind of stuff happens when we’re under stress so we need to deal with the issue of distraction first and then the clarity of our thinking comes back in. There is a process and a methodology. Most people don’t realize that. We talk about process. Most people don’t realize that taking breaks for example will help them get more done. Getting up and walking around, if you’re stuck with a real problem that you just cannot figure out like, “Oh God, what am I going to do?” You can stare at your computer all day long. No good answer will come to you but if you would literally say, “Oh man, I’m going to get up. I’m going to do something fun for a while and play ping pong. I’m going to go out for 10 minutes and just walk.” There’s nothing like releasing your brain from the minutia that your brain gets the minutia, the teeny tiny focus that our brain is in when we’re sitting at the computer and literally, by moving away, by having fun for a period of time, by taking a walk or doing some exercise, you literally are taking your brain to a higher level and the quality of your thinking just improves. Your brain is able to find its resources and knowledge that it has stored to help you figure out new ways to do things. We don’t realize that we stare at this stupid computer sitting at our desk trying to wrestle a good idea out of ourselves when the best thing we can do is take a break. People talk about taking a shower or driving in the car. That’s the same thing when the good ideas come to you. Marylou: For me, it’s when I’m exercising and I’ve gotten in the habit now-actually, in the basement I have a pen and a piece of paper sitting because the ideas inadvertently come. I know I’ll forget it so I have something to at least write down. People can speak into their phones and record their thoughts. Jill: That’s what I do when I go outside and I’m walking. I bring my cell phone with me and I record my ideas as they just pop into my mind. They’re not all great ideas but if I try to hold onto them and remember them, you can’t do that if you’re trying to hold one idea in your brain. It’s literally not possible for other ideas to bubble up when you’re so focused on I got to remember this. I got to remember this. I got to remember this. Marylou: I’m the same way with subject lines, blog posts, headlines. I wrestle with them and then I go at some place. I go down into the ravine. I rake some leaves and all of a sudden the perfect subject line just comes right into my head. I know exactly what you’re saying of letting go. As you said, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. 5, 10 minutes, you can be there in that zone. Jill: Right. Most of us, when we take a break, we take a break that is, “Well, I think I’ll check my email.” Or “During these 10 minutes, I’ll go check Facebook,” or whatever it is that we think is our pleasure. I’ll do some online shopping and check out that new outfit that I want to wear online.                     The reality of it is that does nothing for you. It just increases our overall burden, our mental burden. We don’t come back refreshed. It’s only when we remove ourselves from the situation. By the way, if you’d put in the exercise and do walking or get on a treadmill or just anything, actually puts more oxygen into your brain, which is food for the brain. Literally, it feeds our mental energy. It feeds us and gives us what we need to be better at our job. Marylou: Such great advice. Can you share with us what you mean by the concept of quiet time? I heard you say that a couple of times and I’m curious as to what that means to you. Jill: What that means to me, it’s like coming to the office in the morning or at the end of the day, rather than rushing in and rushing right to work, it means getting the clarity of thinking that you need in order to move forward with the day doing the right things to the best of your capability. So often, we just rush, rush, and rush. Rushing isn’t good. Literally, rushing isn’t good. We don’t do our best work when we’re under that kind of pressure.                     If you have any creative projects, certainly you need quiet time. You just can’t plop down and say, “I’m going to be creative.” If you’ve got a tough customer situation or you have a competitor on an account that’s trying to steal your business, under pressure, feeling overwhelmed, you cannot do, you cannot find new ways and fresh perspectives. It just doesn’t happen. The brain is not capable of multitasking and coming up with all these things under the pressure as well. Marylou: Relaxing, sitting in a comfy chair, whatever your rhythms are. Is it a ritualistic thing, is it a rhythm thing that will trigger that creative process within us? I know for me personally, it’s walking my dog in the morning or just sitting down, petting my dog, for example. This just puts me in a whole different ground. Jill: Different frame of mind. To me, I go out and walk everyday. During the course of the day, if I get stomped, I will take a break. Anytime I’m stomped, a break is the best thing I can do for me. A break is not in front of my computer. It is removing myself from the physical space that I’m in and doing something different. Marylou: One of the things that I think is helpful, that I’ve said to my clients, once we start thinking about how to prioritize or what’s important, I like to talk about let’s look at prioritizing in a way that’s simple as well. When I’m talking with clients and people that I work with, it’s looking at what can I do that’ll give me the biggest reward for the least amount of effort? Work it backwards.                     If something is really, really tough yet it’s not going to yield the reward that I’m looking for, then maybe that’s further down the list. Conquer the thing that has the least effort with the greatest reward from it. Meaning it’s going to have the highest impact and then work my way down. Do you agree with that or is there a better way to do that? Jill: No. I totally agree with that. One of the things that I’ve been teaching for years and there’s really only one subject that has popped up in all four of my books. It is leveraging trigger events. Trigger events are things that happen in corporations or organizations that change people’s perspective on the status quo. Suddenly, they have a bad fourth quarter or a bad third quarter and everybody in the company now is focused on how can we conserve money or how can we drive more revenue. That’s what happens if a company has a bad third quarter. They’re really looking at operational efficiency, reducing cost.                     A person who can identify, for example, the kind of trigger events that occur, that create the most opportunities for them will be able to get business much faster, number one because that company is now open to change. If they move fast on these trigger events, there’s research by Forrester that shows that the first vendor to come in after the trigger event happened, the first viable vendor to come in with a picture of what they can do and how they can change things for the better has a 75% close rate.                     For me, a 75% close rate, 78% or 73%, I can’t remember exactly but to me, that number is staggering. If you’re looking at how can you, as a seller, have maximum impact, then leveraging trigger events is one of the best ways that you can do it. But that means you have to sit down and you have to say, “What is going on with our clients that suddenly gets them to want to take action?” You have to have conversations with people.                     If they would call in and say, “We’re looking at making a change.” What happened right before this? What triggered this need to make a change? Research by DiscoverOrg shows that when there’s a change in the director of IT or the head IT person, technology within a company within three months, they’re spending big money within three months. If you are following changes and leadership in your specific target of market segment, and you sell into the IT department, or you found a sales organization, but say you sell in the IT, you see there’s a new chief information officer, VP of IT in the company, that means that there’s 80% chance that they’re going to be changing some things to make their mark real soon.         It’s not just that one company that you identified, it’s the person who left that job is getting another job. When that person who left the job goes some place, that means that that company would probably make some changes. If you take a look on it where the new VP, where he came from or she came from, they’re also going to be looking at new things in the first three months.         That to me is a maximum impact move. If you want to sell more in less time from a strategic perspective to really identify and track trigger events, by the way, you can track them through technology, you can have that first mover uplift in your sales. Marylou: Right. That’s a great piece of advice. The one that you said, you can leverage technology so that can run in background more for you and interrupt you when it’s important. Jill: If you find out where just the leadership changes or if you’re tracking certain companies, get on LinkedIn and you see that they have new people. There are so many different things. DiscoverOrg gives you information. InsideView gives you information. Lead411 gives you information. There are a lot of really good companies that you can target and you can put in multiple parameters that I want to work with medical clinics, with revenue of x number of dollars. You can be really specific about what you’re looking for and be fed the right types of opportunity. This doesn’t mean these people are looking but it means that they are amenable, likely amenable to the change because of certain factors that are occurring. To me, that’s simply every seller should be aware of and every company who is setting up systems and processes should be aware of and be feeding their sales people information and doing this from a leader standpoint too. Marylou: Definitely. We’re getting close to the end of our time together. I was hoping we could finish by letting everyone know the best way that they can get a hold of you or how to follow you and where you would like us to reach out. Jill: I would really suggest that people check out my website, jillkonrath.com. I have so many really good free resources on my website that people can leverage if they just go to my resources page. There are all these ebooks that I’m giving away for free. I think they’d find them really helpful. To me, that’s the biggest thing that I can give people from today. Marylou: Very good. I very much appreciate your time with us today. I look forward to the next pieces of information and course work or whatever else you’re going to be providing us because I know that as we walk through the sales process, especially where I hang my hat which is at top of funnel, this issue of distraction is not going away. It’s something that I really think if people could get their arms around and embrace, even if you’re working like we do where we’re working with a lot of records as opposed to targeted accounts in a lot of cases, still, working at a number of different records, but we do need to take that time to plan out each of the meaningful accounts that we’re going after and also to be just able to focus on like you said, those trigger events. That’s such great advice.                     Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it, Jill. Jill: It’s fun talking with you. Thanks.