Frankly, I began to read this book with some skepticism because I had already read dozens (hundreds?) of books about sales – including Anthony Parinello’s Selling to VITO and Getting to VITO – and doubted that there would be much (if anything) left for Jill Konrath to discuss. I soon realized that I was wrong. True, Konrath offers few head-snapping revelations but her extensive personal experience (especially with rejection and failure) is rigorously examined, her advice is eminently practical, and the material is rock-solid, enhanced by the direct and conversational rapport she immediately establishes and then sustains with her reader. So many books about sales resemble a series of formal presentations at a conference or lectures by a business school professor. Not so with Konrath who understands that competition (with one’s self as well as with others) is “the name of the game” in the business world, and, success there can be achieved only in the “trenches” of thorough preparation and strategic (but prudent) persistence.
Appropriately, in Part One, she first explains what is required of those who attempt to sell to “big (ger)” companies. There are many challenges to avoid or overcome, several the result of misconceptions that Konrath summarily repudiates. This is a uniquely valuable section of the book because it makes crystal clear what experienced salespersons must “un-learn” about what they have assumed to be true thus far, and by doing so, Konrath makes it crystal clear to others what simply doesn’t work…and why. Those in the latter group will probably find it easier to apply her advice which is at all times practical…and immediately actionable.
In Part Two, Konrath explains how to “build a foundation” for what eventually should become a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective system for effective preparation, cultivation, and solicitation. What she is talking about really is a high-stakes “game” played against formidable opponents according to rules that can sometimes change suddenly. Some of the most important material in this Part focuses on the imperative need for a strong value proposition. There’s good news and there’s bad news. First the bad news: Most value propositions are weak. Now the good news: Most value propositions are weak. Her explanation of how to formulate and then leverage a strong value proposition, all by itself, is well worth ten (or 100) times the cost of the book.
What about barriers and how to overcome them? Konrath explains “how to become irresistible to decision-makers” by overcoming obstacles and eliminating objections in Part Four. In Chapter 18, for example, she explains how not to treat a gate keeper who can then become an ally, a “gate opener.”
How to accelerate the sales process? This question raises immensely complicated issues because decision-makers have too much to do, not enough time, and are under great pressure to add value to their company by eliminating waste, lowering operating costs, increasing productivity, solving various problems, filling various needs, etc. Although decision-makers are indeed hurried and harried, they will strongly resent being “pushed” by overly aggressive salespeople. What to do to “advance the sale”…and what not to do? Konrath addresses those and other important issues in Part Five.
Here’s her concluding advice: “Finally, realize that you are the biggest differentiator of all. Become an expert. Know your customer’s business, processes, and marketplace trends as well as they do. Deepen your knowledge of your product line, capabilities, and total solution capacity. Constantly be thinking about how you can help your customers improve their operations and reach their goals. Competitors can create copycat products and services overnight, but no one can replicate you and your brain. Your ability to provide a continuous stream of fresh ideas, insights, and information to corporate buyers will make you irresistible, invaluable, and ultimately, indispensable.” For many readers, the same will be true of Jill Konrath after they read her book.