Exclusive Interview with Leading Selling Powerhouse Kristie Jones
Writing your first book can be daunting and very challenging, but when you’re used to driving high growth and high revenue goals for clients, you take those writing obstacles in stride. Author Kristie Jones, Principal of Sales Acceleration Group, has spent the last 15+ years working with small to midsize businesses on how to hire the right team, drive revenue and create a sales accountability culture to ensure the company’s success. Her passion is taking someone else’s vision and bringing it to life.
Have you ever had to turn away a client?
Yes, for a couple of reasons. I’m known to say that I can fix a broken or incomplete sales process or under-performing reps, but not a broken product. If I believe the product is half-baked and way behind the competition or they haven’t validated product-market fit yet, it’s probably too early for me to be of real value. It’s hard to sell something with missing features or incomplete reporting.
The other time I will usually gracefully decline an opportunity is if there is a philosophical mis-alignment such as not being willing to pay market rate for sales reps or wanting to try a strategy that I know will not lead to success such as “pimping the demo” as I call it (calling a prospect to just set up a demo without having a conversation to ensure that there is a fit with the prospects problems and their solution.) I have a “Kristieism” for this one – “It has to be all about them, before it can be all about you, before it can be all about us”. If you’re just calling to set up a demo, then it’s all about you and not about the prospect and that’s not a process I want to work with.
What hiring trends do you think we’ll see in 2023?
I love this question because about one third of my business is what I call “project managing the hiring process” to ensure clients are hiring top performers. Due to the challenging economic situation as we enter 2023, I believe that we’ll see top performing reps being let go, for no fault of their own, as we did in 2020. I’m advising my clients, as I did in 2020, to find budget to hire one or two “A” players to help them sell their way out of the tough economic situation. A top performer will pay for themselves.
Also, since the pandemic, I’ve become much less reliant on recruiters to help me find sales reps. I’ve been successful in leveraging LinkedIn to find top talent for my clients without them paying 25%- 30% of the rep’s base salary to recruiters.
People find inspiration in many different places, who or what inspires you?
The entrepreneurs I work with every day are such an inspiration. They are taking the ultimate risk, putting their mortgage on the line, and leaving their W2 jobs with a guaranteed base salary to follow their dream of owning their own business and controlling their income. That’s super gutsy.
What do you think are the top three mistakes that sales leaders make?
- Not setting clear and proper expectations and then holding reps accountable to those expectations. People, not just sales reps, need to know where the goal line is and how they’re expected to get there and there should be consequences for coming up short on fourth and goal.
- Looking to catch reps doing it wrong instead of trying to catch them doing it right. People are hardest on themselves and know when they’ve screwed up or not done their best and salespeople face high levels of negativity over the course of their day as it is. They need a pat on the back and positive reinforcement when they’ve done a great job or even when they’ve truly given it their best shot and still come up short.
- Not having a full pipeline of deals. Panic causes bad decisions and nothing causes more sales reps and leaders to panic than an anemic pipeline. If your sales team has a 20% close-rate, meaning they will close one in five deals, then you need to have five times the number of deals in your pipeline as you need to sell or you won’t hit quota. That’s just basic sales math. An anemic pipeline will cause leaders to agree to discounts (which you live with for the life of the customer), agree to contract terms that don’t advantage their company, and cause undue stress.
These are all just habits that sales leaders should adopt and stick to so that they can build a winning sales team.
What’s the best compliment you have received from a client?
The best complement I’ve ever received came in a round-about way. When I was VP of Business Development for a SaaS company a prospect landed in my voicemail. I did a little research on him and his company before returning his call. When we spoke, he told me that he was interested in figuring out if a product like ours could help them. I launched into discovery mode and asked a few questions to confirm my earlier research and suspicion. After learning more, I told him that I didn’t believe that he needed our product yet, due to the size of their team. I told him that there were similar, but cheaper options, that he should probably start with and when the team grew to X, we should talk again.
A year or so later, after I’d left that company and had started my consulting business, he reached out to me on LinkedIn and asked to speak. I had no memory of him or our conversation at my previous employer and I told him as much when we spoke. He refreshed my memory about our conversation and the lightbulb went off (I rarely had a prospect end up in my voicemail) and I asked him why he reached out. He said he saw that I was now consulting, and he was having issues with their sales team, and he thought I could help.
“WOW”, I said, “I’m surprised you remembered me and had been keeping up with my journey.”
He replied, “I’ve never had anyone refuse to sell me something before. You made an impression.”
I ended up spending a year helping them turn their sales team around and he became one of my largest clients at the time. It was a perfect reminder to always stay true to your values. Because I had done the right thing at the right time, I not only got a compliment I’ll never forget, I gained a client that I’m sure I wouldn’t otherwise have had.
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