As we continue with Invest NB’s series on C-Suite predictions for 2015, we catch up with the ever-dynamic, best-selling author of three books, keynote speaker and sales acceleration specialist, Jill Konrath. Jill’s refreshing honesty and willingness to coach, educate and contribute, are greatly appreciated and we sincerely thank her for taking the time to participate in our series.

MacLean:  Tell us about your latest project that gets you really excited.

Jill Konrath

Konrath: I’m excited about Agile Selling – which is the topic of my new book. It’s all about the mindset, skills and habits needed to quickly become proficient in a new sales position or when selling new things to new buyers. 

MacLean: What keeps you up at night when you think about business trends/issues that you are seeing right now?

Konrath: The fact that so much is happening, that it’s non-stop and overwhelming. It’s so hard to stay on top of everything that’s going on when you’re already so busy with your normal job. There’s just not enough time to get it all done. That’s why I’m enamoured with rapid learning and learning agility these days. To me, it’s the only way to stay on top of your game. 

MacLean: When it comes to 2015 what do you think will be the biggest challenge for members of the C-Suite?

Konrath: Growth! Because I work with sales organizations, I’m acutely aware of the delta between the knowledge/skills of today’s salespeople compared to what’s really needed for success in the future. If a company is not actively up-skilling their sales team right now, they’re already falling behind.

MacLean: The Conference Board surveyed global leaders and found that the top four challenges for CEOs include:  access to human capital, customer relationships, innovation and operational excellence.  This is very broad.  What do you think will be the top challenges based on the businesses that you have contact with and your experiences?

Konrath: As I said earlier, most sales organizations are in serious trouble because their people are not prepared to deal effectively with the modern buyer.  

So, given those categories, I think the biggest issue is human capital. There are simply not enough “A” players to fill the demand. Companies must invest in developing their employees across the board. With top-notch people, organizations grow. Without them, they wither, slowly and painfully. 

MacLean: What sectors do you envision as the greatest areas for economic expansion?

Konrath: Technology and business services are my sweet spots. I think there are tremendous opportunities in these areas. 

MacLean:  In the work that you do, what are the most important skills and assets that members of the C-Suite must have?

Konrath: Learning agility! Because of my work, I see its importance to salespeople. But according to CEB, Korn Ferry, Google and many other companies, it is the primary differentiator today.


MacLean: What are the skills people think the C-Suite need, but you feel are highly overrated?

Konrath: I have no idea. All I know is that there are too many empty suits out there who look good but are leading their companies slowly off the cliff. And, by the time others figure it out, they’ll be long gone.

MacLean: Based on your experience, what are the stumbling blocks that continue to plague the sales engine of the organization to continue to struggle with sales and connecting with the client?

Konrath: The inane, and very dated belief, that sales is a numbers game.  While a certain level of activity is important, quality is essential. Doing the wrong thing, time and time again is absolute insanity. 

Yet over and over again, I see leaders push activity over quality. How stupid is that? If they were on the receiving end of these calls/emails/meetings, they’d get rid of the salesperson as fast as humanly possible. 

Buyers today only want to deal with knowledgeable resources who continually bring them ideas, insights and information. If your salespeople can’t do that, you’ll lose to price every single time. 

MacLean: Finally, if you could give just one piece of advice to fellow members of the C-Suite, what would that be?

Konrath:  Invest in your revenue engine – the sales organization! I’m talking about your salespeople and sales leaders. You need up-to-date training programs, strong lead generation programs, and a variety of sales tools. Most of all, you need good coaching. Sales is no longer just a numbers game. You need good people, doing the right thing in every client interaction. Your salespeople need to be your primary differentiator. 

2015 promises to be an interesting year and with attention given to agility, human capital and growth opportunities, the C-Suite will see great results.

Note: This post previously appeared on the Invest NB Blog.