Helping SaaS startup founders drive higher revenue through improving sales people and the sales funnel processes, author Kristie Jones has now taken her expertise and put it into her first book. Born into a successful and sales driven family, she has sales in her blood and she knows what it takes to make more money, hire the right people and help companies achieve their goals. We sat down with Kristie to talk about what makes her tick and what the world can expect from her upcoming book, this is what she shared up with us.
What are some key principles you have learned about sales from your parents?
It isn’t everyone who can say they got an education in sales at the dinner table, but for my brother and me that’s exactly where our education, and our love of sales, began. We both earned the equivalent of an MBA just by showing up to dinner each night.
My father was the owner and broker of a Coldwell Banker franchise, and my mother was a top agent. Our family conversations often revolved around listings, out-of-town buyers, and commission checks. Money was a transparent topic in our family. We knew what each of my mother’s commission checks were, what my dad paid himself, if he was taking a paycheck, or if he was forgoing his own salary to make sure he was able to pay his employees. We even knew when his paycheck was going straight to the government to cover the taxes from my mother’s income. I mean really transparent. And it became clear to my brother and me that there was big money to be made in sales and more money as an individual contributor than as an owner or manager.
Over the years, my brother and I have often discussed our different sales roles, how he followed our mom’s path as an individual contributor and how I went the sales leadership route and followed in our dad’s footsteps. Both think the other is crazy and wouldn’t change places under any circumstance. But what we both agree on is that if my dad hadn’t made the decision in 1979 to quit his job with the United Telephone Company to partner with his brother in running the Century 21 real estate office, our lives would probably have been very different.
Our life before Dad made that decision and moved us to Topeka, Kansas wasn’t a bad life. But that decision to become a business owner afforded our family a better life. My dad was making a fair salary as a mid-level manager with the telephone company, but my mom was a teacher working in rural schools where in some cases K-12 were all in one building and none of the teachers made much money. She spent 18 years as an under-paid employee before using her time off one summer to get her real estate license. That decision was a real game changer for our family. She quit her job teaching and threw herself into selling real estate full time. She doubled her income in the first year.
Our family sold our way out of the life we had into a life that afforded us more financial freedom, bigger houses, the ability to pay cash for cars and college, and enough left over for my parents to build a nice retirement account. All thanks to choosing a profession in sales.
Here are the key principles I learned from watching my parents’ careers for over 30 years:
- You are your brand. Make sure that everything you do is with integrity and strong character because the world is smaller than you think it is.
- You can outwork the competition. When my mother started in real estate, she truly started at ZERO. No existing book of business, no former clients to refer business, and no name recognition. She started out volunteering to answer the phones at the office on the weekends to chat with prospective buyers and sellers who called in looking for help (this was WAY before the internet.) She also volunteered to hold open houses for other agents who couldn’t do it themselves, due to competing priorities, to meet prospective buyers.
- Be comfortable discussing money. As I said, money was an often-discussed topic at our house and as such, my brother and I understood that you could get paid what you were worth. We’d all be making more money if we were willing to share compensation information, saving and investment strategies, and money mistakes we’ve made.
- It’s all about the people. Everyone has special skills that allow them to be the good in their respective field, but if you don’t understand the importance of treating people with respect, kindness, and having grace from time to time then you really will only get so far in life. Real estate is a business built on reputation and referrals; without those, my mother wouldn’t have been a top 10 percenter. Never burn a bridge with bosses, co-workers, prospects, customer, or even the competition because you can outwork the competition, but you can’t outwork a bad reputation.
- Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. I learned from watching and listening to my parents talk about agents, buyers, and sellers that people choose to spend their money differently and you never really know how much money people really have just by judging cars, houses, vacations, or titles. This holds true in sales, never assume a buyer’s budget based on their clothes or their cars.
What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about sales professionals?
This is a loaded question! But really it the biggest is still the common characterization of the motives of sales professionals and the fear that sales reps can’t be trusted. People are concerned that we’re just in it to sell something to pad our pocketbooks and that we don’t really care about you or what’s best for you or your company. Like any profession, there are a very bad apples out there that don’t really have the prospect or customer’s best interests at heart, but I truly believe that those are the exception and not the rule. In the book I share that the top performers are passionate about their profession and what they sell. If you believe in your product or service and truly think that people and companies will be better off for purchasing it, then that genuine care, concern, and authenticity will show up during the sales process and that’s what builds trust.
A sales career can be very challenging at times. What drives you to keep going day after day?
Knowing that I’m making a difference for companies at a very pivotal time in their life cycle. I work mostly with early-stage startup companies, so helping them build the sales foundation that will impact their success or failure in the early years is critical and thus rewarding. I can make a large impact in a short period of time with companies at this stage because they desperately need to formalize and then train their sales reps on everything from prospecting strategies to negotiation skills. There’s a lot of work to do in the early stage of a company and I love being that extra set of expert hands to help ensure it gets done right and quickly.
What fascinates you about having a sales career?
It’s ever-changing, so you must keep on your toes! The economy changes, competitors come and go, the product or service you’re selling is evolving and so is the market demand. With all this you still have more control over your career and success than most people. I tell sales reps that they are running their own small business and the decisions they make will determine how successful they are.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
That’s easy. The gratitude I feel from my clients every day. I love helping companies improve their sales processes, hire high-performing reps, and achieve the goals they set for the company. I know I’m adding value because they tell me and that brings me joy and gets me out of bed each day ready to give 100%.
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