Kathy Klotz-Guest (KKG): Thank you, Jill, for sharing your thoughts and experience with our readers today. Let’s jump right in!

So many people equate “selling” with the visual of a used car-salesman because there are so many examples of salespeople that are aggressive and “un-human.” Yet, selling is necessary to success and, when done right, great salespeople add value for clients rather than destroy it.

Q: What makes a great salesperson?

Jill Konrath (JK): A great salesperson doesn’t feel like a salesperson — or at least our typical perception of one. They don’t pitch, manipulate, give spiels or act one bit smarmy. Instead, they’re 100% focused on their client’s business objectives. They bring them ideas, insights and information to help them reach their goals. They poke their prospects out of their comfort zone with status quo and help them see better ways of doing things. They’re always thinking about what they can do to create business value.

And, because they’re operating as business improvement specialists — they get sales. They don’t sell. They get sales as an outcome of what they do.

KKG: Q: What is the single biggest mistake small businesses make when selling to bigger companies?

JK:They don’t educate themselves on the corporate environment before contacting potential clients. As a result, they make a few attempts to connect with decision makers but when they don’t get a response they give up.

The truth is, because they don’t dig in and learn about the corporate environment, they don’t align their messages with key business priorities. They don’t show any expertise (which is essential from the perspective of a crazy-busy prospect) and ultimately they sound like every other self-serving salesperson.

You don’t get into big companies today unless you’ve done your homework, speak the language of the buyer, know what’s urgent right now, and can communicate it effectively in emails, voicemail, resources on your website and much more.

KKG: Q: What are the most important tips for anyone looking to humanize his or her sales approach?

JK: Great question. While we all want to develop deep and rich relationships with our prospects, we need to realize they have no desire to do the same with us. That is soooo painful for most people to hear. The best way to humanize our sales is to focus on helping. We need to really understand the business impact of your products or services and help our prospects understand the difference we can make. When we do that, we are valued for who we are and our expertise. The result? They want an relationship with us because they know we care.

KKG: You seem to genuinely have fun doing what you do; clearly, it’s your passion. I think people would be relieved to know that they can be authentic and get great results.

Q: Can you tell us more about that?

JK: No one wants to deal with a sales clone — which is what I call those misinformed sellers who think there job is to pitch and close. They want to deal with a human being who not only brings great value but is fun to work with.

Personally, I’ve always had fun at this job too. I view it as a challenge. I’m constantly asking questions such as ‘How can I help them understand the business value I bring?” or “What do I need to do to ensure they tell everyone in their company they need my product?”

When you view life as a challenge, you rise up to it! It’s not a problem that needs resolution. It’s an opportunity to create something new.

KKG: Q: Do you have a recent example of sales success due to authenticity that you can share?

JK: Recently I had a VP of Sales contact me about speaking at their an upcoming sales meeting. When I asked him about the primary challenges his salespeople were facing, he gave me a laundry list. They couldn’t get in the door, develop needs, and successfully negotiate.

After he said the last one, I stopped him in his tracks and said, “If negotiation is critical to you, you need to know I suck at it.” He laughed, then asked me why. I told him that usually negotiation problems were a symptom of a deeper problem – inability to sell value. He agreed. And shortly after that, we signed a contract for me to help him with what I was good at.

KKG: Q: How can someone change his or her mindset so that selling is not only less painful, but is actually more fun than they thought?

JK: Nothing is fun if it keeps leading to failure. So the key is twofold:

1. Learn the skills of selling. Too many people believe they’re either born to sell — or not. Well guess what?! I don’t have a sales bone in my body. I learned what it took, step-by-step, in order to get business. When you try new things and start getting results, it inspires you to keep going. But when you abdicate responsibility and say, “I can’t sell” — then you can’t.

2. Reframe every problem as a challenge. Problems zap you, but challenges inspire. Always ask yourself questions such as, “How can I do it? What other ways can I come up with? How would someone who understood sales handle this?”

KKG: Thank you, Jill. For more great selling tips, visit Jill’s site, JillKonrath.com.