Word count: 709 words
Reading time: About 3 minutes
Here is another installment in my series of interviews with successful writers, today focusing on Jill Konrath.
I discovered sales trainer Jill Konrath on the Internet. I loved her blog, her first book, Selling to Big Companies, and her green jacket. If I ran a big company, she’s exactly the kind of salesperson I’d be thrilled to meet: She understands how busy executives are and she knows exactly the kind of information they need to make a decision.
It’s a bit unusual for a good salesperson to be a good writer but Jill understands what the customer wants. She’s able to string together a series of straightforward sentences in a way that’s readable and informative. I thought I’d talk to her about her writing secrets.
Can you briefly describe your writing day (how much time do you spend at it; where do you do it?)
I write a couple times a week in my office. Mostly I’m doing blog posts, newsletter articles and interviews. However, when I write books I’m very focused and write pretty much fulltime if at all possible. Usually I write at my desk, but when I need a jumpstart, I go to a coffee shop. And, if I’m really stuck with a book deadline, I check myself into a hotel for three to four days.
Roughly how many words is your book, Selling to Big Companies, and how long did it take you to write it? Same questions for SNAP Selling (which I haven’t yet read.)
Both books are 60,000 words long. Selling to Big Companies took me 10 weeks to write. I’d blocked time out to do only that. SNAP Selling took me 4.5 months to write, but I also had other projects going on.
Are any of the techniques you use as a salesperson that you are also able to use in your writing life?
In SNAP Selling, I share my buyer’s matrix exercise. It’s a strategy I’ve used since I started selling to really understand my “customer.” When I write, I do the same thing. My first book was written for Rita. My second book was written for Joe.
Did you notice any differences in your writing process between both the books? Was one easier, which, and, why?
Selling to Big Companies was much easier. It was a “how to” book with a “start here, then do this next” structure. I created five subsections with four to five chapters for each. Then, I sorted all my existing material and other resources into the appropriate folders. When it was time to write Chapter 7, I just pulled out the right file and it was all there.
SNAP Selling morphed several times. When I told people my title, they wanted to know what SNAP stood for. So I had to rejig my thinking to create an acronym. Initially it was going to be about Expertise + Relevance + Urgency. But I changed those words to iNvaluable + Aligned + Priority and then added Simplicity, which was an underlying theme throughout. Finally, it was a SNAP!
Then I ran into problems with the structure and had to completely redo that. Fortunately, I caught the problem before I got too far in, so it didn’t require a massive re-write. To me, structure is everything. Once you get that figured out, everything else is easy.
Sales people are usually good “talkers” but sometimes not so great at writing. How did you develop the discipline to sit yourself down in front of the computer and produce coherent text?
I started out by writing a monthly newsletter, then moved it to bi-monthly, then I started blogging. Having a deadline always works wonders for me. If you have six months to write a book, it will take that long, but if you have only 10 weeks you get it done then. But I also think good writing feels like talking!
What do you do to motivate yourself when you really, really, don’t feel like writing?
Go for a walk or a drive. Nothing related to writing. But it’s then that the ideas come to me.
Can you name one author you really like to read? What do you particularly like about his/her work?
I like Malcolm Gladwell. His books all have a main premise. Then, he tells all these seemingly disparate, but well-written stories that support the theme.