Fireside Friday with Jon Knott
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales.
Jon: I came into sales in the least logical way possible: with a degree in music. After moving to Chicago, I landed a contracted position at Groupon on their sales training & development team, eventually joining full time. Over the next few years, as I fell more in love with sales psychology, I had numerous positions at Groupon & Order Up (a food delivery company we acquired in 2015) where I was constantly inspired by the breeding ground of talent that I had the pleasure of working beside at 600 W. Chicago.
A little over 3 years later, I heard about a growing 30-some-odd person strong logistics company in the West Loop; the prospect of building a sales enablement program from scratch instantly intrigued me, and I reached out the same day.
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
Jon: Growing our ShipBob sales team from eight BDRs/AEs back in August of 2017 to 84 in January of 2019.
The abnormally quick growth our team at ShipBob has seen is always humbling to reflect on. The processes and resources that we leveraged to get us to this point are in constant re-evaluation. Building out a scalable BDR on-boarding program that produces highly productive, revenue producing, engaged sales professionals has been a fulfilling journey.
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
Jon: "Stay in Discovery Mode" was a constant reminder given to me by Bill Bartlett during our time working together at Groupon. I've added this to my vernacular and truly use this as a constant reminder both personally and professionally. I've learned to always stay curious for a better, more creative or new way of tackling challenges; never be a prisoner of your own style.
Sales Assembly: What's the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?
Jon: In today's age of instant access to seemingly endless streams of information and review sites like G2 Crowd, sales reps face a relatively new challenge. Our addressable market often has increased access to and preconceived notions of the information that historically has been gated by the salesperson. Not only do we have to be product & industry experts, but we must be able to intimately understand the content that's been consumed, the pages that have been viewed and let that inform how best to connect with a prospect. Unpack what you could assume is true of the prospect based on their behaviors and then (and this is the important step) confirm that it's true.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a mentor when it comes to sales, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
Jon: Julien Recoussine is someone I've always respected and sought advice from. His ability to add levity to real sales wisdom is something I've baked into my process. During my time at Groupon, Julien sent weekly Hump Day emails on varying topics, and I learned a valuable lesson in using humor as a tool and the power of consistency to build credibility with your team. Often times, we're not afforded the luxury of hour long trainings each week on topics that matter, but Julien was able to find a platform for digestible, actionable tactics for moving the needle.
Sales Assembly: What's the best sales book you've ever read? What are you reading now?
Jon: Nearly cliche at this point as it has become quite a classic in a short amount of time, but Start with Why by Simon Sinek is a staple. Yes, I realize it's not exactly a sales book. With lessons on leadership, on finding your Why in everything you do, Sinek is able to convey a powerful message with compelling companies who exude a clear Why that I think is highly applicable for sales folks. Being able to understand ShipBob's why (our mission) and a client's businesses better than they do themselves is a key advantage over someone trying to sell you based on features and benefits.
“Great leaders and great organizations are good at seeing what most of us can’t see. They are good at giving us things we would never think of asking for.”
Currently, I'm reading Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen that is packed with both theoretical & tactical wisdom thus far.
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business related books, articles, podcasts or newsletters?
Jon: Huge fan of the folks at Sales Hacker, Sales Assembly (of course), Catalyst Sales Podcast and good ole LinkedIn. Also, I read the Morning Brew everyday to prevent sales tunnel vision. There are plenty of applicable lessons to be learned from unrelated content.
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd give to someone just starting a career in sales?
Jon: Lean in. I've been fortunate thus far in my career to have role models everywhere I turned both internally and externally in the Chicago area. Organizations like Sales Assembly make it easy to connect with sales leaders who have been in your shoes, whose failures and successes you can equally learn from and who are more than willing to listen as you get comfortable starting out on this new career path. Pay it forward as well, when meeting with folks new to sales/sales enablement. I always walk away from the conversation with a broader understanding of the topics discussed.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales?
Jon: AI and machine learning will continue to disrupt sales in a big way in the coming years. We've already seen this with suggested copy for emails or dynamic content based on key prospect characteristics, all in an effort to automate or enhance the buying (and selling) experience. However, this is a risky play for younger sales folks - personally, I would rather steer clear of using this kind of software until a new sales rep understands the value of personalization and then introduce them to ways that can automate their skillset/outreach.
Sales Assembly: What do you find critical in measuring enablement ROI?
Jon: When it comes to Sales Enablement tracking causation can be rather difficult. While enablement efforts might trend similarly with performance, you'll want to get real quantifiable data points that tell the same story. In addition to these data points, I'd suggest also adding in a subjective measure of success by gauging your team's sentiment towards in classroom & LMS content. In my experience, a healthily mixture of both will get you a good read on the effectiveness of your efforts.