What You’ll Learn

Jodi Sjolie has sold everything from broadband to vacuums, and she says sales has a lot more to do with listening than talking.

Guest Speaker

Jodi Sjolie

Show Notes

Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.


Intro: A production of WordSouth and Pioneer Utility Resources. StoryConnect: The Podcast helping communicators discover ideas to shape their stories and connect with their customers.

Andy Johns: What are some sales tips that you can give your team? That’s what we’re talking about on this episode of StoryConnect: The Podcast. My name is Andy Johns, your host with WordSouth and Pioneer Utility Resources. And I’m joined today by Jodi Sjolie, who is the Sales Consultant at West Central Telephone Association. Jodi, thanks for joining me.

Jodi Sjolie: Thank you.

Andy Johns: Just like our other episodes that we’ve recorded today, we’re here at the epicenter of broadband marketing this week, which is the NTCA Sales and Marketing Conference. So like I said on the last episode, it’s not background noise, it’s ambiance. And a lot of excited folks are here to be able to see each other, network, and hear some of the topics like the one you’re going to be presenting on Jodi when you discuss. So tell us a little bit about the session that you’re going to be discussing here at this conference.

Jodi Sjolie: All right. Well, a little bit about myself. I started in this business in 1995, and I’ve always been a door-to-door salesperson. So that is, in most cases, people find that to be the most difficult job that there is, because I actually knock on the door, introduce myself, and try to sell them a product. And obviously when I say “try to sell them a product,” I’m introducing myself and introducing our products.

Andy Johns: Sure.

Jodi Sjolie: Yeah. And other things I want to talk about for the guests that are here at the show is how can you help your sales force or customer service rep? Most of us come from a real small telco. You know, we’ve got 25 employees. We have 30 or 4,500 customers. And you’re not dealing with thousands.

Andy Johns: Right.

Jodi Sjolie: And a whole sales team. So you really have to rely on your employees to do the selling.

Andy Johns: Right.

Jodi Sjolie: And I guess what I would like to talk to people about is, are your sales force or your customer service people asking the right questions? Because that’s what it’s really about. It isn’t about trying to sell somebody something. So if a caller calls in and says, “I want Internet.” I’m going to say to them, “Oh, okay. Can I ask you, what do you use for TV service? What are you using for your – who is your current provider? How much are you approximately paying? Do you use this feature, this feature?” And then I usually go over and then give them a bottom line price, not make it over complicated.

Andy Johns: Sure. And I think that’s something a lot of people misunderstand or don’t quite get when it comes to sales. Sales is a lot more about listening than it is about talking.

Jodi Sjolie: Right. And I want to make the correct – I want what’s best for my customer. And what’s best for my customer is not having them go purchase their own router. It’s not giving them the cheapest package. What’s best for my customer is to have the best experience available, and that’s what the customer service reps or salespeople need to understand. This isn’t just, “I want more money from you. I want more money from you.” We want them to have the best experience possible. And that means getting our manage Wi-Fi, using our equipment and having the correct speed. You know, so you got to ask questions like “How many people are in your family? How many devices do you have?” And then you can make that recommendation to them.

Andy Johns: The example I always use is about shoes. And nobody would walk into a shoe store and say, “I want the cheapest pair you have.” You’re going to want to ask them questions like, “Well, are you hiking? Are you dancing? Are you playing soccer?” You know, there are a lot of questions to do it, and it sounds like that’s the same kind of approach you take when you’re trying to find out what their needs are.

Jodi Sjolie: Correct. And like I said, most, you know, I think we all know in this day and age everybody wants Internet. So that’s the first thing on their mind. And I’ll say to people, customers “Do you do streaming?” And they’re like, “Oh, no, no.” And then then a few minutes later, I’ll ask questions. So “Have you ever tried Netflix or, you know, one of the other companies?” “Well, yeah, we have that.” So education is really important, and still to this day.

Andy Johns: Yep, absolutely. Now, one of the things we talked about before we started recording was kind of a preconceived idea that a salesperson or a customer service rep may take. And I’m sure there’s nobody at your telco that does that, but I’m sure some telcos, you know, there might be. How do you talk to your folks about not making assumptions about what the person might need before they even start talking?

Jodi Sjolie: Correct. And a lot of times, and of course, you know, I’m a salesperson, but I work side-by-side with the customer service reps. So a lot of times I’m like, “Hey, just listen to my conversation.” Or it’s such a small area, they have to listen to my conversation because I’m the loudest one in the building.

Andy Johns: That helps, yeah.

Jodi Sjolie: And, and so I’m trying to like set by example to them. I’ve got people that have said, “Oh, you want Internet. Okay. Do you want to buy your own router, or do you want manage Wi-Fi?” Well, right there, I just like fall on the floor and think, oh, I can’t believe they asked that question. You know, so going back and saying, “You know, you really don’t have to ask that question. You can say, ‘Well, what we recommend,'” and it is what we recommend and we want again the best service.

Andy Johns: With good reason.

Jodi Sjolie: Yeah. And so setting an example to the rest of the company by your actions or the way I talk to customers.

Andy Johns: Well, I know that some of the more popular episodes we have ever had here is when we talk about sales teams and how the sales people fit in with everybody else. So if you don’t mind, let’s talk organizationally. I mean, you mentioned it’s a pretty small shop, so, you know, not maybe a terribly complicated organizational chart, but how do you go about working with the CSRs, working with the other departments, to kind of make sure that everybody’s got at least a little bit of that mindset? They’re hearing Jodi’s voice in the back of their mind when they recognize the situation. How do you go about working with them and bringing the teams kind of together for that?

Jodi Sjolie: Right. Well, and I think lately we recently had a campaign, and it really wanted to bring everybody out of their comfort zone. And, you know, it popped up if their account pulled up and it would say, you know, that they have their own router, so we want to upgrade their router. So we gave an incentive to the customer service reps that we’ll give you $10 and then offer the customer three months free and see if that helps. And, you know, it helped a little bit, but it’s still really uncomfortable for them. But even if they did it a few times, I think by the continuous practice, and then I just keep going over and over how it’s, you know, we want what the customer – we want their experience to be the best. We want their experience to be the best, and that is not the cheapest. So I don’t know if that answers.

Andy Johns: No, that’s good. The next question I had, so especially being door-to-door sales, I know the last couple of years have probably been a little different. How is sales as you do them today, different than what you were doing in 2019? How have things – and I know we’re headed headed kind of back towards normal now, but how do you think things are different and may stay different than they were beforehand?

Jodi Sjolie: So that is a great question because when we, actually the day before our office shut down, I gave my last presentation. We do, if we go into a CLEC area, I’ll put on an event. So it’s either at the Pizza Ranch or a hotel and invite them in for dessert and meeting, informational meeting every hour on the hour.

Andy Johns: These are mainly like residential customers.

Jodi Sjolie: And so inviting them in and then really explaining the urgency that they need to sign up, everything like that. So that was like just wonderful. And then I would go physically door-to-door because in my mind I’ve done this for so many years, actually, face-to-face is the best way to sell.

Andy Johns: Sure.

Jodi Sjolie: So all of a sudden, the doors got slammed in March, and I had to try something different.

Andy Johns: You tried a hazmat suit and walking around.

Jodi Sjolie: [laughs] So actually I worked from home for over a year almost. And so I tried calling these customers and actually I wrote a lot of personal letters even. Even with my, because I just wrote them in with my personal handwriting. “Hey, contact me right away. I don’t want you to miss out on the opportunity of getting new fiber to your place.” So that was different. And sometimes I had to contact him up to six times. So, and I was listening in the last sales meeting and it’s like, “Oh, you don’t want to be harassing.” And I always joke that, “Okay, they eventually give in.” I just really tell them the advantages of it and that you do not want to miss out on this opportunity. So that has changed a lot. So I did so much over the phone, even Googling, trying to find their name on Google search, trying three numbers that might have been wrong. So it really did change, but it also last year was one of my highest take rates because of the combination between the both of them.

Andy Johns: Interesting.

Jodi Sjolie: And if I dropped anything off at their house, I did not go near the house. I either, you know, stuck it somewhere.

Andy Johns: In the driveway.

Jodi Sjolie: So they didn’t call and say, “Hey, what are you doing sending people out here?”

Andy Johns: Sure, sure. So dealing with, like you said, not a huge, huge area. Where do the leads come from? Are most of these just completely cold? Are these former customers where are you finding the list of folks to reach out to?

Jodi Sjolie: Well, the last few years and actually all my years of experience, I’ve worked for a few companies have been we go into a CLEC area, and we say “We’re going to approach everybody on this customer list.” So we try to get their name if they own the land, and that’s really all the information we have. So then I start from there.

Andy Johns: Street by street?

Jodi Sjolie: Yeah, well and ours is all rural. So I mean we, we can go four miles without having another customer.

Andy Johns: Right.

Jodi Sjolie: And sometimes it’s been a little scary out there in the last few years.

Andy Johns: Yeah. Right.

Jodi Sjolie: But anyway, so I just start it that way and just go to those addresses. I really don’t know anything about them. And maybe some of it’s just hunting land. So we have to make that determination too. If I go door-to-door for businesses, they may not be our customers, but I’m just introducing myself and letting them know what services we serve. Because we do Internet, phone and TV, of course, but we do security systems, camera systems, phone system, hosted services. So there’s a wide variety. So there’s product for everybody.

Andy Johns: We could keep going for a while here, but you just touched on business services. How do you approach things differently, or do you approach things differently, when you’re looking at residential sales versus business sales?

Jodi Sjolie: Business sales really, really is about building the relationship first. So I’ll go in, introduce myself, kind of tell them what the product is. For IT services, which a lot of people want to get into now, is I want to be your IT person.

Andy Johns: Right.

Jodi Sjolie: So I am going in and saying, “Hey, would you like to have one of our IT department guys come in and just kind of go over what you have and make sure that you have what you need to be successful. You know, no charge.” As long as I can get the IT guy in the door, that’s my foot in the door. But sometimes I have introduced myself six times and maybe on the seventh year, they’ve called me and said, “You know what? I need a phone system.”

Andy Johns: There you go. That’s a win. Next question. How and I don’t know, again, how the org chart is set up, but how can marketing help you? I know we have a lot of marketing folks listening here, so how do you rely on marketing either materials or the marketing person or what could the marketing folks do to help you either give you what you need or help get people into the top of that sales funnel for you?

Jodi Sjolie: Right, and we have one marketing person in our company, and it’s Geri. She does a great job. And she really will like make that initial flier that says, you know, come to this meeting or contact us, you know, as soon as possible. We’re bringing fiber into your area. Or if I’m going door-to-door, she makes sure that I’ve got the correct door hangers to put on the door. Or the fliers, you need to drop off something at the business. So they have. And just a few months ago I went through a town that they were not our customers. And this guy calls back one day and he says, This gal stopped by my store, liquor store. Liquor store really wasn’t.

Andy Johns: He pretended he didn’t know you already, is that it? You pretend you didn’t know each other?

Jodi Sjolie: It was like, okay. But anyway, so he calls and he’s like, “She said that you guys do some computer repair. My system is completely down. Is there any way you can help me?” And just by that introduction that I did the month before, we sent an IT tech out there immediately. He is now our customer and that stayed in the back of his mind.

Andy Johns: It stuck with him. Yeah, exactly. Well, last question for you. What advice would you have for, whether it’s an individual person or a company, somebody who’s trying to get their their company to be a little more sales focused. What advice would you have for them, whether it’s an individual or an organization, on how to kind of move sales up on the priority list for the company?

Jodi Sjolie: Well, I think having campaigns is very important because if we’re not totally reminded that we should be asking that customer, “Hey, I see that you have a customer-owned router. Should we, you know, I’d like to tell you the benefits of it.” So I think that helps for the everyday customer service rep that’s answering the phone that pops up when we pull up their account. Or again listening to them or just reminding, “Hey, you know what, I talked to this customer the other day and, you know, this is how easy it was to upgrade them.” Anything you can help them to realize that it is not a bad thing that you’re upgrading and that they feel more comfortable, and they do not want to be salespeople. Please. Nobody does.

Andy Johns: We hear that a lot. We’ve heard that from a lot of telco folks where we work. Nobody really wants to be a salesperson.

Jodi Sjolie: Correct.

Andy Johns: Well, I said that was going to be the last question, but you brought up something interesting there. So what kind of notes and communication are you or the CSRs leaving? Or is there any there, where if you go visit somebody, then are you logging that somewhere where if somebody else sees it later? Or does it pretty much stay with your notes? Or is there any communication back and forth there?

Jodi Sjolie: There is. We use Salesforce. And so that’s kind of more on my business side. But with our billing system, there’s a note. There’s a place for notes in there, and [I’m] trying to get everybody else to use it more. But even if I talk to a customer, and they’re not ready to get a manage Wi-Fi from us at this time, I make a note. They had a new router in 2019, you know, so I know to ask later, or when they call in, see if they want to upgrade their router. So I’m putting notes in there, so we don’t blindly call them next time again in two months and say, “Can I talk to you about routers?” And they’re like, :I just talked to you.”

Andy Johns: Yeah, right. Exactly. The smarter, the smarter you can be sharing that information, the smarter you sound.

Jodi Sjolie: Correct. So we have some great tools to do that. And it’s getting everybody to leave those notes.

Andy Johns: Got it. She is Jodi Sjolie. She is a sales consultant with West Central Telephone Association. Thanks so much for sharing that wisdom with us today.

Jodi Sjolie: Well, thank you. I enjoy these conferences so much.

Andy Johns: Isn’t it nice to be back in person?

Jodi Sjolie: It’s so great to be back in-person, and it doesn’t hurt that we are standing in Florida.

Andy Johns: It’s true. You can stand by the door, and you hear the water going. So I know that there are other places you could be right now than here. So I appreciate you coming by.

Jodi Sjolie: Thank you. Bye.

Andy Johns: She is Jodi Sjolie. My name is Andy Johns, your host with WordSouth and Pioneer. And until we talk again, keep telling your story.

Intro: StoryConnect is produced by WordSouth and Pioneer Utility Resources. Both companies are built to share your story. Our associate producer is Sarah Wootten. StoryConnect is engineered by Lucas Smith of Lucky Sound Studio.