Lilah Jones: “Whether you’re in engineering, sales, or marketing — just having the curiosity of why things work and why they matter is the secret sauce.”

Google’s Head of Corporate Sales for the North Central United States details how to combine innate skills with developed talents for sales techniques that deliver in and out of the office.

Ten years into her sales management career, Google’s head of corporate sales for North Central U.S., Lilah Jones, said her trajectory has felt like a rocket ship.

Her background includes leadership roles for some of the most successful technology companies of our time, poising her perfectly for her current role. At Google, Lilah sells cloud technology — the storage we need to run data analytics, provide SaaS software, and take and pictures on our phones. 

As a sales executive for Microsoft, sales manager for Oracle, and an adjunct professor at Suffolk University, her real business is with people. Her dynamic personality and vibrant presence catapulted her from Google’s strategic account manager on its Cloud platform to her current position, and she makes it look easy

Lilah’s sales management course details how to strengthen and reinforce sales management techniques strongest sales manager by detailing:

“If you can learn to tell a good story, you already know how  to persuade.”

Sales are about persuasion. Is this something people can learn?

We are all born with persuasion skills. If you’ve ever seen a two-year-old who wants more milk, you’ve seen that. It’s just a matter of leveraging that strength in a way that you feel comfortable and confident. 

If you can learn to tell a good story, you already know how to persuade. When we were going to bed, our parents didn’t tell us bedtime facts, but bedtime stories. 

It’s important to use storytelling abilities, which we talk about in the course, to unleash persuasion in a way that is authentic and natural. 

Do you need to be technically educated to be successful in sales?

I’ve certainly seen engineers move in sales roles do phenomenally, and I’ve seen sellers without a technical background do phenomenally.

Whether you’re in engineering, sales, or marketing, just having the curiosity of why things work and why they matter is what I’ve found to be the secret sauce.

Kevin Hartman, our DMA instructor from Google is convinced that data analytics is both art and science. How about sales? It more of an art, or more of a science? 

You certainly need to have those brush-your-teeth types of exercises where you literally analyze data points and use lots of science to know whether you’re making the difference. 

But there’s also the artistic part. And I feel that those are the soft skills, the ability to read a room, how to be ok with asking questions that make people answer “no” — to address those objections. That is phenomenal art.

So, you really have to marry the two. I am a huge fan of knowing your strengths and partner with people to help you in the areas you’re not too strong in. Nobody said you have to do this by yourself. 

To be a good salesperson, is it more important to be meticulously prepared for a meeting, or to improvise?

Preparation is important to develop a point of view. Once you develop that, you should be able to think on your feet if you need to. 

When people need a script, and something goes off the plan — their confidence is shaken, and they don’t recover. 

If you understand what your value is in the market, your solutions, and what problems they solve, it shouldn’t matter what your prospective customer says. 

Nobody likes to be sold but everybody likes to buy. You should be confident enough in your solution and what your solution does so that whatever they bring up, you can bring it back to what you provide that is beneficial for them. 

“It’s not about waiting until you’re a leader with a title. It’s about being a leader in where you are and owning it.”

In building teams, trust plays a crucial role. How will you help students to understand how to build trust within your team?

Something I focus on is getting psychological safety and the pillars of that. What are tools, tips, and tricks to light that up in your team? 

It’s not about waiting until you’re a leader with a title. It’s about being a leader in where you are and owning it. That’s the biggest difference between being super average and being above average. 

And that’s what we’re going to cover in our course. We’re going to not only learn, see, and do — but also to give feedback. And I’m super excited about it. 

When you hire people for your team, what are the top traits you’re looking for?

I love people who are hungry to learn. I just love that life-learning attitude. They’re OK with being a sophomore; they don’t always have to be the senior person. 

They have a great ability to own and be accountable for their own outcomes. They don’t lean on others and make excuses, and that comes out when they solve problems. Key traits I’m looking for would be their ability to learn, the ability to have accountability, and the ability to work well on a team. 

We don’t need lone wolves. I have known lone wolves, and while they may do well from an attainment perspective, they don’t do well building a career. They hit a wall and wonder, “Why am I not being recognized for my great work?” And it’s because they’re not a great team member.

“Being genuinely interested in other people does have a huge impact.”

When did you realize you’re good in sales? 

It depends on how you define “good”. For me, it’s about solving people’s problems, not only landing a sale. 

One of the prominent indicators was when people consistently told me they really appreciated how I work with them and help them solve their problems. And not only did they appreciate it – some of them became members of my “Personal Board of Directors”. These are the people I consult before making a change. 

So, I realized that I am good with this, when I was in Florida, with one of my customers, at his wife's 50th birthday. And he said: “You know what, Lilah? This is phenomenal. Thank you so much for helping me solve my problem and becoming a friend.” 

Is what you do really stressful? 

[laughing] You can ask my family about that. It can be. We just finished this year and December was on fire. But there’s a part of what we like, as people who choose roles that are paid on performance.

It’s stressful, but it’s self-induced. Salespeople are high-achievers who want to accomplish the most. 

Certainly, I have a good level of stress, so I’m very mindful about emotional wellbeing and having habits that allow me to direct this stress in a positive way.

You have this reputation for being an authentic leader who has the ability to make people like you. Is it something that you’re born with? 

It’s something I had to work on. I feel like I have always had a naturally outgoing personality, but I didn’t know how to unleash that authentically. I felt like I was copying other people. That always comes out. 

Until one of my mentors introduced me to “How to win friends and influence people” — and that book really changed my perspective. It helped me to focus on having genuine appreciation and interest in others. It’s a way to open doors to friendships and connections.

And that’s still the case. Being genuinely interested in other people does have a huge impact. 

“…the  type of behavior that the top people in the industry have — is not so much their ability  to sell, but the ability to solve a problem and connect  to people.”

Salespeople at different times were motivated by the successes of their peers. There was a time when Jordan Belfort was a sales icon. Who are the sales idols these days? 

I’m not a fan of idolizing people. What I would say that the type of behavior that the top people in the industry have — is not so much their ability to sell, but the ability to solve a problem and connect to people. 

We tend to have this black-and-white thinking about sales. Sometimes you don’t trust a salesperson or make them seem like a used car salesperson. This is not a bad thing, yet it still has this negative connotation. 

I believe that’s a very dated point of view. Salespeople are solving problems. It’s making a difference on the platform of where you are — that really makes you a superstar. 

The people that I look up to are the ones who have pulled others up to have amazing experiences. What people really remember is how you make them feel. 

What can a student expect to learn once they’ve completed the course?

The number one outcome is having tools and experiences that make them better, either as either an individual contributor or as a leader. 

Individual contributors will have the opportunity to fine-tune that. We’re going to spend time on the science of sales and setting up your book of business for success.

We’re also going to spend some time on the art and persuasion of selling, like starting with “no.” Team leaders will be even stronger leaders on their team by learning how to leverage feedback. 

When they’re done with the course, going to be bulletproof and ready to go after the next opportunity.

What is the ideal target audience for your course?

If your solution or product is something that has a sales cycle that is maybe 90 days or so, where you need to have a relationship with your prospective buyer, this will be a great course for you. 

If you’re in an inside sales organization and want a field position. If you’re someone who wants to go into leadership, or if you’re a leader looking to get more executive type of skills — this is the course for you.>