Social Influencer Series | CEO Empire Selling, Dan Swift
I met Dan Swift during my first week at Sprinklr. He hosted a class on "social selling" at our company onboarding event called "Splash". Splash is an incredible weeklong introduction to the world of Sprinklr at our company headquarters in NYC and Dan's class was one of the many bright spots.
He inspired me to up my social selling game and solidified my reasons for coming to Sprinklr. I knew then, that we were in for an incredible ride together. We shared a passion for social and understood that a communications revolution was transforming the way the world connected - to each other, to ideas and to the brands they love.
Dan left Sprinklr to pursue a dream of launching his own company - Empire Selling, the modern sales methodology for an increasingly digital world. This is the perfect and logical next step in his social journey and there are so many ways our two companies align.
I caught up recently with Dan in his travels and here is a snapshot of what he had to say:
What drew you initially to social media from Thomson Reuters?
LinkedIn found me through my LinkedIn network. Ironic huh? Let me explain. I connect religiously every single day with every single person with whom I have a meaningful business or personal interaction. The way in which LinkedIn has made the world a smaller place, or should I say, ‘a more connected world’ continues to fascinate me. It is amazing who knows who. This presents an incredible opportunity for salespeople to build and nurture their networks for warm introductions and referrals to buyers at scale. It also presents an incredible platform for career opportunities. One of my connections, who also happens to be a close friend, was working at LinkedIn at the time. As you know, I share content every single day that I believe will be additive to my network and position me as a thought leader. When he heard about a leadership opportunity at LinkedIn, the first person he thought of was me because the content I share is in his feed every… single… day. That’s the power of social selling. It allows you to build a professional brand and remain front of mind for opportunity.
At LinkedIn you were the Director of Social Selling and were instrumental in launching LinkedIn Navigator. How important is social selling today to the modern sales organization?
Critical. Today, it’s much more difficult for salespeople to get the attention of potential customers, build relationships with them and create and sustain brand loyalty. And that translates into less-certain revenue and a much higher cost of sales for companies. Salespeople risk getting left behind as buyers become more self-sufficient in seeking out information via online resources to educate themselves. The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) shared research that buyers are 57% of the way through the purchasing process before they engage sales. IDC shared research that 75% of B2B buyers use social media to learn about potential vendors. It is critical for salespeople to enthusiastically embrace digital. As buyers continue to turn to digital channels to learn about and purchase solutions, traditional sales tools and approaches grow ever closer to being obsolete. Without a concerted effort to infuse digital into sales operations, salespeople and companies risk drifting further away from buyers and ceding customers and revenue to more digitally savvy enterprises. As a sales professional, not learning how to socially sell now is career suicide. Think about this for a moment. Millennials who have grown up in a digital world are beginning to move into buying positions at many target companies, if not already in those positions. This is the next generation of leadership. They expect to be connected and engaged with in a completely different way.
What are the hurdles holding companies back from making the smart transition to this model?
There are really 4 things:
- Moving to a modern selling model is easier said than done as it involves significant change management. Companies need to unwind decades of sales best practices that are becoming increasingly ineffective to deploy a fundamentally new way of engaging buyers. Human beings are resistant to change, even when they know it’s critical to survival. We are inherently flawed. That’s a whole other discussion though.
- It also requires executive sponsorship. Unfortunately for many companies, only a small proportion of leaders understand the power of social media, and more broadly digital, for business. As such, they continue to deploy strategies and tactics that no longer align to changing buyer behavior (i.e. cold calling, cold emailing etc.) and continue to decline into obscurity.
- It requires support from cross functional partners, especially marketing. Sales and marketing need to align corporate goals to ensure the content that marketing produces allows the sales organization to deliver the right content, to the right person, on the right channel, at the right time to engage buyers.
- It requires an ‘everyone is in sales’ approach across the company. It comes back to where we started which is the power of the amplification effect of social media, particularly LinkedIn in B2B sales. According to the MSL Group, brand messages reach 561% further when shared by employees versus the same messages shared via official brand social channels. Companies need to gamify and reward employees to share content and proactively make introductions into their networks for companies to truly reap the benefits.
For an organization to scale their efforts what type of tools would you recommend - at minimum?
At both a corporate and individual seller level, we need to listen to our customers and target customers. That involves bringing together all functions like Marketing, Advertising, Research, Customer Care and Commerce onto a single platform. It’s the only way to ensure a company provides outstanding customer experiences and channel opportunities to the sales organization. Sprinklr springs to mind. That is really what Sprinklr does! For the sales organization, LinkedIn Sales Navigator remains the leading, must-have tool in my opinion.
You left Sprinklr to launch Empire Selling helping sellers, leaders and companies survive and thrive in an increasingly digital world. Let's talk about the work you are doing and the digital selling methodology?
I did indeed. I spent an incredible 3 years with Sprinklr, but launching my company to help sales people survive and thrive in an increasingly digital world is my passion. As I mentioned, buyers have changed the way they buy. Prospecting techniques like cold calling and cold emailing are increasingly ineffective and actually damage both the sales person’s professional brand and the corporate brand they represent. Sales methodologies that do not seamlessly incorporate industry shifting trends like the internet, social media and mobile technologies are obsolete. To remain relevant, sales people like us cannot carry on with outdated sales methodologies, strategies and tactics. We need to become just as digital as your customers. Empire Selling is that modern sales methodology and it’s applicable to Corporate Sales, Insurance, Banking and Financial Services. Individual sales professionals (i.e. sales professionals, insurance agents and brokers, business and corporate bankers, along with wholesalers and financial advisors can get started with online video training to learn the methodology on an annual subscription basis. Corporates can engage with Empire Selling on a corporate basis to deploy the methodology across all impacted functions (i.e. Sales Development, Sales, Success, Sales Leadership, Sales Enablement, Marketing and of course, the Executive Leadership team. It’s sales kick-off season right now which has fortunately allowed me to spend time introducing the methodology to companies across all industries.
Exciting times my friend!
Speed Round (5 words or less):
Celebratory Cocktail - Bourbon. Ice. Two cherries
Proudest accomplishment - I used to say launching the social selling business at LinkedIn, but now I’ll be answering with launching Empire Selling
Go to social channel for social selling - LinkedIn
Go to social channel for fun - Instagram
One Must Have For Effective Social Selling - LinkedIn Sales Navigator
Inspirational #hashtag for 2018 - #surviveandthrive
Dan Swift is the CEO of Empire Selling. He is a former Sprinklrite who joined Sprinklr from LinkedIn, where he had been in senior leadership at LinkedIn where he helped develop and launch LinkedIn Sales Navigator. He can be found and followed on Twitter at @danjswift.
About the interviewer:
Mark Keaney is a Husband, Dad, Coach, Mentor and Leader. With almost 25 years in traditional media and wild ride in the world of tech start-up/social - Mark is helping brands deliver world class CX and strategy through his consultancy OTL Local Marketing. Brand Globally. Market Locally.
e: firstname.lastname@example.org or m: (617) 513-2668 or t: @markkeaney2pt0