Knucklehead Podcast: Episode 109 – Dan Swift, The Speed of Digital

Knucklehead Podcast: Episode 109 – Dan Swift, The Speed of Digital

It’s not an everyday experience in which an individual is brought onboard a prominent business service company and asked to develop a project from scratch. This was case of Dan Swift, founder and CEO of Empire Selling, this was the exact scenario that he found himself in when he was brought onboard LinkedIn in 2012 to help build their Launched Sales Navigator.

Dan Swift (00:00): The email that I received from the person that I went around was pretty inflammatory. That person, you know, that persons pissed. You just got to dig in and just want to be the best version of yourself.

Intro (00:14): Choose not to live in a world of filters. Realize your mistakes. Set the foundation for your success, get some wins. Knucklehead podcast.

Music (00:26): Mmm,

Stephen Colon (00:27): Welcome to another episode of knucklehead podcast you've got with you today, the knucklehead. For those of you who are listening, you understand that we strive to bring subject matter experts, people who are very good and skilled at not necessarily just what they do, but the effect, the outcomes of what they do, making other people better. And I'm excited to have Daniel Swift from empire selling. He's sporting a shirt. You can tell the quarantine. He's been able to lift weights a little bit cause he's filling out that shirt quite nicely. He's got some shoulder muscles and everything. Just just really making this a really making this a lot of fun. So Dan, from empire selling, how in the hell are you buddy?

Dan Swift (01:02): I'm very well thank you for calling me down. It's my mother who calls me Daniel when I've been bad. So I appreciate that. Thank you.

Stephen Colon (01:10): Absolutely. Absolutely. Well I answered a much worse whenever I cause trouble and it's not steep. It's something along the lines of a pejorative or four letter word that my wife and and throwing something at me, which you know, now that we're coordinating, it's, it's happening more often than than I'd like to admit. So with that said, I'm going to butcher your story. And the thing is, is I'll go and review some of what you bring to the table just from an experience standpoint and from a business standpoint. But you're the subject matter expert talking about your business. But remember, this is not quite podcast. This is not everything worked perfectly the first time, second, third or fourth time podcast. So there's some, some struggles that I'm sure that you're willing to share here over the course of today's episode. But for context, for those of you who are listening, Dan, he's over on the East coast.

Stephen Colon (01:58): However, what he does touches everybody globally. Everybody's got this digital infrastructure now set in place with social selling and learning how to insert information into the media flow, the way that folks consume information. Dan has perfected the art of certifying folks on the best practices of doing that. That's what empire selling does as a selling system for LinkedIn. And again, I'm going to butcher it, but Dan, that's not necessarily how you, how you started. So can you get us up to speed on kind of what some of your experience was leading up to where you're at now

Dan Swift (02:31): And so, well again, thanks for having me on. I think that I always like to share that my, the distort of my career man. So I'm in enterprise sales for 20 years and when I first started I was given a, a book, a green book. I remember there's in a book with insurance agents and brokers all listed with telephone numbers and my sales training was, here you go, go sell. And I had no idea what I was doing. So sort of fast forward from then to 2012 I was, I had the pleasure of working at LinkedIn, so I launched LinkedIn social selling business. So you think about the times when being given that green book, launching things in social selling business, all sorts of Epic failures in that time. And to this day, you know, there's been fantastic things that I've done, which you look back and go, wow, that was so, so stupid.

Dan Swift (03:25): So I'm an open book on all of this and fast forward to sort of 2012 2015 I was with late 10 2016 2018 I was with a company called sprinkler running sales there, which is the fastest growing social media management tech company in the world. We tagged you in there is like $200 million valuation left at $2 billion valuation. So then Todd or stuff along the way there and yeah, the last two years, two and a half years I've been running my own company, teaching people how to really do everything that I've learned in 20 years. And just package it up into a prescriptive process to teach people. So yeah, 20 years of ups and downs and great successes and failures. It's been, it's been quite a ride so far.

Stephen Colon (04:05): Well, I really enjoy the way that you describe really the last 10 years or so of over the course of your experience or really professionally because you know with success professionally comes some challenges personally meaning you know, to go from $200 million valuation to 2 billion. If you look at that rate of return, there has been a significant amount of change that really quite frankly, you're forced to deal with. So for instance, stripping away the excess fat learning that a, you know, when you're calling on a specific type of business in the enterprise game and not involving everybody who's part of that decision making process or decision by committee, you could really step on some, some, some cow patties out there for lack of a better term. You, you can, you can have it blow up in your face a little bit. Can you think of a time when you were helping either develop it, a new sales rep or you yourself were going through that development process yourself, where something blew up in your face, especially over the course of a long sales cycle sale. Can you think of a time where you'd be interested in sharing some of that?

Dan Swift (05:02): How many examples do you need? Yeah, I mean tons, right? So I think there's one good one that I remember really, really well because it was, it was earlier on in my career and I was really nervous as a, as a more junior sales person with limited experience about going around someone, I will go to Bob, someone to get to ultimately where I needed to be. And this tough as a salesperson, when you get a lead, you get a live one, someone just chatting you two in a target account and you just don't want to turn them up person's toes. But I knew that that person wasn't going to take me to the promise land. They weren't going to save me to where the money was and the budget was. And at some point I was going to have to make that move.

Dan Swift (05:46): And I remember doing it and I remember getting introduced to that person's basically boss's boss. And I had a great conversation. They ended up buying. But the email that I received from the person that I went around was pretty inflammatory. That person, you know, that's what was passed. But I remember at the same time as well, like how do I respond to this? And then the person called me up as well and was livid and I had to explain to them that I am a sales professional. I have family to pay for, I've got bills to pay for too. And with the experience that I've had working with other companies just like theirs, the way to get a platform and a solution in place was to do what I did and engage all the people across the organization that we're going to need to be engaged. And so if they felt personally aggrieved by it, but they were now going to be the beneficiary, right, of using the technology and they said they wanted it anyway. So you know, so and, and when he was explained like that, I actually got an apology which gave me the confidence then to do it when I need is no going forward, you know, so, so hopefully that helps you listen.

Stephen Colon (06:59): Well, I mean you talk about the visceral reaction, right? So a reaction that you're going to get from the, from the person involved in that decision and you know, as any type a hydro, you know, hard driving, you know, entrepreneur or sales professional would experience when you have your ego kind of stepped on a little bit and sometimes you want to get defensive back as opposed to understanding that there's an emotionless conversation that you really just need to clearly lay out and communicate the the dynamics that involve that situation the way that you did. Can I ask you a question about LinkedIn sales navigator and social selling as a, as a project? How that got started? Was it your idea or was it, was it something that you heard and you're like, anything else that's very, very good. Sometimes it's you hear your steel, you package it up and you know in a way that's yours. And you said, all right, here we go. We're taking this one across the goal line.

Dan Swift (07:53): There you go. So this is kind of fascinating. This was actually during hurricane Sandy when I got a call from LinkedIn and we had no way. I was in the city obviously getting hit pretty hard. And it was from a friend of mine who actually works at links in the same, Newton's launching a new business line is going to be helping salespeople to leverage the platform effectively. They're thinking of launching a new product. There's something in beta and they want to chat with you. And they'd been looking at what I'd been doing on LinkedIn and I got referred into the people at LinkedIn that we're building this product. So of course, you know, I was a big advocate of LinkedIn at the time. Of course it was going to chat with them. So I remember going to a friend's apartment cause we have no wifi at the time because of Sandy.

Dan Swift (08:37): And so it was just hunkering down somewhere to like chat with and about what could be an amazing opportunity. And got there interviewed, went through the process, got the job fortunately, and and we didn't have a product when I joined me 10, there was no LinkedIn sales navigator. There was a premium subscription that there was thinking about turning into an enterprise platform. So there was a lot of the heavy lifting to do, to figure out how we were going to build it, how we were going to release it to the market, how we were going to evangelize, just using LinkedIn as a platform to sell a lot of other heavy listings. So wasn't easy, but after about six months, we got it out there and the products probably, if not the number one product in the market for sellers today.

Knucklehead Media Group (09:26): Have you ever asked yourself why you haven't started a podcast? Well, I already know the reason. So to you, you don't feel like you're tech savvy. You don't feel like you got your message wired right. And quite frankly, it's just, it's all this mystification going on quite frankly. Our process helps the demystify that we're pushed button for podcasts. We're knucklehead. Why? Knucklehead? But we lead with the fact that you don't know what you're doing. We do. We've been there. We've actually been in your shoes. We take your spoken voice. We literally give a human voice to your website. You want to bring dead leads to life? Well then you need to talk to knucklehead. Essentially what we're going to do is we're going to take you through our process or we're going to help take your human voice and increase the process for you going from dead leads to life.

Knucklehead Media Group (10:07): How do I, how do I do that? Well, you essentially just take your human voice, put it in a directory and let people consume more of you. Give your audience the ability to Netflix on you. They want to binge watch you. They want to binge listen. Give them the ability to take your voice along on that commute with them so you can get in touch with us, Steven at knucklehead podcasts, or if you've got a really cool story stories at knucklehead podcasts, you can find us on LinkedIn and on Facebook and not go out promotions LLC and get in touch with us. Don't be a beta about the process. Don't let be fact that you don't know, preventing you from getting some wins, so don't be a beta. Get some wins and contact us today.

Stephen Colon (10:46): It truly is an industry standard. Given that you started so early in the development of that particular product, do you believe that that led to a kind of a mature perspective on identifying opportunities like what you're doing now with empire or did you, did you feel as if because you were there from the beginning, you have the ability to help educate and kind of scratch that itch of evangelizing that message for folks that really want to use the platform effectively to grow their business?

Dan Swift (11:15): The fact that I launched it definitely helps from a credibility perspective. When I'm chatting to organizations or my sales guys and gals, I'm introducing me to people to chair. But I think it's definitely more than that. So during the three years that I was at LinkedIn, a lot of companies didn't, didn't buy navigator straight away because there's a step that needs to happen. The service, you got to understand what LinkedIn is all about as a platform, how to use it from a professional ground perspective, how to build a network, a professional network that you can leverage effectively. To do what we do. You mentioned it in the intro content strategy, what's put out when degree there, how to engage with people, engage with your content. There's a whole ecosystem of things you've got to do just on LinkedIn and then when you've done that, absolutely go and invest in a tool like a navigator either for yourself or for your sales organization. So it definitely, definitely gave me a perspective, but I think it's more than that as well. We teach people basically how to engage with buyers based on where they are active. So that might be on LinkedIn, that might be on Twitter. That might be neither. That might be going on a traditional channel like an email and using video prospecting as a, as a tool. So LinkedIn is definitely the center of the Adobe social selling. Absolutely. But it cannot be limited to that. Otherwise you're going to miss so many opportunities.

Stephen Colon (12:42): That's a really interesting distinction that you draw there about going to where your buyers are in today's world. I've got to ask you, with the COBIT 19 causing folks to be quarantined where they are, what have you found is an ineffective strategy for engaging with buyers and what have you found as an effective strategy and engaging with buyers, you know, and either maybe one of your experiences or, or maybe somebody that you're, that you're working with without giving any names or risking any privacy issues. What are some challenges that you see there?

Dan Swift (13:12): So companies are coming to us right now because a lot of the things that have been in chief revenue officers playbooks for 20 years. Just so you think about some of the more traditional ways of doing things like cold calling, cold email mass templated messages. Those kinds of approaches. Like I am the typical buyer for many, many people. I'm 42 years old, married two kids, homeschooling my wife's work and I'm working like we are, you know, a pretty typical family. So trying to cold call someone might be right now with two kids hanging off me, you know, it's just not going to happen. But leveraging relationships to get walked in the door to someone like me where a challenge of trust happens is huge. So that's where you know how to use LinkedIn effectively in the way that we teach.

Dan Swift (13:59): Huge video is huge right now. So if you can create a message for another human being that is 30 to 40 seconds long, highly personalized to show that you've done your due diligence, but also showing that you understand the challenges that that person's employer, that company is having and then making your product or solution relevant to them. So you essentially work in the personal angle, but also the business angle. And if you can deliver an articulate message in 30, 40, 30 to 40 seconds, that is proven to be highly, highly worthwhile right now as an approach.

Stephen Colon (14:41): It's interesting the, the way that you answered that question I heard it said a long time ago by somebody way smarter than me about the story of somebody sharpening their ax and how they spent you know, multiple hours just as simply sharpening their acts as opposed to going out there and swinging aimlessly to cut down a tree. And that story is so much of what I'm hearing you talk about is somebody who cares enough to earn not just the revenue for their business, but the commission as a sales rep. It's, it's advantageous for them to take the time to get educated about their prospects because although their product or service may be able to help drive value for that, for that company that they're selling to, timing plays a role, you know, just being tone deaf or, or not even, not necessarily even emotionally aware of how, what you just talked about, something as obvious as they're probably working from home and have their kids screaming all the time. So I probably don't want to ring their, you know, call them on the telephone. So can we talk real quick about whenever you do step on it over the course of your career. And when I say step on it, I'm talking about screw up and mess up. How did, how did you deal with some of the emotional or, you know, potentially anxiety or, or you know mental health challenges that come as a result of that? Yeah,

Dan Swift (16:01): Yeah, absolutely. So I'm an open book on this. I've suffered from depression and anxiety for years. And and it's one of those things where I see all of those types of things as a challenge. Absolutely. I want to get to the root cause of like, why was I feeling like how I was feeling and unrelated to sales. But you then figure that out and then you can also figure out how, what, how and why are you responding to things that are just happening in your everyday life. So I spent 10 years in therapy, like really deep and into kind of like why I do the things I do and why I make the decisions I do and how I feel about, you know, the way I do. And that's been so helpful from a business perspective because I know myself incredibly well now.

Dan Swift (16:45): And I also look for the signs that eyes obviously given out before in other people. So yeah, it allows me to see before people come to me that people are probably having issues or challenges or concerns or worries or fears or whatever it might be. And and it's allowed me to be a much more compassionate and thoughtful leader than I think I would've been if I hadn't taken the time to go and dig in myself to like why I was having those kinds of feelings. He picked sales as a career. There's ups and downs without, right? So I've now managed, I figure out how to cope with all of that and people say I'm a, I'm the same even keeled level edits in every single situation, which I think people need particularly in times like now, you know, looking for stability in the leaders.

Stephen Colon (17:32): So when it comes to the fallout of, of coming back from dealing with counseling, right? So what I mean by that is you're revealed things. It's almost as if there's a mirror that's put in front of your face that you have to deal with the dirty truth of a, maybe a lack of emotional maturity. And I say that, and for those of you who are listening, I'm not implying Dan had any of those things. I'm simply essentially letting you know that those are, those are challenges that you know, that I've had to deal with over the course of my career. Separating from the military, going from one career to the next or one job to the next, becoming a father becoming a husband and I'm trying to optimize performance across all of those particular endeavors. You want to get better and getting better means that you're going to screw up and you're going to make mistakes and you're going to have things the way as a male, that means you're going to have a lot of, a lot as I'm sure you go challenged, which, how do you Dan based off of, you know, being out there in a place like New York city where, you know, if somebody doesn't live there, the outside looking in it, it makes you get the impression as if everybody is either a wall street banker, some private equity expert, you know, some, you know, multibillion-dollar real estate conglomerate.

Stephen Colon (18:46): How do you keep an even keel operating in that particular ecosystem with a bunch of sharks, keeping an even keel and not having your ego challenged when you're simply just trying to go and provide value as a business owner?

Dan Swift (18:57): Great question. So some packaged a little bit. So I've got a lot of friends who are the bankers and the finance types and I know exactly the types of people you're talking about. But it's interesting as well because we're all human beings at the end of the day and it's then becomes priorities. So I think your priorities change as you get older and mature. The only priority I have right now is to my family, to my wife, to my kids. And that's all that matters. And as soon as you get to that point, everything you're doing, people savings to you. Kind of compare myself to other people. I was very confident with what I'm doing and who I am. I don't how any care about other people's success that I care about helping other people. I care about giving them what they need to be successful, to be productive. Like I, I'm just wired differently maybe to some folks. And I think if your listeners can make that transition from comparing what they have or don't pass to what other people have or don't have, and then stop doing that and focus more on what matters to me and what do I care about. I think that could potentially help quite a lot.

Stephen Colon (20:07): I think you draw two really interesting distinctions and you know, I'm not sure if my video's coming across as as grainy, but simply what I'm, what I'm interested in is when you decipher who you're selling to, everybody on the planet, you can, or you can almost make the argument that everybody on the planet needs some coaching and help. But when you're deciding who to sell to through the process of finding the right one, can you get, can you come up with an example and we'll lay on the plane maybe on this particular story of where you thought it was a fit and it turns out it wasn't

Dan Swift (20:42): Again, every day. I'll give you a perfect example. So when we sell what we sell with selling digital sales training programs, we have to engage chief revenue officers. Chief marketing officers has the sales ops, has a sales enablement, senior sales leaders, and oftentimes we're looking for some sellers themselves to give us coaching. We have to engage all of those people. Most of the time the companies that we've profile and we're going after, we know there's a business need because every company is the same. They all need to engage other human beings at other companies to sell more stuff. But I think a lot of the time it comes down to not doing, you can do all the research in the world and all the due diligence and understand what the person is putting out about themselves on LinkedIn and, and understand what the corporate, the corporation cares about by looking at 10 K's and doing all your research.

Dan Swift (21:30): You can do all of that really well. If you don't take the time to ask people during the process about what other people might care about and ask them, Hey, I'm about to chat with Sally, the chief revenue officer, this is what I'm thinking of saying and if I do say that, do you think it's going to land? Well, the bottom line is I'm asking you for coaching all the time. I mean, I'm a CEO of a company. I'm 42 years old and my dad and a husband, but I'm still asking for coaching some other people because if I don't, this is just a massive miss. There could be one little nugget of information that someone gives me that will change the trajectory of that conversation. So if I'm too proud to ask for the feedback and coaching, then I'm going to fail. So yeah, just, I will take feedback proactively. I'll go seek it out. I will make sure people feel comfortable given to me. I just want to be the best I can be.

Stephen Colon (22:29): Have you always been that way or do you believe that that is happening as a result of some painful feedback? And I know that we said that we would land on the last question and I'm asking you, I'm asking another one, but it did. Have you always been that way or is that something that just was learned through pain?

Dan Swift (22:50): Through paying my friends lends through paid, I mean 10 years of, of prior to therapy in business trying to just figure out who I was and all that sort of stuff. And, and I'm not evangelizing everyone needs to go into therapy and get a counselor and all that sort of stuff, but if you're having challenges, maybe it's something to look into. But it allowed me to really kind of figure all of that out. And again, if I hadn't have done that, I dunno where I would be right now quite candidly. Because he has allowed me to fast track so much stuff. To a point where I could have been just totally my son's and being in the same situation 10 years later. And instead of doing that, I am now running a business, transforming the lives of thousands and thousands of people around the world, which is what drives me. So you just gotta, you just gotta dig in and just want to be the best version of yourself. That's very well said.

Stephen Colon (23:46): That's very well said. And that requires that you can't be what we call a beta about the process. You've gotta be willing to be an alpha and go out and get you some wins. It's a tongue in cheek way of saying simply, Hey, there's, there's not, there's not somebody who's got this 100% figured out. Just go out and set some small goals, intuitively get to where it is that you want to go and know that it's going to take some time. So we appreciate you, Dan, taking some time to explain a little bit about not just your background, but your relationship with failure and, and and how that's paved the way to your success. How can people get in touch with you and what's the best way for people to connect with you?

Dan Swift (24:25): Yeah, definitely. So first of all to connect with me, obviously 100% LinkedIn. So you'll find me down the Swift CEO by selling and that, but also check us out online as well. Go to empire selling.com. See if there's anything we can help you with, whether it's business or personal. We're here to help. So yeah, whatever works for you.

Stephen Colon (24:44): I appreciate that. What would that for those of you who like listening to knucklehead, you just heard it here from Dan. He told you how to get in touch with him. 20 years of enterprise level selling experience, one of the early product adopters and innovators, first LinkedIn sales navigator, and are now owning and operating a business called Empire Selling, where you can have direct access to him and he just told you how to do it. So the onus is on you now, the listener. So we appreciate that. Dan, have you addressed the day guys? See ya.

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From the beginning of his career in sales, Dan has been thrown off into the deep end in whatever work he has taken on. When he first started in sales, he was given a book with a litany of names and phone numbers to call, being told by his bosses to call and go from there to conduct sales despite having no idea of what to do. But it was through these experiences and failures that would ultimately lead Dan to being successful in his participation with multiple prominent companies such as LinkedIn and to now running his own business for the last two years.

Dan now teaches clients through Empire Selling by packaging 20 years worth of hard earned experiences into a prescripted process to teach those within the sales world to become successful. As Dan notes, becoming successful is not an overnight process that he experienced but the hard earned wisdom through plenty of failures he has dealt with that led him to where he is now with Empire Selling. This business serves to not only to become successful at sales, but to bring a humanized process while doing so.

Check out this podcast episode of Dan Swift where he talks about his Knucklehead moment of going around certain individuals to make a sale as a junior manager to hustling to build a business in the midst of Hurricane Sandy.

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