Quantum Leap Episode 5 with Larry Levine: Humanizing the Future of Enterprise Sales
Episode 5 -
Selling from the Heart
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Justin Michael Hi everybody, welcome back to the show on Vendor Neutral in the Neutral Zone, Quantum Leap. I’m Justin Michael, doing my best William Shatner impression. I have Larry Levine here who’s work with heart centered selling, Selling from the Heart. I’m a big Larry Levine fan. Please follow him in social. Well, we want to catch up with him and find out the latest and greatest things that he’s innovating on. And the future of sales is a great topic for today. How are you, Larry?
Larry Levine Good, you know what after that intro, Justin, I almost want to say beam me up, Scotty. I just couldn’t resist.
Justin Michael Yeah. You know, I love Star Trek. You know, a lot more Star Wars, Star Trek. But the cool thing about Star Trek is they sort of like, you know, it’s utopian in a way. They’ve got to deal with the Klingons and things, but they keep kind of cure disease and cured hunger. What a great theme right now. Right. But it’s a future utopia as opposed to maybe Blade Runner, where it’s a dystopia. A lot more went wrong. Pollution and it’s also cool Harrison Ford is dealing with the replicants. There’s a lot of futuristic predictions right now about how this channel’s dead and that’s dead we are going to automate everything and lose our jobs, but I love your work because, in some ways, it’s really human and back to basics. Our show’s all about the enterprise sale. Tell me about what you’ve been working on since the book and how you’re working with enterprise sellers and marketers and just love to hear from you.
Larry Levine Yeah, no, I appreciate it, and I hear. I got to throw one more zinger out there, Justin. I’m in the I’m in one of those moods. So when I hear Klingons, there’s a lot of sales cling ons, right? And when I say this, there’s a lot of sales cling ons holding on to what’s made them based on success in the past. How’s that, Justin?
Justin Michael Yeah, that’s great. Right. We’re in a time where I think we do have to adapt. We can’t just have hammers and nails. Conversely, quality selling will reign supreme, some things that never change. Take me through your viewpoint of that. Has sales changed? Do we need be doing something new in the new normal?
Larry Levine So here’s what’s interesting. I’m a big believer that the core foundation of sales, now there might be some people that might disagree, and that’s OK. But I’m a firm believer that the core foundation of sales hasn’t changed, and here’s where I’m going with this. I remember one of the very first books I read was by Dale Carnegie; it was how to win friends and influence people, and if you look at the whole and that book. Gosh, dang it. That book was written. What? Nineteen thirty-seven ish somewhere around there. And if Dale Carnegie was still alive today, he’d be laughing because I think that book is so relevant. It’s all about building relationships and changing the way people think. I think that’s still happening today. Big difference is we have just a plethora. We have so many tools available. We have so much tech available to us to help us do that. That I think what’s happened again, this is my opinion. We’ve hidden behind technology for so long that we’ve actually dehumanized ourselves. And I’m all about rehumanizing ourselves through technology, and I think if salespeople out there can start to grasp that concept, and it’s why I believe that regardless if you’re at the enterprise level, you’re at the mid-enterprise-level or even calling into mid-sized corporations. We’ve hidden behind technology so long, we’ve forgotten the art of building relationships, and we’ve become conversationally incompetent. My opinion.
Justin Michael Yes, I do believe that’s the case because I used to sit on, just dial on a phone in 2007, and I would get to seven out of 10 executive directors. Now, sometimes in the enterprise, you have to make 100 calls, you get five people, and there’s cool technology like ConnectAndSell type stuff, or parallel assisted dialers. You could do so many dials, you connect. But here’s a problem.
Larry Levine I’m a huge ConnectAndSell fan, by the way.
Justin Michael Awesome. Me too. I think the category is really pivotal. Here’s what happens and why you’re comment. I think it’s so brilliant. OK, what now? I have to talk to prospects. What? We’ve gotten so divorced from the selling because it’s become a researching, and I’m living in social media game. So, you know, I think folks listening, it’s like, how do you actually do that, though? How do you become more human with LinkedIn? When you talk to prospects, what are the methods? Being really persuasive doesn’t seem to work anymore. Everyone’s trying to become consultative and the trusted advisor, and there’s these big add value, but then it’s how, you know, this trumpeting of these terms. We all need to do this thing, but tactically, can you give some advice to listeners? We have all of 20 minutes if you probably talk your days of hours.
Larry Levine No, I mean, we could talk some high-level stuff, and we can always peel it back, maybe on another short segment. But, you know, I remember this. I’m gonna take you back. I think this will help answer, and it’s what I brought. And, you know, I spent twenty-nine years in the office technology channel, all in Southern California. I sold copiers my whole life. Not the most sexiest thing out there because I sold stuff that broke, but I sold in, and I sold software, and I sold document management software. All that into enterprise, mid-level corporations, and in the Los Angeles marketplace, but I remember this probably goes back to my early 40s. I was still petrified, Justin to use the phone and to engage in high-level conversations on the phone. It’s just some phobia I had, but where it all shifted and where my career just started to skyrocket, is I hired a business coach, and I remember the first thing my business coach taught me, it’s that this sounds so freakin simple, but it worked for me. He goes, Larry, stop acting like a salesperson and start acting like you would interact with your friends. Just open the conversations as if you already know these people, but I think I’m a big believer that scripts form the foundations of what we do. We don’t. I mean, I’m encouraging people. We don’t hide behind scripts but use them as a way to make those your own. Well, that’s what I did. And I love doing. I love learning. I love scouring articles. I love listening to stuff, and I would take what I learn to open up conversations with people, to open up conversations with executives instead of the canned scripted sales conversations that go on out there. And that’s why I remember we had a guest on the Selling From The Heart podcast. This all ties in Justin, and he was a CMO. He was an ex CMO of a large company. Now he’s written a book around this, The Science of Selling and Conversations, and he said a lot of salespeople right now are conversation. They lacked conversational competence because we’re so scripted to have sales conversations that guess what? When I meet Justin for the very first time, it’s probably not going to be based on a sales conversation. So as sales professionals, regardless of what level you’re at, you’d have to understand how to open up a human-centric conversation. You’ve got to learn how to open a business conversation and peel back the triggers that transition that to a possible sales conversation. I’m all about learning. I believe that enterprise salespeople and salespeople can just get a complete Ph.D. From their clients, if they’re willing to ask for help. And they can actually get self-taught by C level executives on the things that they’re working on. How are they educating themselves? They can flip that all around, pick up the phone when they get an executive on the phone. Real briefly, capture their attention by some of the things they’re working on with other executives, and see if it resonates. You get what I’m saying.
Justin Michael Totally, I think it’s so valid. That’s why it’s such an interesting career because there’s only something like 12 or 16 universities; I know Jason Jordan is working on this from cracking a sales manager code in more universities. But sales is almost like a guild like a blacksmith trade. It’s like it’s an apprenticeship. It’s like you can read so many books on it. I always think about like helicopter skiing. Here’s a big book, and then after the book, we’re just going to push you out of a helicopter into powder. Good luck. Right. Like it. You learn by doing. I still believe that’s true. You’re talking about allowing your prospects and clients to be your trainer, to develop acumen, which is so brilliant. So you started embracing this method and just talking to talking to the potential customers, and it just starts unlocking, but you still have a script as sort of the North Star. I would love to hear more about that evolution. Did you suddenly have more on sites? Was it one day like a flux capacitor where you just changed your attitude, and it started to open, or was cumulative like how did it come together?
Larry Levine Now, I mean, I’ve always been curious, and so I think where it stemmed from and you’re probably going to like this is my father was a retired rocket scientist for the United States Air Force. So he had a Ph.D. from two Ivy League schools by the time he was 20 in aeronautical physics. So that’s what I had to grow up with my whole life. My formative years were spent in the high desert in Southern California. So he was out at Edwards Air Force Base, did a lot of things with F 14 fighter planes and the space shuttle. That’s the, he’s just brainiac central, but the I was I’m a big believer that people are products of their environments that they were raised in, and salespeople are also products of the environment and the teams they’re involved with. So I grew up in a household full of education and asking a ton of questions, and because my dad was a rocket scientist, sometimes I had to figure things out for myself before he got involved and screwed them up because he’s, that’s how his brain works, right? So I took how I was raised into my early years in sales, and I never had a problem asking for help and asking a lot of questions because that’s how I learned in my youth, and I just transfer that to sales. And I didn’t worry about fear and ego, and OK, well Larry doesn’t know everything, so he’s asking for help. All these things that salespeople shy away from. I’m a big believer in this; the more great questions, the more curious you are, and the more you learn, the more you earn, the more questions you ask, the more you uncover, and I took that through my whole sales career, but it really wasn’t until where this all happened. I hired my first business coach at 40, and that’s when my career took off because he really peeled back where these roadblocks and pitfalls I was running against, and he opened those up, and then the path became a lot clearer, and I see that now in enterprise sales as you know, at most 2020, it’s been pretty chaotic is I’ve seen we had a guest on, in fact, you’ve heard of Brent Adams. He wrote the Challenger Sale.
Justin Michael Oh, yeah. Yeah. I love Brent.
Larry Levine I love Brent, and he’s just a class act guy. Well, he came on the Selling from the Heart podcast. This plays out because, you know, through us, through Gartner and his research, they interviewed large corporations at the C level executive, and I started asking, we pulled this thing back and I asked him, I said, where’s enterprise salespeople struggling with right now? What are the things through your research they’re struggling with? Justin key in on this because I see a plane all over the place right now is; he said that sales professionals are struggling at C level executive conversations around three things; self-confidence, believability. Believe it or not, believability in themselves and their message and their self-worth. Isn’t that interesting?
Justin Michael It’s a meta. It’s a really a meta. And it comes down to a Sandler mechanic called equal business stature.
Larry Levine I’m all about that and see you just keyed in on it because enterprise sales professionals become very successful based on things that have happened in the past, right? The series of small, successful steps that have happened, maybe they’ve gotten a little bit complacent. They got a big, huge corporate client base that they’ve been feeding off of. Well, now guess what? 2020 opened up. You know what? And a lot of enterprise sales, people are going. You know what? Now, I’ve got to figure out what it means to really sell. If you get what I’m saying, and I’m a big believer in this, sales professionals are called sales professionals for one reason. They plan and practice and prepare every single day to do their job, and if they don’t want to be called sales professionals, then I say go find another career. My opinion.
Justin Michael Well, yes, I mean, we have one of these professions where you can kind of wing it, but you can’t be a neurosurgeon and wing it or a doctor. I mean, you could, but it would be malpractice. I love how Weinberg talks about that. A lot of the folks I think listening to this podcast are at the C level. Other leaders, thought leaders of some kind. So what would your advice be, Larry? On fixing those weaknesses? How can enterprise sellers and sales teams build up their believability and their self-worth? And what was the first one? Credibility. What was the first one?
Larry Levine Confidence.
Justin Michael Confidence, right. Yes. So this is a lot of inner work like Jack Canfield sort of stuff. Like how do they need to get a business coach? Do they need to hire you? I mean, leading the witness.
Larry Levine Thanks for the tee up on this one, Justin. It’s why I wrote Selling From the Heart, the way I did it’s because if we don’t do the inner work, the outer work becomes a whole lot more difficult. And so I’m all about the inner heart work. H E A R T, we have to be able to do the inner work. We have to be able to build up our self-confidence and all that. So I’m big, big, big believer, a big proponent, all the C level executives are out there. The biggest thing you can do to help your enterprise salespeople is help them, coach them along the way, help them uncover some mentors, and that’s biggest thing is, enterprise salespeople need to be coached and mentored a whole lot different than anybody else on a sales team. And it’s not one size fits all. I’m a big believer. They all need coaches. I’m coaching enterprise salespeople right now and high performing sales professionals. They just, they’re smart individuals. Some of them have just lost their way because they’ve made the non-negotiables negotiable. All the core little things that made them successful. They stopped doing those. And now, in 2020, they’ve been faced with. Guess what? Now I got to get back to the basics, and I forgot how to do some of the basics on a consistent level.
Justin Michael Yeah, that’s a really good point, because pipelines dried up, verticals went away, business models eroded, companies that are in a trigger stage of getting funding and even being cash positive or even profiting off this because everyone’s at home. So maybe media or e-commerce disruption. There’s still a conservative management base their potentially war chesting the money because maybe the market’s going to drop, and we need to hold on to money. Right. So it’s this wacky, chaotic thing. And again, it is a sport; it’s a block and tackle. You’ve got to get back out there, you know, get on the phone. You know, smart activity can’t rely too much on inbound marketing or the leads, or the SDR, like you’ve got to be radically responsible for your own condition while everything is falling all around you. So, then it comes down to mindset and grit. Very interesting. So, where is the technology going, in your opinion? Because you’re talking about humanizing the technology. This is a great theme. Does a lot of people on here who are making decisions about. You know, stacks, they’re going to invest in. They’re worried about their people, their process, and their technology. That’s been my mantra. I don’t know. I love those words, but it helps encapsulate everything, but a good leader is worried about those areas. How can we be more heart-centered and more human? Across those?
Larry Levine So it’s interesting. I have never, I mean, I grew up, you know, in the office technology space, quote-unquote, a techie space, so to speak, but I was never the most technically inclined person out there, and I’m still not. But here’s what’s interesting, when I heard you key in on the word tech stack. Justin, I’m not the foremost expert on tech stack, and I’m going to throw it out there. I’m a big, I’m a big believer in technology, but we can’t hide behind it, and I keep saying that. Is find a couple pieces of technology that you can use really well and master it. But what we do is, and I’ll just use golfing as an example, right? Is there’s 14 golf clubs in a standard golf bag, and every golfer can use that to the best of their ability based on where the ball is on the course. But when it comes to tech stack in the sales world, again, my opinion, right? There’s 14 times, however many tech, you know, tech stacks out there. How many salespeople or enterprise salespeople even know how to use two or three of those really well? Not many, my opinion, but we were tech stacking people to death. That’s why I say we hide behind all this, and we’re communicating behind it, and we benchmark salespeople to it, and we’ve forgotten the art of just having a simple conversation with somebody, but then pushing ourselves through technology to connect with somebody.
Justin Michael Yeah, it’s really well put. The one analogy I love is most people use about five percent of Excel, and there’s so much you could do in there with macros and pivot tables and, you know, all this crazy stuff that most people just, you know, sort some rows and go and excel. Same thing, some radically powerful tools from your CRM, to your LinkedIn Sales Navigator and the depth of insight that you could get out of just those two tools, and the phone, a classic tool that hasn’t changed. What are your tips for talk tracks to C level executives in general? And now? How do you capture their attention? How do you get on their calendar, their radar? And the most important thing holistically is closing business right now. You know, create enough urgency. I know Brant Adamson always says the pain of same is greater than the pain of change. I don’t know if that’s his quote or took it somewhere, but the status quo is heavy right now and usually in a pandemic, what you’re going to do is go to the mattresses, right? Nobody spend and let’s cut costs, and nobody buy anything. So is this really rough climate where clients of mine is just like nobody even take the meetings? It’s like it’s a constant not interested, right? It’s just blanket. So it’s kind of two questions. It’s breaking through at the C level, but getting C levels to change now and do the deal. I’m sure that’s a huge piece of your practice is getting these reps to get the confidence and skills built to do that, even now.
Larry Levine Yeah, you bring up some really good points because this is what I’m concerned with, but there’s opportunity to improve it. I think salespeople right now are struggling mightily. I see it at all levels, even up at enterprise level. I see it. Business, conversational skills, and business acumen are fairly low right now, and if salespeople can key in and improve business conversational skills and their acumen. That’s one thing. So I’m going to set that aside. I just had to say that. But then the other thing, too, is I think we’re salespeople can really get to C level conversations, go back to their current clients just for a moment, get reacquainted, reengage, recommit to some of their current clients, uncover what they’ve been working on over the last 90 days, uncover what issues and challenges they’ve had over the last six months. What projects have they’ve been working on? Conversely, what projects are put on hold? Now, if we look at, you know, maybe the latter part of the year, what things are they working on right now that they have to remove off their plate? As we look into the, you know, first quarter of next year, what are some of the things you’re working on? Take notes on that and then take that and flip it around so then when they do pick up the phone and call a C level executive who happens to answer the phone. They can share with that person, hey, over the last 90 days in working with some of my C level clients; we’ve been tackling these three issues. Hey, I’m just curious. Any of these issues hit home with you? And then stop and listen and then play off of that. And if they say, Yeah. Matter of fact. Issue number one. Tell me about that. Why do you think that’s happening? See where I’m going with this, Justin? That’s the humanization of things. That’s just having a regular business conversation with somebody.
Justin Michael You know, what I love about that style is this. It’s a level of effort on learning about the prospect, not a level of effort on the tech stack or the technology, or I’m just going to spend more time on LinkedIn. It’s, I sell to this type of C level. I’m going to talk to some. I’m going to learn and canvas and get some issues that are core and now have an authentic thing I did; I went I did some research, you know, put your CV hat on and then when you get to the next prospect, you have a relevant conversation. It’s almost worth just chatting with some of your prospects, not even selling. Just trying to understand their pains so that you can put together the talk track because people go, oh, I need to talk to some customers. I’ll be back in a week. I’m gonna sit in my word doc; why don’t you just spend a week talking to some of your existing clients or prospecting? And like you said, they give you the masterclass. So give me tips to putting together the narrative, you know, because I think people are intimidated by that going and talking to C levels. You know you said you had some coaching that helped you get over the bar on using the phone for that. Anything granular in that exchange where the coach helped you to conquer your fear of the phone? Not necessarily a fear, or was it just discomfort? I mean, whatever it was, you just weren’t liking the phone, and now you’re crushing the phone. How do we help people do that?
Larry Levine You know, it is. I’m a big believer. I’m a big believer in this and don’t know any other way to say it, so I’m just going to roll it out. It is the way that I was coached and taught to build up my confidence to work on myself every day. And when I say that is, I spent the, and I still do it to this day, I carried it over from my corporate sales days, Justin. I spend thirty to forty-five minutes every single morning, seven days a week, and I work on myself. I self reflect. I do some reading. I just sit, and I think. Right? What did I do yesterday? What are three things that that I did successfully yesterday? Conversely, what are a couple of things I need to improve on? Who do I need to go out and have conversations with? I really became hyper, hyper self-aware of who I am, and I self reflect every single day. I’ve built up my confidence, and I’m a big, huge believer in what I call the power of I am statements, and I read those every single day. In fact, here they are. They’re on three by five cards. I’ve carried them with me forever and a day. There’s five of them. They’re all ripped to shreds. When I was traveling, they went on my laptop case; now, they just sit on my desk because I don’t travel as much. But these are some of the things that sales professionals can work on to build up that confidence and believability in themselves, that they can go have some of these conversations. But it’s not that hard. I always say it’s not rocket science. Right. I grew up with a dad who just mind screwed and convoluted everything. That’s why I keep things so simple to this day. Simple works.
Justin Michael Yeah, I would say that I wouldn’t have guessed my grandfather was a nuclear physicist and ran an accelerator. So I’m like one of the only nonscientists in my family. I have a brother who is a computer scientist, so I can relate.
Larry Levine Yes, but here’s, go ahead.
Justin Michael I would say like Leonardo da Vinci said, that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. It’s one of my favorite quotes, but I always couched that with Einstein, he says, make things as simple as possible, but not too simple because there is some stuff we deal with, like enterprise procurement or integrations or there’s stuff that’s just hard, and it is sort of like complicated, and how much can we simplify? But I love that you said that because the way to crack the Corona problem is probably not complexity. It’s probably a back to the basics approach. I think.
Larry Levine It is so true. I just got to tell a quick story because you’ll crack up when you hear this, but it’s about the simple stuff. I’ve been happily married to my wife now we’re going on twenty-nine years, and my wife is. I love my in-laws. They’re from the south. My mother in law is from Mississippi. My father in law is from Oklahoma, right? And my wife was born and raised in Bakersfield, California. So, right? Oakie and redneck as it gets, I can say that because I’ve lived there, and I love my wife, and I love my in-laws. But as we were dating and my in-laws, well, they weren’t my in-laws, but you get it. They knew things were getting pretty serious when we are all sitting around the dinner table one day, one night, and my mother in law, she’s from Mississippi. Justin, I’m not going to do the twang because I just can’t even do it justice, but still to this day, she calls me boy. Boy! Right? She knows my name’s Larry, which goes, boy, every single time I see her, she calls, my name’s boy and she said, I know it’s getting serious with, my wife’s name’s Robin, and she goes, I know it’s getting serious with you and Robin. And she goes, I’m going to give you some advice. It’s advice that’s been passed down from my mom. I’m passing it now down. And it was as simple as this. And now, granted, I’m barely into my sales career at this time, right? And she says, listen, Larry, if you’re going to raise my daughter and you’re going to start a family, I want you to think about two things. If you can’t do the little things right. You’ll never be able to do the big things right. And conversely, next sentence, without even a pause, she goes. Don’t ever half-ass your sales career. Do it 100 percent. And that stuck in my head, based on how I was raised by a rocket scientist father. And I said you know what? I’m never gonna half-ass my sales career, and I’m going to make sure that I do the little things because if I can do the little things, I can layer in the big complex things. And they’re not going to be that much of a big of a deal.
Justin Michael Love it, Larry. I mean, that’s just such a powerful place to end this episode. I’m sure you’ll be back; I know the Vendor Neutral crew is a fan. A lot of wisdom here. How do people find you and your book? I almost feel like I should ask you your favorite quote. This is a habit I have of my podcast. Do you have a favorite quote?
Larry Levine Yeah, so. So here we go. It’s one of my favorites, but it’s full of a double negative. So just bear with me, Justin. I say this; it’s in my book said salespeople have hypnotized themselves into believing what they’re not doing doesn’t work. Think about that one, right?
Justin Michael That’s awesome. That’s tweetable if we have a little tweet’s here. So grateful to have you on the episode. I mean, it’s Larry Levine. Pretty easy to spell. It’s Selling from the Heart. Anything else you want to promote to the listeners, where they can find you?
Larry Levine Yeah. No, I appreciate it. They can find anything they want on Selling from the Heart. It’s Selling from the Heart dot net. There’s access to the podcast; there’s resources; you can find my blogs there. If you’re so inclined to check out the book, you can go to Amazon. You can find it on audio Kindle and in ebook format. And if you, everyone’s got a smartphone, so if you open up your text messaging app and you text the word heart H.E. A.R.T. to twenty-one thousand. You can get all kinds of free resources immediately sent right to your smartphone.
Justin Michael Look at that humanizing the tech.
Larry Levine Justin, that’s technology, man. Check it out!
Justin Michael I will see. Look, your ending with like a super sophisticated text message play. Very impressed.
Larry Levine Don’t tell anybody; cat’s out of the bag on that one.
Justin Michael You got it, man. Well, I’m gonna I’m going to sign off here. Thanks again for being on the Quantum Leap, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Larry Levine All right. See you, man.
Justin Michael Cheers.