For this month’s interview, ITL Editor-in-Chief Paul Carroll talked with Dan Swfit, the founder and CEO of “buyer experience” consultancy Numentum. Dan has extensive experience in helping people sell, especially through social media. He launched Sales Navigator for LinkedIn a decade ago, took a senior position with social media platform Sprinklr during its pre-IPO phase and founded Numentum nearly six years ago to help salespeople understand how buyers think and act.
While your experience with training spans industries, when you zero in on insurance, what advice would you give agents and brokers?
I look at what the people in my life who are associated with insurance could be doing that they aren’t doing.
The folks we have our life insurance with, our long-term disability, our house and all that—none of them are on LinkedIn. So they don’t tell me anything about the organization they represent or their agency or their app. There’s very limited information about what they specialize in or about their experience. These people offer nothing to make me think they’re a standout. And there’s nothing about them as human beings.
I’d like to know something about the human beings I’m dealing with, not just send them money.
Even if agents are on LinkedIn, they aren’t very active. I want to be educated by them. I want to have the value of what I got from them reinforced all the time in my feed through a combination of stuff that the agency might have produced or that the carrier has. I saw some great stuff from the Hartford, designed specifically for small business owners like me, but it came through the corporate channel, and I just happened to see it in my emails. I would prefer to get that sort of thought leadership directly from the folks who sold me the insurance.
I chat all the time with other small business owners, and we talk about things like who we have insurance with, but I don’t recommend anyone. The folks I deal with have never done anything to make me say, “That’s my guy or that’s my gal.”
At Numentum, we train people on business acumen, and agents and brokers could do a lot just by showing they take an interest in their clients. Know that I have three young kids. Know what I’m about and who I am. When you come to me and try to upsell me, you won’t sound so transactional.
That sounds spot-on for existing customers. What about leads on new ones? What would you recommend?
Most agents and brokers specialize in a particular product line or aspect of the market or a specific industry, so tell me that in detail in your LinkedIn profile. When I look at your profile, I can then see your credibility and how you helped people just like me. [Here is Dan’s profile, in case you want to see how he puts his ideas into practice: https://www.linkedin.com/search/results/all/?keywords=dan%20swift]
When you reach out to someone on LinkedIn, don’t just connect and start selling. Connect, learn, nurture and then sell. Send me something that’s going to bring value to my life, maybe related to my being a small business owner. Then you’ve earned the right to ask for a conversation.
Customize the initial connection request. Don’t just hit the “connect” button. Most people have something in their profile or have posted something you could mention.
And use Sales Navigator. I haven’t worked for LinkedIn for years, so I get no credit for saying this, but, in this industry, there is literally no better tool. The tool lets you prospect based on industry type, size of organization, geography, job title and so on. You can also map your own professional network, which is why it's so important to connect on LinkedIn every day with anyone and everyone you have any interaction with – all your customers, all the people in your centers of influence, who you went to school with, play golf with, whatever. Because all the people in your network are then mapped to the companies and people you’re trying to reach.
When you ask for introductions, you can be specific. You don’t say, “Hey, Dan, can you introduce me to someone?” You say, “Hey, Dan, can you introduce me to Sam?”
How about beyond LinkedIn? What sorts of other tools and techniques would you recommend?
Facebook is the obvious one for connecting with customers. If you get to a certain place in a relationship, you earn the right to go off the professional network and on to a personal one, where you can learn about your customers as human beings.
Agents and brokers should use other social channels, too, for sure.
They could also be using video a lot more. I don’t just mean all the virtual conversations we’re having these days. I mean before and after those conversations.
Imagine you've got a conversation with a potential client you haven't met yet. Why not send a quick, 60-second video to the person? There are all kinds of tools that make this easy. You say, “I just wanted to put a face to a name for you before we speak on Thursday. Really looking forward to it. So-and-so speaks incredibly highly of you. Oh, and by the way, I've attached to this email some information that I thought you might find helpful as a pre-read before we speak.”
What a human way of showing up in that person's world.
Then you have the conversation, and the person might say they can’t make a decision without talking to their spouse. So you follow up with another quick video that can be shared with the spouse. You say, “I really enjoyed our chat about XYZ. These were the things we spoke about. This is what we thought made sense, and why. I look forward to speaking with you again on Tuesday. In the meantime, I’m always open for conversation.”
Imagine how much you’d stand out if you did that. People would think, Wow, this person really has it together. It’s a confidence build. It's a trust thing. It's an experience thing.
But people don’t do it.
That sounds great. I can just imagine how I’d react if someone did that to me.
Any other particular tips?
Despite all the technology and all the channels, I keep coming back to the need for relationships and to the simple technique of making LinkedIn part of your day-to-day. That doesn't mean living on it. It just means that any time you meet anyone, you connect on LinkedIn. Mark, the guy outside my house right now doing our landscaping, is a small business owner. Maybe when I look at someone I’d like to meet, I see that Mark did his landscaping.
“Can you introduce me?”
“Sure. Here’s his number. Just give him a call.”
That’s perfect, but before I let you go, tell me a bit about Numentum, which is a new incarnation for you since we last talked. What does it mean to be a “buyer experience” consultancy?
Most people we train have never bought something on behalf of a big corporation. How can they sell if they’ve never been on the purchasing side? So we teach them how buyers buy, including what issues they consider and how they get consensus. We teach salespeople how to engage with the buyer in the first place, how to educate and influence the buyer, how to take the person through a sales process so the buyer ends up saying, “I want to give you business,” versus feeling like they’re being sold to.
I read an article the other day about how the CEO of Uber has begun driving occasionally – and had his eyes opened to issues he somehow never knew his drivers were experiencing. I’m sure that putting sellers in the buyer’s seat is thoroughly enlightening.
Thanks, Dan, for taking the time. It was great to catch up a bit.
About Dan Swift
In 2012, Dan joined LinkedIn to launch LinkedIn Sales Solutions and introduce LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Under his guidance, Navigator grew into a $1 billion+ product used by top B2B sales organizations. Afterward, Dan helped drive Sprinklr's growth to $500 million+ ARR and a $4 billion+ valuation. In 2018, he founded Numentum, a buyer experience consultancy that partners with companies like Vodafone Business, SAP, and RELX, boosting their digital buying strategies. Dan's influence also extends to advising high-growth firms, notably contributing to Accompany's $270 million acquisition by Cisco in 2018. An active member of the Forbes Business Development Council, Dan is a husband, father of three, former rugby player, and aspiring golfer.