Our special guest on this week’s episode of Conversational Selling is Larry Levine, author of the best selling book “Selling From the Heart.” He is the co-founder of Social Sales Academy, a sales coach and practitioner, a keynote speaker, and the co-host of the Selling From the Heart podcast series.

Larry says, “I was really keenly aware of how salespeople were perceived in the marketplace. And I wanted to change people’s perception. I brought caring, respect, heart, sincerity, appreciation to the forefront in an environment where most people weren’t expecting it.”

We discuss changing people’s perception of sales, as well as:

  • Old models of dysfunctional sales teams
  • Inner HEART work required to do the hard work
  • Investing in yourself and investing in your teams
  • Core foundations of Sales – Building Relationships
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Nancy Calabrese: Hi, everybody and welcome to Conversational Selling. It’s the podcast for sales leaders and business experts share what’s going on in sales and marketing today. And it all starts with the human conversation. I’m your host, Nancy Calabrese, and I am beyond excited to welcome Larry Levine, author of the best selling book Selling From the Heart, also the co-founder of the Social Sales Academy, a sales coach and practitioner, a keynote speaker and co-host of the selling from the heart podcast series. Larry, welcome to the show. I know you’re going to be a lot of fun. And by the way, there sure is a lot of heart in what you do.

Larry Levine: Oh, thanks. I look for I’ve been looking forward to this conversation, Nancy. So it’s an honor. Thanks for having me on.

Nancy: Oh, my goodness. Well, thank you. And you know I have to start with the word heart. Where did this come from? What originated selling with a heart or from the heart and why is it so important in sales?

Larry: I’m if it’s okay, I’m gonna take I’m gonna take you and your listeners just down a little quick journey. And I think you’ll you’ll understand why I bring the heart to the forefront in sales. So I grew up in a, I grew up in a household that had all sisters and a vast majority of my cousins were female. I had an overly protective Jewish mom and I grew up in a Jewish household. And I’ll leave it at that. For all your listeners, you’re probably conjuring up in your mind right now, all of us from the east coast, right. But my dad, my dad traveled a lot. And I was raised a lot by my mom and hanging out with my sisters. And I always tell people, Nancy, I’m probably and I’m comfortable in my own skin. But I always tell people I’m probably more female in a male’s body than male in a male’s body. And that’s okay. But that transferred really well to sales. And I grew up in a really happy

Nancy: How so? How so?

Larry: Because it’s that nurturing, loving, caring aspect that I got from my mom, that I carried over into sales because I, I spent my whole entire sales career in one sales channel. I grew up in the office technology channel. So yes, I sold copiers and software my whole life through that channel. But there’s something that I took away from how I was raised, and I started to see it. In the sales channel I spent a lot of time in.

It’s this that they were full of broken promises and busted dreams. There was high sales rep turnover. Yeah. And customers were just leaving, scratching their head going, What is going on? And I was really cognizant of my surroundings. And I started to ask as I developed a little customer base, I started to ask my customers, what do you like, what do you don’t like about salespeople? And I, and I learned something along the way, Nancy, that the laundry list of things they didn’t like, far outweighed what they liked.

But there’s one thing that came across more and more and more as I started to ask, it was this, I just want somebody to care about me Listen to me, and help me do better business in its simplest format. I go, nothing rocket science about that. And I just delivered it. I just did things completely polar opposite. And I brought emotions to the forefront, something that a lot of sales people don’t do, or they fail to do with consistency.

And I always said this is the more comfortable I made somebody feel the more comfortable they were in their conversation, and are willing to share things that are uncomfortable going on in their business. And I always said I wasn’t the smartest sales guy out there. There’s people that would outsell me out, strategize me outwit me, right? Kind of ripping things off from survivor. but you get the point. But I said there was nobody that was going to out care me. And I cared more about my clients in my marketplace than anybody else in sales in my marketplace.

Nancy: Yeah, but didn’t it also make your job more fun and less crappy crest in this role?

Larry: Yeah, it did. Because I, you know, something that and I was harder on myself. And still to this day, I am as well, but I was harder on myself than anybody else was I held myself to a higher degree of standard. But there’s one thing that I became really cognizant of is that perceptions reality. And I was really keenly aware of how sales people were perceived in the marketplace, and I wanted to change people’s faces. perception. And I’m a big believer that that’s why I achieved the level of success. And I’m not here to brag about what I did is just that I brought caring respect heart sincerity, appreciation to the forefront in a in a in an environment where most people weren’t expecting it.

Nancy: Mm-hmm. I’m a big believer in authenticity. I know you open up your book with that first chapter about it, can you just go into it in a little detail share with the audience? The, the content in or the gist of the first chapter?

Larry: Yeah. I’m a massive, massive believer that authenticity is a lifestyle. I think authenticity is ingrained in all of us. But I would like to just share some I don’t have a Ph.D., Nancy, in psychology, human behavior. I didn’t do deep strategic research. When I wrote selling from the heart, it was me, but it was bringing me to life.

Nancy: Mm-hmm.

Larry: But I did earn a Ph.D. from getting the you know, what kicked out of me in sales for almost three decades. And I share that because I always say authenticity is a lifestyle. It’s not a light switch. And when I brought selling from the heart to life, I wrote it in a way that said, Hey, if you can’t do the inner heart work, he AR T the hard work, it becomes difficult to do the harder work. And the first couple chapters, actually, the first three plus chapters of selling from the heart is all about self reflection, self awareness, really getting in tune with who you are. Because here’s what’s interesting. And on our selling from the heart podcast, we always ask people, you know, what’s it mean to you to sell from the heart when guests come on our podcast? And I remember this as plain as day, Nancy, and I think this helps, you know, encapsulate why I wrote the chapters, the way I did, is, we had a guest on the podcast that said, you know, what, it’s hard to sell from the heart, if your heart is broken.

Nancy: Or if your heart isn’t into it. That’s right. Or your

Larry: Heart’s not into it. Yeah, unfortunately, in sales are so many people that are just going through the motions. Yep. And sales is emotional. I know it is. Right. I’ve lived through it. But I learned how to get comfortable in my own skin and who I was and what made me tick. Yeah. And I said, You know what, there wasn’t a I was on so many dysfunctional sales teams have so many dysfunctional managers, in all the coaching and all the training and everything was centered around product knowledge, company knowledge, how to piece a deal together knowledge, and I’m keeping it simple, you know, but I think people get where I’m going with this. I can’t remember one time in my past that any manager ever said, Hey, Larry, how can I help you become the best version of yourself? Yeah. And that’s why I wrote the beginning of selling from the heart that way.

Nancy: Yeah. I also read in one of your posts, you stay, you know, can you imagine a professional athlete operating with a sales reps mindset. And I want to take this to, I meet so many sales professionals, and speak with so many business owners that won’t invest in themselves and or their team for training and coaching, what do you have to say about that?

Larry: I always say this is if and I’ll, I’m gonna say it, if you fail to invest, you’ll never be able to collect. And I and I, and I, and I share this. And I’m pretty direct when I say it, but in a professional way, is if we fit at a leadership level. And I’ll even throw in Nancy, in a management level, is if we fail to invest in our sales team in consistent, small bite sized chunks of coaching. Mm-hmm. You will never be able to collect and reap the benefits that your sales team has. And and here’s what frightens me to death more than anything else is how many times I’ve been on calls with leaders or sales managers. Right. And I go, you know, I get what you’re saying, Larry, but you know, this team isn’t worth investing in. I go well, that’s not my issue. That’s your issue. Right? Why did you hire them?

Nancy: All right, right. Yeah.

Larry: But but it you know, I’ll take this one step farther is if we fail to invest in ourselves, first and foremost, we’ll never be able to collect. And given what we’ve all been going through, you know, throughout most of 2020 This is the time where I’m going to urge leaders, leaders of sales teams and sales people to double down and invest in themselves. Because if you can invest in yourself, how can your clients, your marketplace and your prospects invest in you if you’re not willing to invest in yourself?

Nancy: Right? So what would your suggestions be if somebody is going to listen when somebody listens to this? And they say, Wow, this guy really has it right? What would be some steps they could take to invest in themselves?

Larry: Have read write, is, you know, I always tell people, if you want to earn more, you got to learn more, right? Yes, read, listen to podcasts. There’s gosh, there’s endless, endless, endless webinars being produced right now. And here’s what I always tell people, this tygo hack, if you want to earn a PhD in knowledge, and improve what you do, hang out with your customers hang out with your clients, right? You pick the brain of an executive decision maker, pick the brain of a mid level decision maker, create your own mastermind group and hold each other accountable. There’s so many countless ways to learn these days. There really shouldn’t be an excuse why you can’t learn. It’s there at your fingertips is called Google.

Nancy: Yeah, I Yep. And YouTube, too. Yeah. But Google, definitely. It’s always my go to always. And, you know, like, you would mentioned, I think, in your introduction or chapter that you got into sales pre internet, is that correct?

Larry: Yeah, now I’m dating myself, Nancy.

Nancy: No, I think I could date you even I could date myself even further. But the reason I’m bringing that up, is the tools that are available to all of us sales professionals. Give us no excuse for not investing in ourselves. No, you know, you find it online.

Larry: Yeah, you see, you bring it you bring up a great point. I write about it and selling from the heart of having a no excuse mentality. Yeah. Is You know, so, I mean, it’s just the time how Nancy, you and I were raised right. When I got into sales, the internet was it was probably thought of, but it wasn’t anywhere near what it is today, right? computers were just barely knew I didn’t have my first. I didn’t use my first computer. Till probably the somewhere towards the early 90s. Like 92 ish, 93 ish. It didn’t become a staple until 94 with me, Oh, do

Nancy: You remember how horrified you work? Like? That’s out? How? Yeah, so so file Internet Explorer.

Larry: But there’s but there’s something to be said for adaptability, and you have to adopt and so forth. And that’s why I tell people today, right? Hmm, we’re adaptable, you can adopt to things. And the only reason why I note is look at the advent of the computer, right? Look at the advent of the phone, we all adapt, right? It’s our mindset, it’s our willingness to learn these things. So if we, if we, I think the reason why. And I’m not here to make a generational comment, you know, and say it’s one generation versus another because we can all learn from each other. But in the generations that we grew up in, it was phone and face to face. And that was it. The distractions of today just didn’t exist, right. All right. So if I wanted to do research on your company, or so forth, I had to make a concerted effort. And I had to go to the library, right. And now today, the library’s Google.

But it was those phone conversations and those face to face conversations that allowed us and fostered relationship building. And that became the core foundation. And I one of my favorite books that I read, even in my younger days was Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Yeah, the whole premise. And that book is forever. I mean, that book will stand the test of time. And now that book, you know, is, is well past 80 years old. And Dale Carnegie was alive and well. And he was listening in on our conversation. He would laugh his backside off because of how much truths in that book. And that book was written in the late 30s. And it’s all about the premise of building relationships and changing the way people think. Yeah, to me, that’s the core foundation in sales, is building relationships and changing the way people think it’s just now today. There’s just so many different tools to accomplish that.

Nancy: Yeah. Yeah, I really want to talk about your social sales Academy, but there was another quote you posted somewhere in your vast wealth of material. successful sales professionals don’t monkey around they use the phone and that is near and dear to me. So can you explain And on that.

Larry: Yeah, I always you know, there’s some people they’re gonna say you can’t use a phone. Nobody answers the phone. Well, to quote my dear good friend Jeb Blunt who wrote Fanatical Prospecting

Nancy: Yeah,

Larry: Jeb goes nobody answers a phone that doesn’t ring.

Nancy: Yeah,

Larry: It’s as simple as that. But but you know the phone still a vital aspect, right? of what we do in sales in I remember this I was petrified Nancy to use the phone as a sales guy. Absolutely. horrifically petrified well into my career. I had to get I had to go through coaching to coach me out of being so scared. But I think today Yeah, you did it. But I did. But I did it. People may not answer the phone at the rate they used to. But to me, there’s there’s different ways of using the phone. Right? It could be a desk phone, which now you know, it’s all a lot of its mobile, right?

Yeah. But we can still you can, the Connect rate to getting somebody on the phone may not be what it used to be. But I always share with people this is if you stink on the phone. You’re gonna stink through other mediums of conversation anyway. Yeah. And now look, and now look at where where we’re at today. Because before we hopped on in, you kicked off our time together, we were talking about how you communicate in this world we are today and you brought up tonality and things like that.

Yeah, it’s the same thing today, whether that be the phone, whether that be a video call, whether that be any kind of video platform, you’re still communicating. I may not I may not call Nancy and Nancy may not pick up her phone. But I can coordinate a video call with her. Right? Yeah. So I think that there’s no excuse why or when why you do or don’t use the phone, you just got to use the phone. And sometimes it may or may be the fastest way to get to somebody. Think about this, right? How many people hide behind email and they send somebody an email 20 times to see if they can coordinate a call I go Have you ever thought about picking up the phone and just calling? Right?

Nancy: I get it, I get it.

Larry: And it’s the same thing, right? It’s the same thing. Now, texting, going back and forth. I just like put it into it, pick up the phone and just call the person or the same when the thing goes back and forth via email. The phone does work. It’s the mental approach to it.

Nancy: Yep, it’s it. You know, I think that’s the key to relationship building. written. words don’t necessarily convey emotion and or convey the right emotion. So connecting over the phone and having that conversation is important. Talk about social sales Academy. When was that developed? And what is that about?

Larry: So, I haven’t talked about this in a while when I saw in 20. So the take everyone back before selling from the heart is what it is right now. I stemmed out of the copier channel. So I’m gonna I’m going to take everyone on a really quick journey, but I’ll speed this up for time sake. At 50 years old, I was relieved of my duties as a corporate major accounts sales rep. Never that happened before ever, right? Yeah. So I found myself without a job at 50 years old spending my whole entire career in one sales channel. And I remember crying for days going, Okay, well, what am I going to do and so forth. And obviously got a great supportive wife and Darryl Amy, who’s near and dear to me, as my podcast partner. I’ve known Darrell for a long time he goes, you know, some Larry, you got to go out, you got to coach sales reps on what you did in the office technology channel, as you build out your brand and how you leverage the power of social selling to grow your business in a really chaotic commoditized highly competitive sales channel, like the office technology channel.

So I said interesting, I flipped the script. And I and we came up with the name social sales Academy. Well, that that’s kind of taken a backburner selling from the heart. We’ve kind of merged them together, Nancy, but there was a bit but because not too many people know this. So for about a year, year and a half. I went I traveled around the US, Canada and parts of Australia, and I was coaching, office technology reps on how to integrate the power of social selling into what they’re doing. And something happened along the way, is about a year, year and a half into it.

I said you know what? There’s a bigger picture out there, I’m starting to uncover things that are a lot more than teaching sales reps social selling. It’s an it’s an absolute, I think it’s a, it’s a, it’s a tool that can help elevate the sales profession. But this is what was happening. social selling was shining a big, shiny light on the sales world saying, hey, salespeople, you can do a whole lot better than you’re doing. You’re struggling to clearly articulate value, you have low business conversation skills, your business acumen is below par, you’re poorly connected to your customers, you’re poorly positioned online. But yet, you all want to learn about social selling, what happens if I flip the script, and I flip the script, and I help sales reps clearly articulate their value, raise their business acumen feel good about themselves. And thus selling from the heart was born through the podcast, Nancy, and then. And then the book came out a year and eight, nine months ago.

And then I decided at that point, that I’m going to take the whole concepts around social and integrate it with selling from the heart and deliver something that’s unique out in the sales world. Because I’m not here to disrespect anybody who coaches people on social selling. But when that’s all you do, it becomes diluted with everybody in their mother who’s out there talking about social selling. Yeah, it’s an it’s an extremely great tool to use. But when I brought selling from the heart to the forefront, I said, you know what I’m going to help sales reps become the best version of themselves, they’re going to learn how to authentically build themselves up on social, they’re going to learn how to authentically connect, how to authentically sell, and how to authentically manage their customers, through selling from the heart, and we’re going to integrate social into it. So that’s why we primarily just run obviously, we built out a really great brand, around song from the heart.

Nancy: It makes a lot of sense, I believe, and having multiple channels of outreach. And so social media is good for branding and getting interest and you know, developing some really good opportunities, but nothing to me, will replace the need for being authentic and being able to exchange conversations and develop new relationships for the right reasons.

Larry: No, I can’t I just gotta say, I gotta layer on top of that, if I can. And I and I think you bring you bring up a key point because there’s multiple channels to communicate in. But there’s one thing that in here’s it, I think it’s more of a mindset issue than anything else. Is I always I love asking people, Nancy, do first impressions matter. And everybody says, Well, of course. I know. First impressions matter, Nancy, because, you know, that’s how you and I connected now, obviously, we connected through a mutual friend. But you did your due diligence on me. I know something about you. Right. And, and we formed an opinion of each other really quick. Now if we made a horrible first impression, you and I are on on your podcast, and I think you would agree with me on that. So if we look at the world that we live in today, we it’s almost hybrid in nature, we got to take the best of what’s worked in sales forever in a day. Mm hmm. You have to integrate that in with some more modern ways of doing things. But the issue is, is there’s too many people out there saying no, it’s this way. No, it’s that way. Do this no do that. And there’s a lot of pontification out there, which is just confused many in sales.

Nancy: Yeah,

Larry: I take the step back and just say, Hey, you know what? It all starts with ourselves. And what was really what was really interesting and I in I see this becoming more and more apparent right now. We had a guest recently on our podcast, and this guest, he wrote the challenger sale. So we have we have the fortunate experience of interviewing Brent Adamson, co author of the challenger sale. And inside Gartner, they do executive level research, right sales and marketing research on large corporations. And what was really interesting is we talked about the concepts of selling from the heart how it integrates into the challenger sale. And what we spoke about spoke about and I start seeing this is a lot of sales people right now are struggling to engage in business level conversations, because some of them lack confidence, lack believability, and lack self worth.

Nancy: Mm-hmm.

Larry: And if we can, that’s why I bring this to the forefront say, Hey, you know what, everything starts with us. It’s doing inner work. And if you feel comfortable if you’re confident, right, you believe in your message, you drive great business conversations with high levels of business acumen. People will take notice of that in two seconds. But I always say we sometimes we we’ve we focus on shiny objects and sales. And the shiny object we all should be chasing is the shiny object that’s looking at us when we stare at ourselves in the mirror. And that’s the hard work. And that’s just, you know, core foundational stuff that we must do in sales, and then integrated in with some more modern ways of doing things.

Nancy: Well, you know, we could go on forever, and I hope to continue this. I definitely. I know my listeners are finding this interesting. What What is the one takeaway you’d like to leave the audience with? Um,

Larry: Can I share a quick story? Do we have time to share a quick story?

Nancy: Yeah.

Larry: So here’s something I’d like it. This was told to me by when it was told to me, she wasn’t my mother in law at the time, okay.

Nancy: Mm hmm.

Larry: So I’ll be happily married 28 years. On August 11. Okay. So I remember I’m going to take your listeners back. But this is when I was dating my wife. Now, my wife’s side of the family, my mother now I’m going to call her my mother in law, but my mother in law’s from Oklahoma. I mean, my mother loves her Mississippi, my father in law’s from Oklahoma. Patch gave me the best life lesson ever. In my beginning of my sales career. There’s, I’d love to share the quick story because I think it plays out in sales today. And still to this day, she calls me boy, with her Southern accent, right? She says, and she I remember, this is plain as day. So now I’m taking everyone back probably almost 30 years ago, okay. And we’re all sitting around the dinner table. And she knew it was kind of getting serious between her daughter and myself.

And I remember her telling me this, Nancy, and I’m not going to do a southern accent because I just can’t do it justice. Okay, he goes, boy, if you can’t do the little things, right, how are you going to do the big things right? Yeah, and then furthermore, she says, Larry, don’t half ass do anything in your career. Yeah, those two things stuck with me like glue. If we bring this to the forefront, by the way, I love hanging out with you. Thank you for having me on your on your podcast, Nancy. But what I what I’d like to leave the listeners with is this if you can’t do the little things, right? With consistency, with discipline with determination. How are you going to do the big things right? And when you all chase the shiny objects, you’re half-assing your job.

Nancy: Wow. Could have come out of my mouth.

Larry: Nancy, I told you before before we decide to record this, you never know what’s gonna come out of my mouth.

Nancy: So I love it. I love it. So how do my listeners find you?

Larry: Oh, they can find me at sellingfromtheheart.net they can find the Selling From the Heart podcast on whatever favorite podcast app they choose to listen to podcasts on. You can find me all over LinkedIn at Larry Levine 1992. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Nancy: Watch out audience, he’s all over the place. Thank you.

Larry: What a treat.

Nancy: I told you this would be fun. Easy, easy. So until we speak again everyone stay safe. Keep selling.