Episode 230: Shari Levitin – Navigating the Evolution of Social Selling: Insights from a Pioneer
In this episode, we dive deep into the art of social selling with a true pioneer in the field, Shari Levitin. Shari, a top 50 keynote speaker in sales, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the conversation.
As the author of “Heart and Sell: 10 Universal Truths Every Salesperson Needs to Know,” Shari shares her secrets to success, including the importance of consistency in your social media presence, the power of giving without asking, and the art of storytelling. She also reveals a simple yet effective storytelling framework that will help you craft compelling messages that resonate with your audience.
Shari is on a mission to rehumanize the sales process, increasing win rates and enhancing the customer experience. Tune in to discover how to take your social selling game to the next level and achieve true success through education and hard work. Don’t miss out on this insightful conversation with one of the industry’s leading experts. Join us now!
Shari Levitin 00:03
What social means to me is going where the customer is. It’s using all of the channels we need to use instead of this old school. “Oh, I’m going to send an email or even send a text.” Well, if that person isn’t on email or text, you need to go where they are, you better figure it out, what social network are they on and then to really build your presence there.
Welcome to the Making Sales Social Podcast featuring the Top Voices in Sales, Marketing, and Business. Join Brynne Tillman and me, Bob Woods, as we each bring you the best tips and strategies our guests are teaching their clients so you can leverage them for your own virtual and social selling. Enjoy the show!
Brynne Tillman 00:52
Welcome back to making sales social. So I am beyond excited for our next guest. Shari Levitin is a friend of mine, someone that has been a mentor to me, when I was getting started kind of halfway through my career where I was a little stuck. Her advice really got me to the next level, I cherish every word that comes out of her mouth.
And she’s not only entertaining, but I learned every single time I watch a video, I read any book, she is a LinkedIn top voice. She’s a top 50 keynote speaker in sales. And she helps to rehumanize the sales process to increase win rates and customer experience. And the author Oh, I should have had it with me. I have it. The author of Heart and Sell, Welcome Shari to Making Sales Social.
Shari Levitin 01:48
Thank you, Brynne, it’s so good to see you. I see you’re doing so well. And thriving.
Brynne Tillman 01:55
Oh my gosh. And thank you. I mean, you are such an inspiration. Personally to me, the time that you gave me probably five or six years ago, has had a huge impact on the way I go to market. And it’s just you’re an invaluable research resource. I’m sure you’re invaluable at research too, but they are an invaluable resource. And anyone that gets to work with you is very, very lucky. So we start off every one of our programs with the question, What does making sales social mean to you?
Shari Levitin 02:29
Um, well the world has changed so much. And I want to back up and just say that I didn’t even know the term social selling six years ago, I didn’t know what it meant, which is interesting. I had been in a vertical and really owned the vertical in hospitality and real estate for 20 years. And back then we weren’t really using social. and I remember, yeah, I was doing what everybody was doing. I was doing emails, of course, I was on Facebook, Right? You know, given my age, I’m a baby boomer, Right.
And I had a friend who said, “Why in the world, aren’t you on LinkedIn?” There’s only six years ago, he said, Why aren’t you on LinkedIn? ” I said, “Oh, it’s just a stuffy Facebook,” Why would I do that? Like, I don’t need that. I don’t want that. And he also said, “And by the way, why aren’t you on video?” You know, not only should you be on LinkedIn, but you should be doing video on LinkedIn. And, I just didn’t understand it. And I remember I was actually on a hike talking to him. And I was going up a mountain. I live in Park City.
And he said, “Look, I dare you right now, create a video and put it on a social platform.” Well, I didn’t even have LinkedIn, or I did, but I didn’t do anything with it. And I was kind of mad at him because he was challenging me. And he said, “Oh, by the way, the videos you do are for sale.” They’re boring, and they’re inauthentic and it’s you in front of a bookshelf looking all duty. He says why don’t you just make a video right now, put it on Facebook, then see what happens? Well, I’m like, “Check that he’s telling me that my videos are inauthentic.” But I love a good challenge. So I said, “Okay, fine. I’ll make a video and I’ll put it on Facebook.” So I made a video. I think it was like the five, you know, things you need to be a great seller or whatever. And I looked like a mess because I was hiking and he said “That’s the point.” People my age want people to be more authentic. I put her on Facebook. And I was absolutely blown away. I got more views on a five minute video than I would have gotten in a year’s worth of blog posts.
And I sort of realized, wait a minute, if a picture’s worth 1000 words, what’s a video worth? Well turns out a lot. And it sort of changed my life. And then I thought, “Oh, he was right about that.” Maybe I ought to get on LinkedIn. Maybe I’ll start putting videos out on LinkedIn. So what social means to me is going where the customer is. It’s using all of the channels we need to use instead of this old school, “Oh, I’m going to send an email or even send a text.” Well, if that person isn’t on email or text, you need to go where they are, are they on Instagram, I used to have a client, the only way he would return any message is if I DM them on Instagram.
Literally between five o’clock and seven o’clock at night, like so that it’s this idea of going where your customer is, and we’re in such a mobile society that you better figure it out? What social network are they on, and then to really build your presence there. And one of the things that have helped LinkedIn is if you’re selling to businesses, that is the platform if you’re selling, you know, more b2c, then you’re gonna want to think about okay, maybe that’s Instagram, maybe that’s TikTok. But that’s to me, What Social is.
Brynne Tillman 05:51
That’s awesome. And you do it exceptionally well. Now, I am blown away. And I think every time I get into LinkedIn, and maybe it’s two or three days a week, but you are at the top of my feed, and you’re getting an exceptional amount of engagement, and what’s fun, I mean, it’s even yours, your voice in the inflection is entertaining. Like you bring it’s not even like the content is very educational. But you are. So it’s infectious. Right? Like you can’t wait to listen. And you’ve got this. I don’t know if it’s a formula, but you get people really excited to hear what the outcome is in like two minutes or less sometimes. So how are you coming up with all this content? Let’s start there.
Shari Levitin 06:46
Because that’s interesting. So I would say, first of all, for anybody listening, not everybody does video. So just because it works for me, doesn’t mean it would work for everybody else. There’s some great LinkedIn influencers that are just posting copy everyday. For me, video is my jam, I have a theater background, Right? So it’s something that comes very naturally to me, it’s a strength. And I think, as humans, we all need to know our strengths and be very clear about our weaknesses. And if your Gallup of Gallup poll says every human being is better at 10,000 at better at one thing than 10,000 other people.
And if you can figure out what that one thing is, and press play, and press accelerate on that one thing, which you have done beautifully, Brynne, you, you are so processed minded. You are not only a social selling expert, but you put process to it, you break it down, and you make it consumable for people, you this is the definition of genius, you take something complex, and you break it down and make it consumable and accessible to many, many people. And so for me, it was a video. And I guess you say “How do you come up with so much content?” If you’re gonna post on LinkedIn, or any platform for that matter?
There’s a few things that I’ve learned. I am by no means an expert, but they seem to work. Number one absolutely is consistency. You can’t go “Oh, that worked,” “That didn’t work.” “Oh, that was a bad video.” I won’t post for a week. I post every single day. What would it be without fail? On three platforms? Now? Look, it’s how do I do that? I’ve got a camera running at all times. Right? So I’ve got amiibo running, whenever I am doing, you know, I do a lot of keynote. So whenever I’m doing a keynote, I will pay for a video crew. And then I will send out content to my firm.
And they’ll make cuts of that. So number one is consistency, are you doing it every day because you need to be at the top of people’s feed. Look, people’s attention span has dropped. And there’s so much noise out there that you have to be the one that is consistent. So that’s number one. I would say number two, this was the hardest thing for me brand is you have to give and give and give and not make an ask. I don’t ask people to come to me. And I thought well, I’m gonna have all my best content. They’re gonna have all my best stories, but it’s really no different than a performer.
I mean, you know, it’s not like, you know, girls can hear Taylor Swift’s hit song, but they’re still gonna want to see it live because they want the experience. It took me a lot to get over that barrier. So I would say to anybody, don’t hold on tight to your precious messages. And people were like, “Oh, I’m not giving away my IP. Give away your IP.” Look for nothing in return, because it will come back in spades, not right away. It may take three months. It may take six months, but you’ve got to give it away without an ask and then and then you earn The right to have subtle asks. Right?
So but it, I’m telling you it’s a, it’s probably a 50 to one for us, you will see 50 videos before I invite you to a webinar or before I invite you to engage or something like that. So I would say consistency, give without asking, I would say “Another thing I’ve learned is that if you can spark two or three strong emotions right away, it’s not about just the facts.” It’s about creating an emotion. And so yeah, if you do that, tell me how that works for you. Because a post has to strike a chord with somebody. And yeah, go ahead. How do you do that?
Brynne Tillman 10:44
Well, so I’ll first start with you doing this exceptionally well. And it starts with the title of whatever it is. Right? So that title is to bring you in, so we have an ice this isn’t about me. But I’ll quickly say social selling content we’re putting out has to hit five points. One, it has to resonate with your buyer sales leaders, or whatever that might be. They have to when they’re scrolling, they have to go, “Ooh, that’s me.” That will stop the scroll.
Number two, it has to create enough curiosity that they hit play, or they hit see more, or they like to resonate, create curiosity, then it needs to teach them something new, a moment of ooh, that’s the leaning right? “Oh, that gets them thinking differently.” Number four, about their current situation. So every time I listen, whether you’re talking about buying a car, or like or you’re talking to a small group of a training in a room where you’re, it always resonates with me.
It creates curiosity that I want to get through the whole thing. Right? If I’m learning something new, if I don’t learn something new, it doesn’t mean it’s not good content. It’s just not social selling content. Right, the social selling content, they learn something new that gets them thinking differently about their currency.
Shari Levitin 12:13
And it’s not. I think there’s levels of influence on social. So Right. So you’ll see a lot of people that will take a John Maxwell quote, and circulate it, you’re not teaching me anything new to your point, right? Or then you’ll have somebody report a statistic that everybody knows buyers are 67% of the buyer’s journey before they talk to a human. Okay, that might be a level up because at least I’ve got a statistic, but I didn’t make it up. And it’s not new, right. So it’s sort of like, if you really want to influence me, I might add to what you said.
Brynne Tillman 12:47
I have one more at the end.
Shari Levitin 12:48
Okay, great. It’s not only teaching them something new. I think if you can unteach them, something they thought they knew. That’s when a video goes viral. Yeah, that’s awesome. So we go back to that in a minute, like, what does that mean? But yeah.
Brynne Tillman 13:03
I had. Well, I am just because I have OCD. I’ll do the fifth one. And then we’ll go back to that.
Shari Levitin 13:09
ADD, We’ll get together, we’ll get great together, Brynne.
Brynne Tillman 13:14
Yay. Right, so number five is to create a compelling moment to move them from Lurker to engage her because, and not start a conversation with someone that we don’t know is that whether they’re there or not. So we need the comment or the reaction in order to start a conversation. So for it to be social selling content, we have to convert them from a lurker to an engager. So you go back to learning, I like that.
Shari Levitin 13:40
Yeah. it’s gotta be a little different, or contrarian or something, and teach them something they thought they knew. You know, I had a video about buying a Porsche, if anybody wants to see it, it’s right on my LinkedIn profile, and 15 million views, we couldn’t figure it out. We can’t even count him anymore. I don’t know how this works. But when we put it on LinkedIn, it sort of froze when I put it on LinkedIn. But since then, we’ve seen it recirculate over and over and over again, in the car industry and beyond.
But I think, you know, as we analyze what it was, it was this idea that we can’t focus on the sales process anymore, we have to focus on the buying process. But it was also a story, and there was also a villain. So I would also say in creating content stories, outperform facts, a hundredfold. I don’t have any math on this, but I’m looking anecdotally and I can tell you, but if you look at stories in the brain, we’re in a time right now of fake news.
People don’t believe what they’re reading or seeing necessarily everybody challenges fat. In fact, there’s something interesting, interesting in Nancy jordiz book, she wrote a book that was super interesting, and she was saying that today. I think it doesn’t resonate. But what she was saying is that today, if you show somebody facts in a Word document, or you show them an ROI that your product can give in a Word document, they instantly go into disbelief. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that number. Yeah.
But if you show them a graph, the mind processes it differently. It’s the same with stories. If I tell you, “Oh, we’re going to increase,” you know, working with leverage and group over the last year, we have increased bottom line, win rate by 28%, somebody’s gonna go No way. But if I tell them the story, and I follow a framework, and we do have a storytelling framework that I’m happy to share, that I use, if you follow the framework, people will not only believe it, we are our brains wired for story.
But you have to tell them correctly. And I find most CEOs, most entrepreneurs, most sellers, have no idea how to tell a story. They go on too long. They’re like, “Oh, I love this, when they’re the hero of their own story.” Nobody wants to hear you being a hero, they want you to be a little self deprecating. And so the hero has to be the audience so that they can put themselves out there.
And yet people don’t know how to do that. And they think, “Oh, that’s fluffy. It’s a soft skill.” Ladies and gentlemen, everybody needs to know how to tell a compelling story. Even as a leader, you want to lead your people, you want to get them excited, you want to enroll them and engage them for change in your company, you better have a great story of your vision. And so those are also keys to a viral post or any kind of social post.
Brynne Tillman 16:41
That’s amazing. Okay, so I want to hear what it is that you get a thank you for offering? What’s the formula?
Shari Levitin 16:47
It’s really pretty simple. And actually, this works well for a job interview as well. Right? So it always starts with context, very quickly. The Who, What, Where, When? Right, so I was buying apart? You know, I knew that some people bought pandemic puppies, so I decided to buy a pandemic Porsche, right? There’s two dealerships nearby, one’s 45 minutes away, the other is an hour and a half away. So I am going to lay the groundwork, the context, but I’m going to do it quickly. And there’s only five steps, and you don’t get seven or the stories too long.
Okay, the second step is, I’m just going to begin. So it’s got context, Beginning, middle end punch line. Now begin means there’s an action that moves forward. And when we do this live in our workshops, will literally put five big yellow round circles in the room. And when people tell their stories, we say, Okay, go to the next spot, go to the next spot. And usually they run out, because their stories are too long. So the beginning is, so it’s an action. So the beginning is so I called the dealership close to me.
And I said, “Can you tell me a little bit about those cars you have online?” They look really cool. Can you give me prices? Okay, so that’s the beginning of the story. Okay, then he says, “You’re gonna have to come in and test drive it” “Oh, and bring your husband.” I love that. Oh, he’s like, “Excuse me. Bring my husband?.” Wait a minute. I am the breadwinner in the house. And you just got tired. Yeah, right. He’s retired. Right? So that’s sort of the beginning of the story. So then we go to the middle. So I am pretty short.
So I call the guy two hours away, I get this guy shot. That’s the middle of the story. Right? Now. I’ve also got a villain. Right? So I’ve got this guy that, you know, is kind of a jerk that everybody hates that gets like the cortisol going, you isolate the women, right? Yeah. So you’re, it’s actually there neurochemically you’ve got cortisol and empathy, working together. So the empathy is, okay, this main character is trying to buy a car, okay. And she’s not very good at technology. It’s a little self deprecating, but then there’s the cortisol of the enemy. Right. So then I called this guy Shawn, at the other dealership. Well, he not only gives me the prices right away, he says, “Do you want to jump on a zoom call? And we can design the car?” So I’m like, “Okay, great. So we do the Zoom call.”
And, you know, I want you know, white car with beige interior, we designed the whole thing. That’s all good. And you know, we get off the phone. The next day, he connects with me on LinkedIn. So he’s using all of these social channels of communication, right? Socially surrounding you, and he starts sharing my videos and popping up on my feed. Right? So he’s showing me He knows me and he’s making it about me not asking anything in return. Then talk about omni channels. I got a brochure in the snail mail four days later, right. So all of these different channels of communication right now I’ve got zoom.
I’ve got LinkedIn. I’ve got something in snail mail. “Oh, well then I kind of go dark.” Because it’s not like I need a car. It’s not like I’m gonna blow up if I don’t have a new car. And then literally, two weeks later, I get a video text to my phone of the exact car that we designed. Coming off the trailer, wrapped like a press. And he takes a video text and he’s like, “Ooh, can you smell the leather?” This is “Oh, look at the driver’s seat, that exact leather that you want it?” “Oh, look at the dash, look out decade is,” “Hey, if you want to come in and drive it today, we’re serving chili.” That was it? Yeah.
So I think and I’m still trying to analyze it. Because, you know, it was our sellers focusing on the sales process with the buying process. Because today buying isn’t linear. And you need to meet them where they are. And so of course, I went down to the Porsche dealership, had the chili, bought the car and drove it by the first dealership and just wanted to say “Hi, I’d pull a pretty woman on him.” So you know, and it’s so funny because like, for real, I can’t go to a closer place and get my car serviced. I am persona non grata there, because the video did go viral all the way to force it. Corporate, right.
So at any rate, but a long story to go through the framework. So the framework is context, beginning, middle, and punch line. And this is where a story is critical. The punchline is like a tweet, it’s got to be repeatable, because that’s what people remember. So if you’re building a story, start with the punch line and work backwards. The punch line was, it’s not about the sales process anymore. It’s about the buying process.
And so it’s like, where people mess up on stories. A punchline is like the punchline of a joke. You got to get it right. And then people repeat the punch line, like a tweet. I have one empathy that gets you in the door, competency, reliability, integrity, and keeps you there. Before people decide what they think of your message. They decide what they think of you. Punch. So that’s awesome.
Brynne Tillman 22:13
Yeah, I have my 21 tenants that are kind of my punch line. So that’s interesting. Create an ebook of your punch lines, because that will go viral. “Oh, how great.” Yeah, the digital Coffee Table Book of Sherry’s punch lines. I love it. That would be.
Shari Levitin 22:35
I think you could help me with that.
Brynne Tillman 22:36
Actually, I think I could.
Shari Levitin 22:39
I would love that.
Brynne Tillman 22:40
So oh, gosh, I have so many more questions. But I’m going to end with the big question: What question did I not ask you that I should have?
Shari Levitin 22:51
I think the old question, what would you tell your younger self because I’ve been in business for 40 years. And so many young people want to know the key to success, and the magic bullet and the magic line. And I will say that I was very lucky. I have two amazing parents. They’re still alive.
Brynne Tillman 23:23
I love seeing the pictures on.
Shari Levitin 23:25
As you know, I’m blessed. I have an 89-year-old mother, a 91-year-old father and I learned a long time ago. My mother is an author of 40 books. She’s a Holocaust survivor. I’ll tell you really quickly. When my mother was six years old, they emigrated from Germany, to Los Angeles. They were very poor. And they didn’t speak the language. They had to leave everything. And my mother’s older sisters all had two jobs, as did her parents. So she was alone. At six years old. She walked across the street, and found something amazing.
It was the library, the US Library, and she found that she could check out 10 books a day. And I’m sorry, 10 books a week, read them and get 10 more. She not only taught herself English. She got a scholarship to UC Berkeley, met my father, married him and went on to publish 40 books. Amazing. And I tell you that because people say to my mother all the time, “Sonny, where do you get your inspiration for your books?” And I love her answer and I want to leave the audience with this. She says “It’s not like I stand on a mountaintop and get inspiration.” She said “I wake up every morning at six o’clock. I make the beds and make a cup of coffee, sit down at my desk, and they do the work.”
I believe that anybody’s world can change through education. Our mission is elevation through education. And I believe that education is more available to you than ever before. And if you want to change your lot in life and you want to be successful, stop looking at hacks, stop looking at tricks. Stop looking at shortcuts. Truly, You got to sit down, make your bed, get that cup of coffee or whatever, and do the work. And if you do enough little things right over time, and you’ve got those good habits, those good productivity habits, those good networking habits, it’s a little bit over time. That gets you into a position of true success and true fulfillment. Because anything that comes easy, isn’t worthwhile, Usually.
Brynne Tillman 25:27
That’s just magic. And what a great way to close this out. So I would recommend people go and follow Shari on whatever social media platforms but particularly LinkedIn, she’s just amazing there is and can you just give us just a little bit on how people can work with you if they’d want to? Why wouldn’t they want to?
Shari Levitin 25:53
Certainly message me on LinkedIn, by the way, nobody manages my LinkedIn, this is also important. You know it at the end of the day, your friends are going to be commenting and reaching out, I’m on LinkedIn, an hour and a half a day I have to base so you can message me on LinkedIn. Or you can go to our website, sharilevitin.com. Or you can write to me, Shari at Shari levitin.com, S H A R I, L, E, V I, T, I, N. And B, we’ve got some exciting things happening. I’m launching a podcast with my mentor, very excited. We’ll be announcing that soon. And we also are announcing a way that you can have all of my LinkedIn videos straight to your inbox. So that’s coming soon as well.
Brynne Tillman 26:39
Oh, I want to be one of the first to sign up for that one for sure. All right, thank you so much for your insights, your brilliance, your wonderful happy personality and just bringing light and shining and heart to the sales world. So thank you so much. And for everyone listening when you are out and about don’t forget to make your sales social.
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