Dan Swift is CEO of Empire Selling, a digital sales training and transformation company. Dan has over 20 years of leadership experience spanning sales, marketing, and business development, having successfully launched LinkedIn’s flagship product Sales Navigator and catapulted social media management technology Sprinklr to a $2bn valuation. With an emphasis on ‘bringing the human back’ to business, he believes that business leaders can be successful without sacrificing empathy.
What inspired you to start Empire Selling? Was the journey to your current position a planned one or were there moments of contingency along the way?
Dan studied Geography in university but got his first job in sales. He enjoyed that experience so much he has remained in sales ever since. Over the years, his responsibility included launching various sales tools for business; e.g Linkedin Sales Navigator. While doing that, Dan noticed a gap in the market for a B2B model that taught other companies how to execute and sell using social media and digital tools. While he had the idea during his tenure at LinkedIn, it was when he was at Sprinklr that Dan got the conviction to start Empire Selling. He started with the support of several friends who came across the launch of Empire Selling. Soon after, they began spreading the word about Empire Selling and the rest is history.
Can you identify some of the biggest challenges you have come across while taking on various leadership roles? How have you managed to overcome these challenges?
Dan’s first leadership role in sales started in his early 20s; he was put in charge of a sales team of 20 people. During this experience, the most important lesson to him was that different people learn and work differently. There is no one size fits all solution to training and motivating your employees, it comes down to understanding and communicating with each person in your team in their own idiosyncratic way. Dan shared a story about someone who would constantly reject and put down his suggestions when he was asked to share them. Rather than get angry, Dan chose to speak to him about it and asked ‘Are you ok?’ Shocked, the man apologised and explained that he was going through a divorce. This was just an anecdotal story highlighting the need for compassion and understanding, especially if you were in a leadership role and in-charge of others.
If you could restart your journey from the moment you left school, what is one thing you would do differently?
In hindsight, the biggest difference that Dan would make it is to strike a better work life balance. He felt like he could have gone out with his friends more, while still juggling his work commitments. He shared that there were occasions where he would be going into the office on a saturday, at the expense of hanging with his mates and that these were wasted opportunities. That being said, he acknowledges that he wouldn’t know if he would be as successful as he is right now, had he chosen to go out more. But, he still regrets it.
If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?
Breath. There are a lot of reasons why youths are under pressure at any one point in time. Be it from yourself or the people around it, whether its about university or job-searching. There are many highs and lows in life. What is more important is to breathe and do whatever you’re doing with passion and do it 100%. In times of pressure, find a way to give yourself a mental and physical break.
FROM THE GUEST STUDENT
It was a really great and pleasant experience to be able to have a chat with Dan for a bit. I felt it was very eye opening to various aspects of work and life, such as his experience battling anxiety for many years. Another point that Dan talked about which I thought was very interesting was his emphasis on the importance of personal relationships to work performance. Furthermore, this was a great opportunity for me to gain a bit of insight into the management and marketing of a company, especially since it is what I’m currently studying in university.
- Zain Azri, Undergrad at Exeter University