PODCAST 125: The Power of Authenticity and Emotional Intelligence in Sales with Mykal White

Today on the show we’ve got Mykal White, founder, owner, and CEO of a consulting business called NUNDA. We talk about using real human English language and being your whole authentic self in the context of a sales cycle and how that can really drive outcomes for you as it has for Mykal.

If you missed episode 124, check it out here: Managing Through Crisis: How to Create Pivotal Career Moments with Alyssa Merwin

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:02]
  2. Who is Mykal White and what is NUNDA [02:28]
  3. The behaviors that help drive executives toward success [04:40]
  4. How people can discover authenticity in the workforce [11:03]
  5. How workers can tap into their emotional intelligence [15:01]
  6. How to change a culture of fear and failure [21:54]
  7. The way weekly sales meetings should be run [25:21]
  8. Sam’s Corner [33:32]

Show Introduction [00:02]

Sam Jacobs: Hey everybody. It’s Sam Jacobs. Welcome to The Sales Hacker Podcast. Today on the show we’ve got Mykal White, founder, owner, and CEO of a consulting business called NUNDA. We talk about using real human English language and being your whole authentic self in the context of a sales cycle and how that can really drive outcomes for you as it has for Mykal.

We’ve got two sponsors on the show today. Sapper Consulting is the first one. Sales enablement’s easy. All you have to do is create perfectly targeted content. Stay informed in email best practices. Drive more engagement, quarter over quarter. Spend less money. Oh, and do it all with less time.

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And if you want to join Revenue Collective, go to revenuecollective.com, and click apply now. We’re about to launch our fall CRO School, for people that aspire to be chief revenue officers of companies up to $50 million in revenue.

Now, without further ado, let’s listen to this interview with Mykal White.

Who is Mykal White and what is NUNDA [02:28]

Sam Jacobs: Today on the show, we’ve got Mykal White. Let me tell you a little bit about Mykal. Mykal began her sales career on a team where she was one of only three women selling to C-level executives on wall Street. Following the economic downturn, she left the financial services space and went on to become one of the leading salespeople at tech companies like Yelp and LinkedIn.

At Yelp, Mykal broke countless records, received a promotion after month one, coached 40% of the sales team and was constantly and consistently awarded for quarter breaking performance. Having developed a highly successful track record at sales, Mykal has simultaneously coached hundreds of people on an individual and group basis. Some of our company clients include: Infor, Adobe, LinkedIn, ClassPass, Oracle and Fiserv.

Mykal is another principal consultant with NUNDA, an executive coaching sales and leadership training company that focuses on working with individuals and teams to develop the skills needed to attain their targets. Mykal, welcome to the show.

Mykal White: Hello Sam, thank you so much for having me.

Sam Jacobs: So Mykal White, you are the principal consultant at NUNDA. I read the description, but I want to give you an opportunity to explain and describe what NUNDA does. So what does NUNDA do?

Mykal White: It is a coaching company, sales training, coaching, leadership development. But our focus is really on the other side of life as an executive or an owner and entrepreneur, just because both sides really do need to be fed. I often say all the metrics in the world aren’t going to make that person know what to do when they get that person on the phone, or that person is that prospect standing in front of them. So it’s really about sort of aligning all of those things, both the professional and the personal.

In a nutshell, we help executives develop the skills and behaviors that can’t really be quantified, but they still need to be effective and successful.

The behaviors that help drive executives toward success [04:40]

Sam Jacobs: What are some examples of those behaviors that you found really help executives drive towards success?

Mykal White: You would be surprised Sam, how many executives struggle with the word no. They struggle with creating boundaries. They struggle with the word no. That creates a whole other host of problems, as you can imagine, right? When there’s no sort of line that’s drawn and you’re kind of taking all these things on. And that’s also coming down to over promising with clients, oftentimes.

A lot of other things are just around communication. So if the golden rule is, “Treat others how you want to be treated,” well, then there’s a sort of a platinum rule, which is, “Treat others how they need to be treated.” But with communication, we tend to communicate with people that remind us of ourselves and we struggle when people receive or consume information differently than we would understand. So just even little things like that, that just kind of get in the way of being effective and moving conversations and deals and success along.

Sam Jacobs: My instinct is, anytime somebody reaches out to say, “Absolutely, let’s set up a call,” and then sometimes I approach that call and realize that I’m not quite sure why we’re going to be speaking or what I should do about it.

Mykal White: Wait, Sam, is it okay for me to ask, what was the time that happened that got you to finally stop doing that? What happened?

Sam Jacobs: Oh, it hasn’t stopped yet. It has not stopped. I have a great fear of being disliked. And I feel like if somebody reaches out and I say, “I actually don’t want to speak to” … I mean, I need to find a more diplomatic way of saying it, but I’m just nervous of appearing aloof or self-important, so I give my time to as many people as I can. Which sometimes is a good thing, because there’s a lot of serendipity in having these conversations, but sometimes it’s not. But nevertheless, this is not about me.

Mykal White: It can be.

Sam Jacobs: This is about you.

So let’s figure out where you’re from and how you got into running NUNDA. Tell us a little bit about your background and how’d you get here and how did you decide to launch this coaching business?

Mykal White: As stories go, my real origin story started during my time at Yelp. Yelp was just completely pivotal. It was a game changer in my life. It was the first time that I recognized that I could make a ton of money simply being myself; building authentic client relationships. Authentic meaning, that I’m not just telling the client everything that they want to hear. I learned the power of sort of applying more of a pulling sales approach, versus pushing; how powerful that can be. I mean, there were just so many amazing, amazing takeaways for me in that time. But I think that the most powerful one of all, was just about the importance of showing up as myself; not trying to be or sound like anyone else other than myself.

And it was really interesting Sam, because when I first started at Yelp, there were, I don’t know, maybe 40 reps. When I left, there were closer to 900. And constantly, constantly, people would come over to me and they would like, “Mykal, what is your secret? What is your secret?” And I would tell them, and they would never, ever believe me, because I think it was just too simple for them. And all I would say to them is, “Take all of this delicious training,” because Yelp’s training was phenomenal. “Take all of this amazing training and just filter it through all that you are. Literally, be everything that you are, just apply the training. Apply all the things that you’ve learned. That’s all I did.” And they were like, “No, come on.” So it’s like, it has to be something other than being ourselves, but that was the lesson I learned.

So that was my origin story and it has allowed me to be incredibly successful everywhere I’ve been since, and sort of carve my own path everywhere I’ve gone, because I understand that comparison really is the thief of not only joy, but success.

Sam Jacobs: Comparison is the thief of joy and success. Explain that.

Mykal White: If you think about it, think about during the interview process. We don’t have any insight into anyone else that’s applying. So we show up, we have no choice really, but to show up as our best selves. We are just like, “This is the job. I should have this job.” We’re our most confident selves. We can articulate. It’s very clear. For every one job posting, there’s hundreds of applications that this company’s receiving; any company. So we forget that to get that offer, there were hundreds of people that we’re not even aware of, because they chose us for a reason.

Something really interesting happens. We get the job and then we sort of all morph into this sameness, where as we’re ramping or as we’re finding our way, we start looking around at the people to our left and right, and we start to try to emulate them instead of remembering that we’re hired specifically because we’re not them. They already have them. We were hired for us, and being us is actually the competitive advantage of the company, because the competitors don’t have an us.

We’re busy trying to sound like everyone else, so we’re comparing instead of standing in what is uniquely our power, and our strength and our attributes, and it is what steals our joy, because then we’re basing everything on what others are doing, and all of it is coming from outside of ourselves. Does that make sense? So it steals our success. It steals our joy. It steals everything.

How people can discover authenticity in the workforce [11:03]

Sam Jacobs: Yeah, it makes perfect sense. It’s hard to do. Let’s say, you are coaching the client and you’re giving this feedback, which I think is great feedback and great guidance. And they say, “You know what Mykal, I don’t know how to be more myself. I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t being myself.” Do you have exercises or thought processes or guidance for people on how to discover that authenticity in the workforce?

Mykal White: I do. And that’s actually one of the ways that I do a lot of work with the leaders that we’re working with, is role play. Role play is an incredibly under-utilized powerful tool, because I could tell you, or we could actually work it out together. And that awkwardness, that uncomfortable ick, it’s supposed to be that way because you’re pushing through it. And the more that you’re pushing through it, the more that you’re comfortable with being yourself. But it’s better to work that ick out with me, than a prospect or a client.

Sam Jacobs: What are some of the examples of things that people discover about themselves that they can then bring into the workforce?

Mykal White: People will use these words. So I’m sure that you probably, I mean, you’ve been doing this a long time, Sam. There’s sort of words that salespeople tend to use, that they don’t use in their everyday life in conversations with friends and family. So one thing is, they’ll be saying things or if we’re role playing and I’m like, “All right, so let me hear your language.” And they’re like, “Does this resonate with you?” And I stopped them, because I’ll say, “Well, we’ve been talking for three months. I’ve never heard you use the word resonate. Is that a word that you would use?” And it’s like, “No.” And it’s like, “Well, how would you put this just talking to me, just explaining to me, just asking me. We’re in a coffee shop. And I’m like, ‘Hey, what do you do?’ It turns out I happen to sort of be your ICP. And you’re just like talking to me as a person, as you’re waiting for your coffee. How would you put that?”

And then they think about it and then they do it again. And we keep working on it until it feels natural. Or I will help them to create a script that is their words, but the company’s messaging is in the DNA of that script, but it’s all them.

But everyone is different. So, there could be lots of things. It could be people that have a great sense of humor that are afraid to use it. And I’m like, “Where are you? Where are you? I’m missing you? Where are you in this?” And they hide that part, because they think there’s no place for it, because they’re all buttoned up now, because they’re wearing their inside sales hat. And I’m like, “But that’s silly. You were hired because your personality is fantastic. Why in the world would you not be yourself and use that sense of humor?”

Or there are some people that are not funny, but because they misunderstand rapport and empathy, they’re trying to be what they’re not. And I’m like, “But don’t. You’re not funny. It’s okay to not be funny, just be you. But we just have to get you more comfortable dealing with and speaking to the 75% of the market that isn’t like you, and doesn’t communicate like you do. But be you, be yourself.”

Sam Jacobs: I think those are great examples, and thank you for sharing them.

How workers can tap into their emotional intelligence [15:01]

Sam Jacobs: One of the things that you’ve mentioned, you feel like emotional intelligence and empathy are buzzwords, but a lot of people don’t don’t understand how to be emotionally intelligent. Walk us through your framework for how to help people tap into their emotional intelligence.

Mykal White: I love that you asked me that question the way that you did, because the answer is, it’s practice. It’s not a TED Talk that you watch. And you’re like, “Ah, so this is empathy. This is what empathy feels like. I’ve heard about you.” No, it’s practice. You have to continue to work it out. You have to continue to put yourself in these situations, where you can test yourself and you can see how far you’ve come.

So whether it is being able to listen more empathetically, or sometimes, it’s about listening empathetically and realizing, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. I know I’m supposed to be empathetic right now, but I’m stuck. I have no idea what to say.” That’s how we work with clients as well, right?” So to be able to have a place to go to discuss the situations just like that, where you’re like, “I don’t know what I was supposed to say. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.” And to talk about it and to provide a little bit more perspective about that one thing, that’s how you put it into practice.

It’s like a muscle. We all know that sales is a people business. It’s all about relationships. We hammer this constantly, but then companies don’t invest as often as they should in ways to train, coach, and develop those sides of selling. That is empathy and how it internal triggers and assumptions, how not to let these things impede our success. We are people after all with our pesky humanness.

Sam Jacobs: When you’re sharing these ideas and these insights, which I agree with, what are some of the objections that you commonly hear, and what’s your response to people that say, “That’s all well and good, Mykal, but I actually do want my salespeople to behave all the same. And I do want them to be extremely consistent because I’m trying to build a scalable revenue machine. And I read Mark Roberge’s book, The Sales Acceleration Formula. And he said, hire all of the same types of people with the same qualities that we found to be successful in our company. And then train them the same way, and give them the same leads, and have them run the same sales process and they’ll produce the same results.” What’s your response to that?

Mykal White: We’re not the Stepford wives. We’re not the Stepford sales rep, so that works if we’re all droids and all of our ingredients are exactly the same and our parts all come from the same manufacturer, but it’s not like that. In every single person there’s a story and their backdrop, and there are ideas that they have, and there are beliefs that they have, and there are their self limiting beliefs, in addition to those beliefs; those are more general beliefs. So every person is different.

Now, first, let me start with why that’s a great thing. You can train everyone the same. I think you should train everyone the same. Processes and systems is how a company scales; that is without question. However, the foundation, the core, should all be the same, but the competitive advantage comes down to the people that that company has chosen to invest in. That is the only thing. So if it’s company A and company B, both companies sell widgets, both companies have sales reps, sales is a relationship business. Well then, it can only come down to those people that are driving revenue for the company and driving those conversations.

So the beauty is, that in each individual that’s hired, while they might have those fundamental qualities that they’re looking for, which they should, that’s very smart, just sort of higher with expectations and higher with intentionality. It’s the personality. You hired them because of how they made you feel in the interview; that’s why you hired them. So they should have an opportunity once hired, to have those qualities nurtured. To not only have those qualities nurtured, but to have sort of those weaker areas strengthened.

So, I mean, that’s my take on it. But no, we’re not an army of machines, we’re people, and that’s what makes sales so fantastic.

So authenticity, and this kind of goes in with your question. What does that word even mean in a culture like sales? So how can you feel safe enough to be authentic, when we have these philosophies that are saying everyone should be trained, groomed, developed in the same exact way? But everyone is going to be at a different baseline in their own path, in their own journey, in their own career and skill set. So that just doesn’t even make sense.

But authenticity is being able to say, “This is where I am right now. I don’t know everything. I do need help. I don’t understand why,” let’s say, “My deals are bottle-necking in stage four. Can you help me?” Which most sales reps, many sales reps are afraid to sort of do that. They’re afraid to ask for help. They’re afraid to not know everything. They’re afraid to admit error or fault or under-performance, right?

And it’s this culture of fear and recognition, reward that prevents us from being better leaders, where we’re calling our people out, confronting those that are not performing as they should be. We are looking to coach our people, develop them as leaders. And then we also have sales reps that aren’t chasing deals that they know that they knew months ago was not going to close. But they just can’t let the deal go. So things like that.

How to change a culture of fear and failure [21:54]

Sam Jacobs: What do you think the first steps are to changing this culture of fear and creating a safer psychological environment for people to admit failure and acknowledge failure so that they can improve?

Mykal White: It starts with the leader. The leader is who sets the tone. The leader is who creates the climate. So if a leader is quick to admit mistakes, if a leader is quick to be vulnerable, if a leader is quick to admit that they don’t have the answer for something, or if a leader takes the time to understand each person on their team and understand how differently we’re all motivated, you can’t apply the same carrot stick to everyone. And that’s a part of it, is the leader and then the leader actually understanding what those motivators are for the people on their team. Because facing eviction and making P Club is not the same motivation.

Sam Jacobs: That’s true. It’s not the same motivation at all. How have you, if you have it all, and it’s okay if you haven’t. How have you modified, or what have you seen over the last four or five months since the pandemic started, about your approach to coaching, and how has your approach evolved, in light of work from home and this heightened sense of anxiety that a lot of people have? What have you done to address that? Or has it just been, “Listen, the basic tools are the same, and this is another tough situation like all situations are tough in life, and we just use the same tools to help people.”

Mykal White: I would say the last four or five months sort of demanded that we all find a whole new something, right? Whether it’s perspective, or optimism. So in some ways, some of the basics have remained exactly the same in terms of, you focus on the activities, you throw all of your self esteem, all of your energy, behind respecting your schedule and the activities; not the outcome. But then on the other side, I would say that the evolution — and I think of coaching is always evolving or it should be — is just having to trust when things are uncertain and having to trust; whether it’s trust yourself, whether it’s trusting the future, whether it’s trusting that things will all turn out okay.

But don’t lose focus because of all of the storms that’s coming around. Just focus on the parts that you can still control. Don’t start getting crazy, worrying about everything that’s outside of your control. Tthose fundamental principles have been incredibly helpful, not only to me, but to all of my clients. Because that’s what it all comes down to, is controlling the controllables and not losing sleep, not freaking out, not sitting at the bar for five hours for the stuff that no matter how long we sit there, we’re never going to have control over it anyway. It’s just bad use of time.

I don’t know if that answers your question, but hopefully you got something from that.

Sam Jacobs: It reminded me not to sit at the bar for five hours.

Mykal White: Yeah, don’t do that.

The way weekly sales meetings should be run [25:21]

Sam Jacobs: I’m going to get up now. We’re almost at the end of our time together, Mykal, but I did have one question for you. We have our guests fill out a little one-pager. And one of the things that you said is, “The way most weekly sales meetings are held is bullshit.” I want to hear more about that. Why do you think that’s true and how should they be run?

Mykal White: it’s actually two things. So the weekly sales meetings are completely ridiculous, but then the one-on-one meetings are even more or equally as ridiculous. So the sales meetings, they are supposed to be a time and place where the sales team comes together. We learn from each other. We learn from successes. We learn from failures. We learn from mistakes. There is some sort of training. There is some sort of way that these reps are being developed during these meetings, where it’s like, “All right, so I’ve been hearing a lot of this, this week. I want to focus on this. I want to focus on the first seven seconds. What are you doing to get their attention?” Whatever it is, there needs to be some sort of developmental aspect of these trainings.

What happens in these trainings instead, is the team comes together. They’re sitting in front of a huge screen. One by one, the pipeline of each rep is put on the screen, where the rep now has to explain their pipeline to the manager in front of the team. It’s the same meeting every single week where it’s like, “Well, where are we with this one?”

“Yeah. So talked to his guy, he blah, blah, blah. This is what’s happening. Yeah.”

And then the manager’s like, “Yeah, make sure that you connect with them again next week. Make sure that blah.”

“Yep. Will do.”

“And what’s going on with this deal?”

“Yeah. So this deal, it’s been a couple of weeks, but I think he’s on vacation.”

And that’s all it is. It’s just, where are we? Is this committer upside. There’s never any actual training. There’s never any, “Hey Luke, there’s this thing that you did this week that I thought was actually really smart. Can you share that with the team? I pulled you to the side and I told you that I thought it was great. And just let the team know about our conversation or whatever, and tell them where you got that from or why you decided to do that, that day.” And, “What did the clients say?” But it should be an opportunity for everyone to come together and learn and get on the same page, instead of being a dog and pony show.

So it’s just a waste of time because you’re not actually even getting real answers. Again, I was talking about the ego and if I’ve said in a sales meeting three weeks ago that I have Pepsi, “Oh, I spoke with Pepsi,” and it’s like, “Oh wow, that’s really cool.” I don’t want to tell you in front of everyone that Pepsi hasn’t answered any of my calls for the last three weeks, since that one conversation we had. So I’m just going to keep speaking in the affirmative. “Oh yeah, yeah. No, for sure. I think they’re on vacation.” And there’s no honesty, so there’s no authenticity.

Then with the one-on-ones, terrible waste of opportunity, and resources and really opportunity. So the whole point of the one-on-ones, is it is this protected time between a leader and the seller, where this leader is there to help develop the seller, is there to give them a voice in the privacy of this room, where they have questions, they have concerns, but they’re able to call them out. They’re able to say things like, “I know you keep saying that you’re doing all these dials, but the dials don’t make sense for the numbers. So the productivity that I’m seeing based on what you’re saying you’re doing, doesn’t actually make sense, so let’s talk about that. What are you actually on these calls?” Because the numbers tell a story. So if they’re not converting, if they’re making a zillion dials, but rarely are they converting to a first meeting, well, then we know that the problem is probably on that very first call.

So why are they not coaching them? Why are they not role-playing? Why are they not having a conversation? Instead, they just kind of bypass the whole thing and they’ll just say things like, “What can we do to increase your pipeline? How can we make more calls? What’s going on with this opportunity?”

And it’s the same conversation week after week, without the training, without the development, without even calling them out on their bullshit.

So, yes. Can you feel the passion though, Sam?

Sam Jacobs: The passion is coming through the microphone. Thank you for that. Mykal, this is the part in the show where we like to pay it forward. We like to recognize people that have influenced you, books you’ve read, content you’ve consumed. However you want to frame it, but stuff we should know about or people we should know about. When I pose it like that, who comes to mind or what comes to mind that you think we should know about?

Mykal White: I would say first and foremost, Kayti Sullivan, who I think she just stepped down. She was the VP of Sales at Yelp. I will never forget. Very, very early on in my Yelp career, she said to me, it was Kayti, my manager, myself and I guess it was some sort of review after training, but I had already broken all these sort of records already. And she said to me, she said, “Mykal White,” she said, “You are never to hold yourself to the same standard as any of these people, any of these other people in this office.” And I appreciated that. I appreciated that because just with those words, it kept me to a certain standard that I just worked hard month after month, after month to maintain not for the office, but just for myself. So she’s one, she was part of why Yelp changed my life.

And then the other one, her name is Ashley Smith. She does a ton of work with African Fintech and she’s just doing some really, really innovative new things. That’s really exciting to see, but she’s also heading up the African Fintech Summit that will be taking place, I think in October. But yeah, I call her a unicorn. I’ve never met anyone like her in my life.

Sam’s Corner [33:32]

Sam Jacobs: Hi, everyone, Sam’s Corner. I really enjoyed that conversation with Mykal White. Mykal just brings reality. She brings the truth to these conversations. And I love how she talks about just bringing your whole self authenticity, and making sure that you’re not in your salesperson speak, but that you’re speaking to people like a normal human being and using normal English language. And if you have that perspective, if you have, she talks about the three P’s; the three P’s being: perspective, purpose and progress. Why are we here: purpose, having the right perspective on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, and making sure that you’re bringing your whole authentic self, and then making sure that you’re making progress on every call and every interaction. I think those ideas are so important.

And the thing that she mentioned is that this idea of authenticity in sales culture is the great deception, because space isn’t created for people to be authentic when everyone’s being held to the same standard and assumed to have the same motivation. So again, to be authentic, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable. And you can’t be authentic if everybody’s reading from a script and speaking like robots. So how do we create an environment where people really can bring their whole selves?

Now I will say, as an asterisk to that, what does all of this mean; your whole self? Does it mean that if you have a mohawk, that you shouldn’t shave your mohawk? I guess that’s fine. It depends, I guess if it’s phone sales or not. If your whole self swears all the time, does that mean that’s okay. I think some of these phrases and some of these ideas, I just get turned around thinking about what exactly they mean, because the language sounds kind of fanciful, but I’m not quite sure I’ve always sort of brought my whole self.

Don’t miss episode #126

But the point is this, we want to thank our two sponsors for bringing you this episode. The first is Sapper Consulting. With REGIE, they are using artificial intelligence to create entire outbound, inbound, and even follow-up sales campaigns faster, so you can get more meetings and make more money. Go to go.regie.io. Second sponsor’s Outreach, the number one sales engagement platform. Go to outreach.io to learn more about Outreach, if you haven’t heard about them already.

If you want to reach out to me, Sam@revenuecollective.com. If you want to bring your whole self to Revenue Collective, go to revenuecollective.com, click Apply Now. We cannot wait to have you join the community. We think we are the future of professional education. How else are you going to learn in the modern world besides a community of your peers, vetted and curated so that you know you’re talking to people with real expertise that help you get where you want to go in your career. That’s our mission, that’s what we’re working on.

I’ll talk to you next time, my friends.

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