The DNA of a high-impact leader

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This is a podcast episode titled, The DNA of a high-impact leader. The summary for this episode is: <p>Want to provide vision, direction, and inspiration to your team? Ryan Longfield, Chief Revenue Officer at Gong, breaks down the critical role employee retention plays in sustainable long-term success. Learn how to manage your team’s emotional state (and hear the impact it has on performance). Consider this a crash course on how to level-up as a leader.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p><p>Key Takeaways:</p><p>05:35 - What leadership means to Ryan Longfield</p><p>06:48 - What was the moment you decided to go into leadership</p><p>10:34 - Small team vs. Large team aspect</p><p>19:35 - What does a leader need to do in the tough times to keep motivation</p><p>25:06 - Setting expectation for your team</p><p>35:46 - Revenue intelligence is all about seeing clearly</p><p>38:44 - Describing sales in one word</p><p><br></p><p>Want to explore Revenue Intelligence for your org? It starts here: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Connect with Devin Reed: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Connect with Sheena Badani: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Connect with Ryan Longfield: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p>
What does leadership mean to Ryan Longfield
00:54 MIN
What was the moment you decided to go into leadership?
01:46 MIN
Small team vs. Large team aspect
01:36 MIN
What does a leader need to do in the tough times to keep motivation
03:43 MIN
Setting expectations for your team
00:42 MIN
Revenue intelligence is all about seeing clearly
01:36 MIN
How would you describe sales in one word?
00:43 MIN

Devin Reed: Welcome to Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence Podcast powered by Gong. We're your hosts, Devin Reed.

Sheena Badani: And I'm Sheena Badani. Revenue intelligence is a new way of operating based on customer reality instead of opinions. Making data driven decisions based on facts instead of opinions or guesswork.

Devin Reed: And it's made up of three success pillars; people intelligence, deal intelligence and market intelligence. The things all revenue teams need and care about. Every week, we interview senior revenue professionals and share their stories and insights on how they leverage revenue intelligence to drive success and win their market.

Sheena Badani: You'll hear modern go to market teams win as a team, close revenue with critical deal insight and execute their strategic initiatives, plus all the challenges that come along with it. So today's a super exciting episode, because we finally have Ryan Longfield, CRO of Gong on the show. And he was like one of the first people we invited to be on the show, but he's a busy guy and we weren't proven, nobody even knew what Reveal was at that time.

Devin Reed: Yeah. I think we tried to get him back when we were in office.

Sheena Badani: Yes.

Devin Reed: And I think he was busy because he is a busy guy. And I think too, we don't want to make it the Gong show. We want to make it, this is an industry podcast for revenue leaders. And then it got to the point where I think I was like, " Man, are we disrespecting our guy, Ryan?" He would be on other people's podcasts. Like we should get him on ours. He's a good leader. He's a good guy. So yeah, I'm excited. We got him on here. And as I mentioned, it's currently 5: 00 PM Monday before end of quarter. And he joined us and he rocked it. So I'm happy, proud, thankful that he gave us time, during the end of quarter.

Sheena Badani: Exactly. And so today we're going to talk with Ryan all about leadership and what leadership means to him. But before we do that, I'm curious Devin, who's inspired you over your career. It could be some people outside of work, it could be at work. But when you think of a great leader, who comes to mind?

Devin Reed: That's a good question. The people that do come to mind are people I know. Like I know there's great leaders, like LeBron James is a great leader. You almost roll your eyes because he's over known superstar. But I actually do think about the people know first. And I think of all the sales leaders. There's of course sales managers and leaders. You rank them like best to not so best. But honestly even the ones that weren't great. I still learned a lot from, because I remember even in the moment, I really don't like this. Log this as, well be sure not to do this as a leader or when I do get a new opportunity, make sure the leader doesn't do these things. The one that jumps out are the folks who honestly did two things. I would say one is do the unexpected, which by that I mean is, went above and beyond expectations. You know what I mean? Didn't just do what you hoped, but even went beyond that and really delivered for, it could be you in a personal scenario, it could be, " Hey, I noticed this thing's happening across the team of 60 people. And I'm making this immediate change right now because I don't want the out to happen for y'all." And you're just like, " Wow, that's, that's cool." I think acknowledgement is the expectation and you don't always expect change immediately. But, those are things that stuck with me. And I think the other ones are just those micro moments of inspiration or feeling like your CRO, your VP sales, someone in the senior leadership really has your back or really wants you to succeed. Those are things that sometimes could be a 10 second passing compliment. Or, " Hey, heard that call and god, you really did a great job. I'll catch up with you later." That can change someone's day. You don't know if they're in a good spot or bad spot that day. Or to just walk and talks during coffee, really just getting to know somebody or what I always appreciate getting to know them. Tell me a little bit really about yourself. How are you actually feeling in these different circumstances? So those are the things that jump out to me.

Sheena Badani: Yeah. A lot of that resonates with me too. And I think people ultimately want to be acknowledged and recognized and leaders have a lot of opportunity to do that for folks on their team or in their org, at their company, even outside. And I think those are the similar kind of moments that stand out to me too.

Devin Reed: Absolutely. They have a lot of power, not just power in the way you think of it as like a title power, but a lot of influence. And speaking of influence, we're just going to pop up a couple more times on this interview. So let's go hang out with Ryan. Ryan Longfield, not only am I gracious that you are here. I am gracious that it is four days away from end of the quarter. And I gave you a wide open door to reschedule and you said, " No, I want to be here. And this is what I want to do." So I want to say thank you two times over.

Ryan Longfield: You're very welcome. If you get ahead of it, then maybe it's not a mad scramble. Although it always seems to be a mad scramble, even when you do get ahead of it. So, you're welcome.

Devin Reed: Even if you hit quota early, there's always that one more deal you can get into accelerators, all that blue bird, that swing deal.

Ryan Longfield: That's true. That's the fun of it.

Devin Reed: So we are here to talk about the DNA of a high impact leader. So you are obviously the chief revenue officer at Gong. You've been here for a couple years now. I remember when you joined, we were thrilled. So maybe to just open this thing up a little bit is just to ask you, what does leadership mean to you, Ryan Longfield?

Ryan Longfield: I'll start with what I consider the definition, and then I'll go into the impact. But the definition is inspiring others towards a shared outcome. So there's some shared goal that you have across the team. Otherwise, it wouldn't really even be a team or an organization. And the art of leadership is inspiration of that group to accomplish that shared objective. And so the outcome that you're looking for, or the impact that you're looking to have as a leader is, you are looking to get consistency in the best that your team can produce against that shared objective. If you're doing a job as a leader, you're getting the best out of those people to the benefit of the larger team. And so, that's what I think of when I think of leadership.

Devin Reed: I'm curious, Ryan, is that something that came naturally to you? I don't know, maybe in like high school, I think you played basketball if I remember our past conversation Were you team captain and loved to coach? Is this a philosophy that you picked up along the way? I'd love to just hear a little bit more like what molded that outlook?

Ryan Longfield: Yeah, I think there's a couple of things. One, a lot of people say, " What was the moment into your career when you decided you wanted to go into leadership?" And I think a lot of leaders say the same thing, which was, " I never really had that moment. It always felt like the obvious outcome, the obvious decision." There was never a moment where I didn't think that I was going to go into leadership. That's just me personally. I don't think that's universally true, but for me personally. And so yes, when I was growing up, I was heavily involved in sports. I ended up being a leader on those teams quite often. I think my dad was a really strong leader, leader in our family, leader on the baseball diamond, leader to my brother and I, for sure. And then specifically the definition that I just threw out was one that was created at LinkedIn when we were going through hyper growth. And that idea of inspiring others towards a shared objective is one that we formed at LinkedIn. And has always stuck with me because I love inspiration. When I was at LinkedIn, the reason why that one stuck with me so much is because I think the concept of inspiration is fascinating to me. And, that's the type of leader that I want to be, is one that's really highly inspiring. And obviously, the contrast to an inspiring leader is one that's motivating largely out of fear and consequences and punishment. And I think we've all probably had those leaders. And I think thankfully, broadly speaking, most people see that type of leadership as highly toxic these days, especially in tech and there's a movement away from that. But it's certainly been a key element of sales organizations historically that for the benefit of all of us is going by the wayside. But that inspiration piece is the one that stuck with me after LinkedIn and why I keep using it.

Sheena Badani: So we've talked a little bit in the past about your experience at LinkedIn and how it was really formation for you during your time in sales and getting you to where you are today. And you were at LinkedIn during a really interesting time, like going through IPO. You could probably tell me more on some of the metrics on how the team and company changed while you were there. I'd love to hear a little bit about your experience there and how that gave you some perspective on what kind of leadership you need for the different phases of growth at a company.

Ryan Longfield: Quick bio, I was at LinkedIn from January, 2009, through IPO that was in 2011. And then an acquisition to Microsoft for 26. 2 billion. I don't remember which year that acquisition was. But there was various phases of the company, which was 300 employees when I started, through IPO, again in 2011, which was fantastic. It was such a joyful moment for the company. And then getting acquired by Microsoft was a totally different chapter. So very different stages all along the way there. And then, Gong similar stages, joined the company was in 70 employees. Devin, it was three years ago. So specifically three years, two months ago. Way back in the day when you were still a sales rep, my friend.

Devin Reed: When I was on good side.

Ryan Longfield: So very different stages at Gong as well. And I think that there are certain leadership skills that are flexed and needed at different phases of growth that are very, very different. A couple of categories, I think one, the obvious one is small team versus large team. When I joined, Devon was like one of five sales reps.

Sheena Badani: Wow. crosstalk.

Ryan Longfield: And now, we have hundreds of reps. I think there's like a large team, small team aspect. The thing that comes with large team, small team though, is not just the numbers. That's mildly interesting. But the part that's interesting about it from a leadership perspective is your communication has to change. And what I mean by that is, when it's five people and you, as the leader on the sales floor, you have direct contact with everybody. Building trust, inspiring, motivating, teaching, influencing, it's all direct contact. You're right there. You can be the coach. You can be the one inspiring. You can be the one directly rolling out the change to the organization and it's your people. It's the same people you just had lunch with every day. When you get a larger team as a leader, you really have to change your communication in the way that it happens. And specifically, you have to learn how to communicate in a way that has high impact and inspiration through other leaders and through indirect channels. And that's really difficult. And you have to be super, highly intentional about making sure that you make a pivot as a leader. When you get beyond roughly 25 to 50 people or so, all of a sudden, not everybody knows you personally, they don't know your best intentions. They haven't heard your life stories. They don't rub shoulders with you every day, et cetera, especially in a remote COVID type of environment. And so you really have to be thoughtful about how you are indirectly contacting your people and you're influencing through your leaders and other mechanisms in the organization. So that's one of many, I'm happy to go on to others if interesting, but, that's one of many.

Sheena Badani: So that's super interesting on the different leadership styles between small team, big team, what else should leaders have in mind?

Ryan Longfield: There's so much, because your leadership style better adapt and change depend upon the environment that you're in. One other one that comes immediately to mind is the nature of the work that you are doing as a leader and how you need to communicate expectations to your team. I'll give you an example, when Devin and I were on the sales floor together, we are sitting right next to each other. If he needed help on a deal, he knew that I was accessible all the time for anything that he needed. The reason is, is because every deal mattered at that point in our company's growth. The deal that he was working on was one of 10 that we'd probably close that quarter. And so he'd spin around and say, " Hey, can you help me with this thing?" And he knew that I was 100% available and I communicated to him that I was 100% available. If you have hundreds of reps and you have your reps doing that through slack or anything else on a daily basis, that is not going to work. And the reason is, is because now your jobs are extremely different from those of the people on your team. When it was early days, actually Devin and I's jobs were pretty... My job was pretty similar in the sense that, we were just trying to close deals to make sure that this thing got some legs. Now, almost my entire job is focusing my organization and me on a very few number of things that matter a lot. And so at that point, it was like anything, nothing's too small, time management is not a huge deal for me because the important and the urgent stuff is what I focus on. Just go get it done every day. When you're at the larger phases, you have to change your leadership style, where almost all that you're doing is focusing. Your time management is everything. And you only do the things that you cannot delegate. If I can delegate anything and get that thing done, time is so precious. There's so many demands, and we're trying to think much longer term at a totally different scale. That focus is everything for both me person, and for me driving that into my organization. Completely different depending upon early stage versus late stage.

Devin Reed: I was talking to Danny, another early employee earlier today. And I said, " Man, I really took it for granted because where I used to sit in the office, I could see Tim Riitters our CFO, Ryan Longfield our CRO and Sandy our chief people officer within the 40 foot radius." I could literally go and bug you if I wanted. And now, I think we were like 150- ish employees in maybe just in the states at that time. Now, we grew a lot in that office. You see those people at their desk a lot less. So you're like, " Well, that's where Ryan sits when he is available. And that's where Sandy sits." But it becomes harder to get access. Now that we're distributed, I'm curious Ryan, what are some of the other ways that you've maintained that relationship with reps, relationship with mid- level leaders. Folks that you're not seeing in the senior leadership meetings on a day to day basis?

Ryan Longfield: I'll say first of all, because I don't want to pretend like about a thousand in anything. And this is one of them, I don't know that I made the transition when we went to shelter in place, when we worked from home, et cetera. I'm an in person hugs not handshakes type of leader. And when we moved to COVID, I did not pivot fast enough. And so, I think I've learned some things over time, mostly because I started to feel disconnected from my people in a way that I absolutely never want to be. And so, I think there's little things and there's big things. So little things is, I just recently started making more space in my meetings for people to simply connect and connect with me. Highlight and low light from the week with your direct team. When we're starting a big org wide moment, whether it be a sales training or a big kickoff or an all hands, we'll usually use the Zoom feature where you can break out and have smaller conversations to make sure I'm connecting with folks personally, but they are too. So we do that in almost every big meeting that we're running now, just to make sure that life on life is like happening, in a way that it wasn't before. We're starting to do more in- person events where the whole point is just to go and have lunch and hang out in a park and things like that. So I'm having to get on an airplane and go visit people and do it in a healthy, responsible way, of course. But take more time to do that. One of the leaders in my organization spends 15 minutes every morning, connecting one on one with somebody in his organization, just to make sure he is got that continuous connection point. Some of those things are the things, but you have to be really intentional about it. Otherwise, it just goes by the wayside and all of a sudden you're disconnected from your org in a way that you don't want to be. I'll share actually one more, I'll record a video usually about once a week, where it's quick, less than five minutes, something that's happening in my world. It's one directional, but it still allows the entire organization to see you and hear you, hear your tone, feel you more than an email. And for people who have never spent one on one time with you, it actually makes them feel like they know you a bit if you start sharing in that way. Takes you 10 minutes once a week, but then everybody's seeing you and hearing you every week, that's a powerful way to stay connected as well.

Sheena Badani: That's so great. Leadership and management play critical roles when it comes to the satisfaction and the success of employees. But despite this, there really tends to be a disconnect between employees and their leaders. A recent interact Harris poll shows that 91% of the surveyed employees thought that their leaders lacked communication skills. What's more, almost one in three employees don't trust their employers, according to the Edelman trust barometer. One reason for this lack of leadership, greatness comes down to education and training. Many companies put so much focus and funding into technical proficiency, but really don't put enough on the character side of things. In a major long term study, companies that humanize leadership and encouraged all around leadership activities found that companies grew 682% in revenue. You were talking a little bit about this shift to COVID and that was a hard time for everyone. And especially for leader, it's going through a really tumultuous experience that I think when one's leadership skills and their attributes really shine through. It's easy to be that inspirational, motivational leader when you're hitting your targets and the market's growing and there's flowers and rainbows. But when there's a tough time, it can be really hard for some folks. I'm curious, what are your perspectives on, what does a leader need to do in the tough times to keep that motivation, that inspiration for that common goal?

Ryan Longfield: I think most people period, but certainly most people in high performance environments, they're not used to not performing well. And rightly so, even at Gong, we have a very performance driven environment where it's like, we're all aspiring to do amazing work all the time. And so, when things are tough and people are not producing at their best or things are tough because something's happened in the family or something's happening to all of us. Like we're in SDR and now we're stuck in our apartment that's too small for the amount of people that live there. And you're trying to make calls in this weird environment. You're trying to stay motivated in isolation. I think as leader is we need to recognize that part of our job in leadership is to help establish emotional stability and help people to be in a place on the inside that's going to produce their best work on the outside. And, again, if our job is to inspire others towards a shared objective and a lot of that inspiring of others towards this shared objective has to do with consistently getting the best work out of the folks that are in your organization. So that they feel amazing and continue to do great work and inspire the ones around them. Then, we better care a whole bunch about most elements of our people's lives, probably all elements. And I think when we're going through a moment like this, whether it be the national instability or whether it be COVID or whatever it is, we as leaders, we need to take ownership over how they're able to show up every day. And so, I think there's the little stuff, making sure you stop and listen and ask the right questions and not assume that everybody's in a good place. If there's one thing that I've learned as a leader is that, every single day there's somebody in my organization who's not doing well, period. And I don't know who that is most of the time, and I'm not going to find out unless I ask and stop and listen. And I'm really attentive to how people are doing. And so I think that you got to see your job as being aware enough of the things that are going on your organization. And then realize that even for your job, that you are getting paid for as a leader, you have to solve for people's emotional states. Otherwise, there's no chance on earth that you're going to be successful over the long term. So I think teaching that to your leadership team, if you're in senior leadership, that it's absolutely part of the job. Keeping the human aspect of things when we're disconnected in these crazy revoked environments. And it's really easy to get mechanical about meetings starting and going and going through it. You don't have the natural hall time to connect with people on the back end. You have to make the space for the water cooler time, for the hall time, for the dinners that we used to be able to have. And I think, now more than ever the most successful leaders in our organizations are going to be the ones that are able to anchor their teams emotionally as well, because of all the craziness that we're living through. And so I think the first part is just seeing that as a huge part of our job. And then the second part of it is being able to be a connected leader. Stop and listen, be more thoughtful, be generous, be kind, be gracious to people. Understand that when people are making mistakes, that they're probably giving their best work and still making mistakes. So then meet them in that place. Those types of things I think have never been more important.

Devin Reed: I love that Ryan. At first the things I missed, what I call them swivel conversations, the call just ended it, or someone just turns their chair to you. " Oh man, I'm sure you heard half of that call, but here's how it went." And being able to just break it down with somebody. But really what I missed was actually when people would swivel towards me. Maybe I'm just in middle of an email, I'm not on a call and someone's like, " You got a sec?" Those were my favorite because it's like your comrade needs you. It's just like a quick moment. It could be 10 seconds or 20. Like, "Are you hearing this objection too? Am I crazy?" " Nah, I heard you on the call. It sounded good. I don't know what they said, but you sounded pretty good." And just having those quick moments. " All right, you're right. I got a call now I got to jump. We'll talk at lunch." Those little moments is like, we all know the ups and downs of sales. Those make the lows either not as low or short- lived. And you can already start bouncing back again. So I really like how you worded that. Shifting gears a little bit to the other side, which of leadership is like setting expectations. I'd love to learn a little bit of how you set expectations with your team. I don't know if it's kind of implied like, Hey, I lead by example. And so it's implied. Maybe you're more direct or kind of vocal with expectations with your leaders, but would love to learn a little bit about that.

Ryan Longfield: There's a great leader who you may not have heard of named Fred Kaufman. He was the vice president of leadership at LinkedIn. Sheena, maybe you got exposed to Fred when you're there. I'm not sure.

Sheena Badani: No, I don't think so. No.

Ryan Longfield: Well, Fred was a fan fantastic leader, and one of the things he mentioned about setting clear expectations is that, when you're setting expectations, there's three things that you need to do well. You need to communicate the standard, you need to model the standard, and then you need to hold people accountable to the standard. And I think that this really plays out when you're setting expectations with your team. If any one of those three things falls to the wayside, then expectations will be miscommunicated, jumbled, confused, or just not as solid as they could be. So the first one, like I said, is communicating the standard. You have to tell people what you expect of them. I'll give you an example. When I tell people, what does it look like to do a great job at Gong in the sales role? I say, well, first one is to crush your number, make raving fans, everything that that is encapsuled related than just being a great salesperson. Be customer centric, ask great questions. They should feel our excellence in the sales process as they go through it. That should result in you crushing your number. So there's the core job element. And then my clear expectation is everybody is like, you should be able to answer very clearly why everyone around you is better because you're at the organization. And so right there, I'm immediately saying my expectation is we're not a fan of lone wolves. If you're crushing your number and you're not doing this other stuff. Yeah, you're doing part of the job, but you're still incomplete, et cetera, et cetera. That's the communication of the standard. But if then I go and promote a bunch of people and I in this case, don't model the standard that I've just created. They won't listen to any of my words because my actions speak louder than my words in this case. And all of a sudden, it's totally fine. I've got to actually act in line with the thing I've communicated. And then probably the most important part is holding others accountable to the standard. And so, this is if I have a leader in my organization that promotes somebody who's modeling behavior that's against the thing that we've communicated, I need to hold that person accountable. And more importantly, you'll know that your organization has really embedded this thing that you're trying to set in terms of expectations, if they hold each other accountable. If one of their peers comes to that individual and says like, " Hey, that person doesn't have examples of X, Y, and Z." Then you know you're in a really good place, but it's got to be all three.

Devin Reed: Ryan, I remember early on you saying... I came to you and I was like, " Hey, what does it mean to get into sales leadership?" Because you were the new guy. I'm like, " This guy is successful." I've been in sales for a little while. And you told me, " The first thing you have to do is get your house in order. You have to hit your number. You have to do these core things, because nothing else matters unless you handle that." And I remember that phrase. Immediately, I knew I had to hit quota and do those things, but the quickness that you said it and that, " Keep your house in order." I even tell my team that now too, and I had a growth conversation today. Someone's like, " What's the next level look like?" I was like, " First thing, got to have your house in order." crosstalk.

Ryan Longfield: You know where that came from is, there's so many people that would come to me and be like, " Man, I'm ready for this or that." And they'd rattle off all these extra things that they had done. And I'm like, " Yeah, but in your core function, you basically aced the extra credit, which is like the plus five on the top of the test for extra credit." She knows what I'm talking about. She was a plus five student. And then the actual test says C on it. You're like, " Great. So you moved your like 75% to an 80 through the extra credit. But you have to get an 95 on the test and then the 5% extra." I'm glad that stuck with you man.

Sheena Badani: Great analogy. The title of this episode is the DNA of a high impact leader. So I'm curious, is one born with amazing leadership skills or can it be taught or practice, learned?

Ryan Longfield: Now, what kind of situation would we be in if we were saying that this was a born thing? No way, that is antithetical to everything that Gong stands for and all three of us do in this podcast. Is such a great mechanism for people to up level their leadership. Now, I think we all would agree that this is something that you learn over time. I remember the first one- on- ones that I had as a leader. They were terrible. They were unstructured. They probably weren't that helpful. I always say that there's three elements that I look for when I'm hiring leaders. The first one is the heart. So you got to care. The second one is the competence. You can't just be a bleeding heart, but be terrible at your job. There's plenty. I've had those leaders in the past where you're like, " Man, I know you really care. You just don't have any ability to get me better because you suck." So you have to have care. You have to have competence is the first two. And then the third one I think is, the hardest one to find. But is that ability to push people harder than they would push themselves, but in a way that communicates your belief in them. Not that feels like you're trying to do it for you. That's the biggest thing. Leaders who come down on their teams and yell at them and all that crap. But it feels like they're doing it for them. You can sniff it out a hundred miles away. But if you have somebody who's like, " No, no, no, I see more in you. I'm calling that out. I'm elevating you. And you may hate me in the moment. I don't care at the end of a year, you're going to be so happy that I pushed you this hard." I think that inspirational thing on the end is really hard to come by. But I think all three of those, the care, the competence and the natural leader or the ability to acquire a leadership voice that can accomplish that last one. I think all of that stuff is learned including the care part. Oftentimes, people need to learn compassion and empathy. It just doesn't come as naturally as it does to some other people. And some people are naturally amazing coaches and teachers and other people have to learn that stuff. So all of this stuff is the ability to influence or get better at this stuff over time as present for sure.

Devin Reed: Jameson, our VP of sales did a great job of pushing me. There's the pushing and then the event, and then afterwards you either one or you lost. And remember being like, " I really didn't like it in the moment, but damn it if I'm not better for it." And so I'm curious, Ryan for you, maybe the answer's both, and that could be a quick answer, but you know when you're about to deliver that little speech or that time to time to show up monologue, if you will. Are you prefacing like, " Hey Sheena, what I'm going to ask of you is going to make you a little uncomfortable. You're going to be uncertain but..." Or are you just delivering it and seeing how folks react?

Ryan Longfield: I think there's different ways to go about it. And I think what you just did is a really good one. Like sometimes it's really helpful to brace people for what's about to come like, "Hey, I'm about to deliver a hard message, but I'm going to do it anyway, because I think you're are going to be better for it." So you like tell them up front. I think the main thing that you just have to get through in a number of different ways is truly that this is for them. I remember this one time at LinkedIn, I took this guy out for a walk because he had tons of talent and he'd play ate too much ping pong. It's like, amazing ping pong.

Sheena Badani: That's not what I was expecting. That's so funny.

Ryan Longfield: Amazing at ping Pong, but could apply his talents to his sales game and just wasn't. And I took him out for a walk. So this is what I'd say, actually Devin is, if you have high levels of trust, then you can come more direct and more hard quicker. If you have low levels of trust, you can't come nearly as direct and nearly as hard. This person I had invested in, I had huge levels of trust with. And so I said, " Hey man, I've noticed something and I want to just tell it to you straight. Is that cool?" So I did what you just said. And I said, " I think you're used to getting most things in life easily because you're natural talents have always allowed you to just get things without trying that hard." And I was like, " I think you're applying that playbook to your opportunity at LinkedIn. And I think you're suffering for it." And we had this long walk and it was one of those fun moments where the person like totally shifted. And I saw them starting to hustle more and going to club in the following years, getting promoted. The person got promoted five times and it was like one of the best versions of that. I think that you have to know what level of influence you're able to have on that person and operate accordingly. Because influence is a gift that people give you. It's not thing that you can just take for yourself. And so if you're going to go for somebody and you're going to try to influence them in that way, you better have that right that's been given to you and if it's going to go well. And if you don't, then you can earn it in the moment and you can couch it with other leadership tactics to make sure that you have the conversation that needs to be had, even though you don't have that. But I think you need to gauge that up front and then change your approach accordingly.

Sheena Badani: That's so amazing. Just the concept, like a leader really has that opportunity to transform and shift somebody's career. Like I'm sure that colleague, the person you're telling the story about, they probably still look back on that walk with you as a pivotal point in their career. That is amazing.

Ryan Longfield: I hope so. I hope so. That's the joy of leadership. I think anybody who's doing this for the right reasons, hopes that there's this wake that we leave behind us of people that are better off because we were leading them. And I think like you said, Sheena, the joy of leader is being able to inspire people to do more than they ever thought we could and to ultimately be better off because they're sitting under your leadership. That's amazing.

Devin Reed: Ryan, I'm going to take the leap of faith and say, you believe in revenue intelligence. That's not my question, but I am curious, how do you as a CRO use revenue intelligence? And that's not a Gong question. I don't want to know how you use Gong. But how has revenue intelligence, the concept of using data instead of opinions, how has that changed your leadership in the last couple years? Because you obviously believed in you wouldn't have joined, but I have to imagine from that belief in using Gong as a product user and then to today. Surely there's been a little bit of change. Maybe just a Little bit.

Ryan Longfield: I definitely believe in revenue intelligence. I definitely believe in using data and not getting rid of all opinions. But oftentimes, crafting a hypothesis through opinions by just making sure that you have the data to vet out the things that your gut is telling you. And I think for revenue intelligence specifically, I think that revenue intelligence is all about visibility. And it's about knowing specifically in a quantifiable and data driven way what's truly happening in your organization. So set another way, it's about seeing clearly. And if you're able to see clearly as a leader, then you're able to lead more effectively because you know the correct route to chart. I'll give you a specific example. If right now, some sales leader out there, not at Gong, somewhere else says, " Competition is the number one thing that I care about. This specific and competitor XYZ software is the one that we need to enable against more than anything else." Trains their entire team, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars and takes the thousand leaders out. And does this big training, et cetera. Now you kick in this area of beating the competition. Then you turn on Gong and you find out that actually the competition does come up in a lot of conversations, but when you correlate it to outcomes, it is actually beneficial to your outcomes. Meaning that it's a signal to buying, not threat to your deal and that you rarely lose deals. You would never ever know this because everybody's always talking about how much competition comes up to deals. But because you didn't have revenue intelligence, you can't correlate it to outcomes. And because as you can't correlate it to outcomes, you just spent hundreds of thousand dollars in the wrong place. And you took a whole bunch of time for your team to be spending, learning motions that they don't need. They maybe need it somewhere else. And so for leaders, if you're talking about charting a course to lead your team to be successful, and you're not seeing clearly, then you may be leading them, maybe not to the wrong place that might be dramatic, but that happens too. But to the least optimal place where you could be optimizing much more effectively. So yeah, seeing clearly is what revenue intelligence is all about. And, it is pretty damn important for us as leaders to see clearly.

Sheena Badani: You might take that flight with two layovers instead of the direct route. If you don't have revenue intelligence.

Ryan Longfield: Great one. Absolutely. You still might get there, but maybe it just took you two years longer than it could have and you zoomed over the place. Yeah, exactly.

Sheena Badani: So Ryan, we're getting to our favorite part of every episode, where we ask all of our guests the same question. So we are super excited for yours, which is, how would you describe sales in one word?

Ryan Longfield: Influence, easy.

Sheena Badani: Oh, that was quick.

Ryan Longfield: Influence. This is why I love sales. Sales is the art of human influence and it's art and science. And it's super difficult because it's a different person. It's a different business scenario. It's a different day. It's a different product in a lot of cases, it's a different market conditions. And so it's like this endlessly fascinating game of human influence where you're able to go in. And a good seller will be able to influence their buyer in a way that's beneficial for them and for the company that they're representing. And so sales is influence in a single word.

Devin Reed: Zero hesitation, maybe the fastest response we've had today. Because that's the funny part. Most people, " Oh, one word. Let me think." And they're pacing their office. I'm like, we're not publishing it in stone. You can change it tomorrow. It's just for today's entertainment purposes. But Ryan, really want to say, thank you. I truly appreciate your time, your expertise. And I know our listeners got a lot out of it as well. So want to thank you one last time. And of course, good luck to you and the sales team crosstalk.

Ryan Longfield: Thank you. Thank you, both.

Sheena Badani: Great to have you, Ryan. Every week we bring you a micro action. Something to think about or an action you can put into play today. Ryan spoke about looking for care competence and the ability to inspire when identifying future leaders. Truth be told, there are no hard and fast rules that define what a great leader is, but there are some ways to identify potential leaders in your organization. Here's a few ideas. Create leadership opportunities. These should target all employees, not just senior execs. Mentoring and coaching are effective and practical ways to give employees a taste of leadership. Evaluate work ethics. While personality defines the appeal of a leader, work ethics really define the prowes of a leader. Reliability, cooperation, productivity, and creativity are just some of the many attributes that you should look for. Next, look for those who ex sell at multitasking. Can they handle the extra tasks you've assigned or are they finding it difficult to complete? Fourth, observe communication skills. Look for a person who has the ability to explain complex ideas in a clear and concise manner. And finally, promote healthy competition with appropriate challenges. This can help to evaluate conviction, innovation, and the ability to collaborate in the course of their problem solving.

Devin Reed: Did you like today's episode? Subscribe now. So next week's episode we'll be waiting for you on Monday.

Sheena Badani: And if you really like the podcast, please leave a review. Five star reviews go a long way to help get the word out there.

Devin Reed: And if you're not ready to give a five, check out another episode and see if we've won you over by then.

Sheena Badani: And if you have any feedback or you want us to interview one of your favorite revenue leaders, just email us at reveal @ gong. io.


Want to provide vision, direction, and inspiration to your team? Ryan Longfield, Chief Revenue Officer at Gong, breaks down the critical role employee retention plays in sustainable long-term success. Learn how to manage your team’s emotional state (and hear the impact it has on performance). Consider this a crash course on how to level-up as a leader.