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Empathy in Sales

Selling Techniques May Attract Clients, but Listen and Respond with Empathy to Keep Them

The other day I had a potential client who came to see me about some issues he was having in sales.

One of the things I came to realize as we talked was that he thinks that when in sales he needs to be in charge and not sensitive to others. Don’t get me wrong, he was doing very well financially and used many effective selling techniques, BUT, if he wanted to achieve the goals he’s set for the next 15 years, I had to tell him he could never make it because he is selfish.

In sales you need to be selfless, care about others, about their goals, help them achieve the goals they are looking to achieve. That’s what’s called empathy. It may seem counter to what you’d think, but it’s nearly impossible to achieve any greatness unless you put others first. Maybe it sounds too “mushy,” but let’s face it, your customer is a person, with emotions, preconceptions and opinions, and to be successful, you need to recognize that and convey that understanding to them every time you meet.

So let’s talk about what empathy looks like, because it’s not very well understood, I am coming to realize. Basically, it’s identifying with others and caring about them, and it goes beyond the words you say.

Demonstrating genuine concern

People can smell a fake instantly, so as I always ask people to review the question “Are You For Real?!?” to make sure what you present is authentically YOU. As you sit down to talk with a potential client, put away the sales pitch, and pay attention to what they have to say FIRST. When you let someone else speak, you’ll learn so much more about how you can help them, hear their pain points and build trust.

And speaking of speaking, much of how you can show genuine concern for your customer is unspoken. Body language can make or break a conversation. Are your arms crossed every time they speak? Do your eyes wander? Do you lean forward to show you’re listening? Sales people should be selling themselves and their personal integrity as much as the product or service, and their body language will help to close deals if it’s done right. If a prospect reads your body language, and it isn’t backing up your words, nothing you say will sway them to purchase.

Respecting and valuing people

We’re all different, and when you get to know your customers, you’re bound to encounter perspectives that seem completely foreign to you. Respect these differences, and use empathetic listening to keep your relationship positive even if you find yourself on opposite sides of an issue. While social media does a great job at pointing out differences, use the sales process to understand how you can find common experiences instead, and build rapport as a result.

Expending considerable effort to understand the real needs, concerns and feelings of others

Sales professionals are taught well to understand their product or service, but truly one size doesn’t fit all. Active listening also means you are hearing what’s in between the lines, catching those needs that are behind your customer’s complaints, and also for those things that they really aren’t interested in. This ultimately saves you both time - a lot of time - and when you respect their needs, your customer comes to respect and trust you. I will also add that if you don’t have something they need, there is no threat in finding a resource that does. People appreciate humility like that, and will not forget it when it comes to something they need that you DO have.

Also, on the subject of respecting time, I noted that my client was late for our meeting, which prompted me to ask if he was also late to his clients’ meetings. I asked him to consider what message that sent to them if he was always late. Nothing good, I assure you. For me there is nothing more disrespectful.

When I worked at Motorola, my manager had a saying, “If you are ten minutes early for a meeting you are late.” She went on further to explain that when sales reps show up early and are announced, they not only make a good impression that of being an on-time person, you also give that prospect time to finish up their business and talk with the sales person with a clear mind.

Similar to the goals for excellent customer service your goals in providing empathetic service creates loyal customers who will think of you first and always when they have a question or need to buy. The focus is no longer on you or your sales, but on the customer, which makes them inherently more interested in meeting with you. This “soft skill” goes further and creates stronger business relationships than any sales techniques.