Introduction to Empathy in Sales
The profession of sales requires a greater level of people skills than any other profession. Incredible amounts of social finesse are required in every step of the sales process. For example, you need empathy in sales when you’re asking for an initial appointment. Or, when you’re gaining trust and rapport. Empathy in sales is required even for closing the sale. At each stage, you need to be highly sensitive to your prospects’ thoughts and feelings. As a result, this will dictate what to say and do next without sabotaging the sale. One of the keys to your selling success will be your ability to empathise.
Empathy is your ability to understand and share emotions with another person. Empathising with your prospects and clients means understanding their unique perspective and situation, and this understanding will create a roadmap for appropriate next steps in the sales process. By improving your skill in this area, you will better understand your prospects’ buying motives, hot buttons, and objections. You will also develop greater trust and rapport, credibility, and ultimately – more sales!
Empathy in Sales Application
Empathising doesn’t require that you walk in your prospects’ shoes (in spite of popular opinion!). There are three primary elements to empathise effectively:
1. Nurture a genuine interest
This mindset under-girds every other aspect of sales, and does not exclude empathy. Having a genuine interest in your prospects includes wanting to achieve what’s in their best interest and thinking win-win. Remember, a sale does not occur until the value you bring far outweighs the cost! In the absence of genuine care and interest, people will see through any persuasive techniques you might attempt using on them, so holding their best interests at heart is in your best interests!
2. Ask quality questions
The other facet of genuine interest is more literal, involving being curious and inquisitive about your prospects’ situation. You will ask numerous consultative questions, being sensitive in crafting your words so it does not sound like an interrogation. You will enquire about their Situation, Problems, Implications, and Need payoff1. With the prospect’s answers, you start forming a mental picture about their situation and how your product can synergise and add value to their business. Your sincerity will be easily detected by your prospects through your tone, body language, and choice of words. While it certainly helps to brush up in these areas through reading books and attending seminars on respective subjects, building this inner quality will make much of the advice automatic in your behaviour.
3. Listen completely
Don’t you just hate it when people ask you a question, let you speak for 3 seconds, and then change subject? Nothing communicates self-interest louder (or ruder)! Contrary to popular beliefs about salespeople, the most successful ones are more skillful in listening than talking. As an empathetic salesperson, you don’t interrupt the prospect when they answer your questions. You listen intently. In addition, you are leaning forward and narrowing your eyes (communicating careful thought about their responses). You nod and “hmm” occasionally. And, you demonstrate active listening by asking “So what you’re saying is, your company is losing money through this inefficiency?” The result of listening completely is that you are now armed with everything you need to build a solid business case for implementing your product. You understand their pain points. Also, you demonstrate the cost of status quo, and the value your product will bring.
Now grab a pen and paper and answer the following questions:
Are you genuinely interested in providing a positive outcome with your prospect? Explain why or why not.
How can you improve the quality of your questions?
What can you do to listen more completely to your prospects?
Empathy in Sales Conclusion
Empathising with your prospects comes with many rewards. As a result, you will follow the universal principle that we must first give before receiving. Only when you demonstrate a genuine interest, ask quality questions. Listen completely so will you earn the trust and business from your prospects. Put it into practice immediately and see your sales rise!
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1 For more information about consultative questioning, I highly recommend you purchase a copy of SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. The book provides a comprehensive structure for the questioning process, and bases all of its recommendations on empirical research.