Empathy is a uniquely human emotion that allows people to look at an experience from another person’s point of view and consider how he or she might feel about it. Although it might seem out of place in a sales environment, it’s more important than ever.
Consider that today’s consumer has researched a product or service long before he or she approaches a salesperson to discuss it. Since they already know the benefits, they don’t need a salesperson to list them again. What they do need is someone who will understand their specific need and provide personalized guidance on how the product or service will help to meet it.
Research the Customer in Advance
It’s impossible for sales professionals to have empathy for a prospective customer when he or she knows nothing about them. Fortunately, the Internet makes it easy to at least get some inkling about a person by viewing his or her LinkedIn profile and other social media files. Of course, the prospect may have no social media presence at all but this is rare.
The LinkedIn profile can give a better snapshot of the person’s current position, skills, and potential challenges while social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can provide clues on what he or she likes outside of work. This can be a point of connection as well as an opportunity to display empathy.
Lead the Transaction with Empathy Instead of Listing Benefits
All people view the world through the lens of their own experience, which means that developing empathy takes time and practice. For sales professionals, it means putting their own thoughts and biases aside and figuratively stepping into the mind and shoes of their potential customer.
For example, a salesperson selling a new software solution might show that he or she understands the frustration the prospect deals with using outdated software. Validating this frustration before moving on with the sales presentation is key to earning the attention and trust of the other party.
Keep Empathy Going throughout the Sales Encounter
Beginning the meeting on an empathetic note and then moving right into a hard sales pitch is likely to come off as insincere to the prospect. Salespeople should continue to show empathy at each stage of the presentation, including the process that the prospective customer must go through to gain approval for the purchase from management. Salespeople should also ask for feedback on whether there is anything else they can do to make the entire process easier for the customer.
Sales Managers Need Empathy Too
Once a salesperson becomes a manager, he or she often forgets what it’s like to work in the trenches. After all, sales managers are busy with other things such as managing budgets, setting goals for their team, and attending meetings. This can cause them to come across as busy and uninterested in the challenges their sales teams face every day.
Great leaders, on the other hand, actively engage with their teams by seeking to understand their frustrations, ambitions, and goals. They invest in them personally and professionally, whether it’s a formal one-on-one meeting or just a quick kind word.
Everyone involved in sales can benefit from displaying empathy. Far from making them weak, it often turns them into better performers.