The Short Path To Success – What’s The Difference?
Empathy in sales keeps showing itself to be one of the most important bricks in the short road to success for me . It happened again just last week: There I was again, meeting with a brand new prospect for the very first time. About 30 minutes in he said to me:
“You know, I bet I’ve talked to fifty of you guys this year and until now I have never been convinced that I needed to do anything about this. I don’t know how you did it, but we definitely can see this is something we need.”
I’ve been reflecting on what my customer told me and how our mutual success played out; here’s what I think made all the difference:
Empathy in Sales Means No More Business As Usual
I can’t tell you how many prospects I run into who are totally put off by sales people, and I quote:
“All the guy did was start puking about his products. I don’t have time for that.”
“She has no idea what we do or why we do it. How can she possibly know what we need?”
“Nice guy, but not a salesperson. I don’t think he asked me a single question!”
“I told them everything they needed to know, and they still didn’t listen.”
Is this really happening to them? Who knows, but often perception is reality in complex sales environments and what they feel is real enough that it impacts their attitudes and their decision making (that’s real enough for me.) What’s that tell you?: There should be no such thing as business as usual in sales any more – it just doesn’t plain work. The old smile and a handshake and then prattling on and on about what we do and how robust it is is exactly why prospects hate getting calls from sales people, and who could blame them. Do you get excited over dull, half-baked, business-as-usual sales jabbering?
Speaking WITH Prospects, Not AT Them
The aforementioned prospect went on to tell me:
“I get sales calls all the time from you guys and I always say no, but something you said on the phone made perfect sense to me and I’m really glad we did this.”
To earn a prospect’s respect, their time and consideration, it really helps when we employ some empathy in sales. We need to speak with them, not at them. Speaking at them creates a barrier. It alienates them and reduces our chances of making a meaningful connection. How do we speak with prospects instead of at them? A little empathy makes all the difference.
Empathy Opens Doors To Greater Connections
The word “empathy” is a translation from the German: “Einfühlungsvermögen.” In 1909, empathy became part of the english language. There are many definitions, but my favorite is:
Empathy - [em-puh-thee] noun: ”The capacity to (a) be affected by and share the emotional state of another, (b) assess the reasons for the other’s state, and (c) identify with the other, adopting his or her perspective. source: Wikipedia
My customers have confirmed the importance of empathy in sales. This is what they’ve said:
“You listened to what we wanted, and you provided it in spades.”
“You asked what goes on here and you waited until you understood before suggesting anything.”
“We trust you because you clearly know your stuff and we know you are going to do right by us.”
“I think you know more about what we do than I do. You’ve really given me something to think about here.”
Empathy opens doors because we all want to be understood. We all want to know that our perspective is clear and is appreciated. We all want to know that if we’re plunking down a big wad of hard earned cash, that it’s truly going toward what we really want, not someone else’s pipedream. Partnering with a prospect on a solution of any kind is dramatically improved when we can demonstrate that we see things from their point of view with understanding and empathy.
Get Over Yourself – Get There Faster
A lack of empathy in sales can result in a lot more work and a lot more lost business than anyone deserves. Example: A customer made a significant purchase, based on our discovery conversation and the recommendation I built around it. Then a manager got involved and suggested a hot new item that essentially doubled his spend. In all the excitement, the customer agreed. The manager did a fine job “selling” the services and the customer signed the up-sell contract. The problem was that the client was now over-extended, wreaking all sorts of havoc with his budget and with our finance department. Eventually after a lot more work and vexation for me and for the customer, we went back to the original transaction to salvage a balance again. How did this happen?: The manager had his eye on selling something based on the companies goals rather than on the customer’s situation.
We all have quotas and we all want to win, but I find my job gets much easier when I take the high road and employ more empathy in sales. It’s faster and more lucrative in the long term when we get out of ourselves, orient our efforts toward our customer’s best interests; making it our business to know what our customer is going through, what will truly help them be successful, not just for our own good, but for our companies.