6 Ways to Effectively Use Empathy in Sales
People who’ve never worked in sales tend to misunderstand what it takes to be successful. Many assume that it’s extroversion, or a way with words, that separates great salespeople from everybody else. But there are all sorts of personalities among top performers, from the brash and talkative, to the quiet and introverted. To put it simply, there isn’t one personality type above all others that can predict whether someone will thrive in sales.
There is, however, something that can help people succeed in sales no matter what their other traits are: empathy. Empathy is a powerful tool, especially now that a global pandemic has thrown most people’s lives into turmoil. Empathy allows you to build a level of trust that’s difficult to reach with pure personality or superficial banter, and it sets you apart from your competitors in a way that goes beyond better pricing or superior features.
But how does one effectively use empathy in sales? We’ve put together six tips that can help you incorporate empathy into every sales conversation. If this list feels like too much, try just a few, and you’re likely to see an immediate improvement in the depth of your rapport.
1. Slow down and listen. Then listen some more.
We have a million things to do, we drink a ton of caffeine, and we tend to talk fast, filled with energy and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, this can be the antithesis of what it takes to show empathy. Instead, slow down and show that you care about what the prospect is saying. Listen in order to understand, not just to hear. Take notes if you need to. Become the type of person that others describe as an excellent listener, and you’re halfway to displaying true empathy.
2. Ask the prospect for their thoughts and feelings
If you want to know something, the best way to find out is to ask. In order to find out how the prospect is feeling or what they might be thinking, you should ask: “What are your thoughts about this?” or “How are you feeling about what we’ve discussed?” You might catch some of them off guard, but you’re likely to be surprised by how forthcoming most people are when they’re given space to be honest.
3. Accept the prospect’s interpretation
We tend to project our own thoughts and feelings onto others, especially since it’s our job to convince others that our point of view is correct. Empathy, however, requires you to see things from the prospect’s point of view. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them if they say your product is overpriced or doesn’t provide enough value, but it does mean you need to acknowledge their perspective and work from it. This can be one of the trickiest aspects of an empathetic conversation, but those who can manage it effectively are sales masters.
4. Think before you respond
It’s okay to be quick on your feet, but sometimes the first thought that pops into your head isn’t the most empathetic one. Take some time to digest what the prospect has said or asked, and try to think of how your response is likely to be interpreted through the lens of your conversation. Don’t be afraid to lose the prospect’s interest, because if they choose not to work with someone who’d rather contemplate the best response, they probably weren’t going to buy from you anyway.
5. Imagine yourself in the prospect’s shoes
This is where true empathy is built. Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, especially if it’s someone you disagree with? If so, then you’ll be able to see things from their perspective and communicate your message more effectively, tailoring it to their position and experience. Most of us get hung up in our own world and can’t disregard what we want long enough to see the other person’s view. But once you make this mental shift and train yourself to do it in every conversation, you’re likely to see your business relationships deepen, and your close rate go up.
6. Make the decision together
Masters of empathy are also masters of healthy relationships, and there’s no better example of a great relationship than a salesperson and a prospect making a decision together. If there’s enough empathy (and therefore enough trust), the prospect will actually want your opinion and will allow you to help them with their decision, rather than use you simply as a source of information. Of course, true empathy requires you to be honest about whether the decision was in the prospect’s best interests or not. Can you handle that? If so, then you might already know a thing or two about empathy.
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