Sales is all about human interaction and the building of relationships. Too often, sales people just follow their natural instinct and believe that sales is about convincing the buyer how great their product or service is.
One of the most significant barriers to becoming a successful sales person is focusing more on yourself as a sales person, than the prospect in front of you. In every sales opportunity, the only person who has the power to make any purchasing decision is the buyer. Therefore, all focus must be focused on gaining an understanding of them and how they view or feel about the need of the product or service.
I have found that empathy is the most crucial building block I have used in my sales process; however it is often one of the most misunderstood words around. Many people get confused between sympathy and empathy. In my simple way, I define them as follows;
- Sympathy is looking at an emotional issue through your eyes.
- Empathy is looking at and understanding an emotional issue through the eyes of the person experiencing it.
To earn a prospects respect, time and attention, sales people need to understand the problem and look at it from the prospect's perspective. Approaching the situation in this way is how we get to understand why it's important to them. We need to stop talking at them and put yourself in the position alongside them.
How do we apply empathy to a sales meeting?
Let’s start by breaking empathy down into some key areas. Then at how to apply these to build better relationships with the prospects and buyers we come into contact with.
The three key components of empathy I would like to look at are;
In order to practise curiosity, we need to start with the mindset that we know nothing about the person or challenges they are facing. This will mean that that we do away with that old problem in sales, assumption.
By asking open-ended questions and exploring the emotional words in the response, we journey down the road of discovery. I like to equate the word curiosity with children. I remember my kids, when they were young, asking continuous questions until they received the answer that made them happy. This is a skill that every one of us had when we were children, but life just seems to often override it. If we are to improve our sales skills, then it's time to recall some of those wonderful skills we were so good at as kids.
The first point I would like to make here is that listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing is about the sounds and words you hear. Whereas listening requires focus and the ability to understand what the person speaking to you is saying. Listening is not only taking in the words the person uses, but also picking up the tone and pace of voice and how the other person’s body language changes. This is the only way we can determine what emotional impact the message they are giving you has on them. In sales, one of the most important things to listen out for are all the emotional words. These are the key for asking those really penetrating questions that help you delve under the surface.
Building an Emotional Connection
The decision to buy something, no matter what it is, is predominantly an emotional one. It's vital for sales people to build this emotional connection with their prospect. We started by saying that sales was about human interaction and building relationships, so it's vital that we focus on understanding the emotional connection the prospect has with the challenges they are trying to solve. Relationships are built upon emotions and rely on us taking a true and personal interest in the prospect. It means really getting to understand their situation from their point of view. They need to feel that we are very much on their side and are focused on helping them solve any problems they have in a way that brings the solution they are looking for, not the solution that we think is best.
If you want to make a dramatic improvement in your sales performance, then practising your empathy skills is vital. Not only will you improve your results, you will build deeper and longer term relationships with your customers.
If you want to reduce the amount of closing techniques and effort you are putting into your sales meetings, then practice your empathy up front in the meetings and the need to use harder closing techniques will decrease dramatically.