A Little Empathy in Sales can Go a Long Way

BY Jessica Helinski
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From Alexa to self-​driving vehicles, technology advances are impacting many industries. But, should sales reps be afraid of being replaced? Not necessarily, writes David J.P. Fisher in a recent HubSpot post. Humans still have one major advantage over machines: The ability to feel and express empathy. “This is a key ability for the modern seller,” he explains. “Develop empathy and you'll enjoy more effective sales conversations. More importantly, you'll build a skill set that’s in demand and hard to replace with technology.” Empathy in sales is a much sought after talent that few sales reps are true masters of.

Empathy in Sales

Empathy is the ability to understand what another person is feeling and respond appropriately. If you feel as if this skill does not come naturally to you, it would be greatly beneficial for you to start working on it. Fisher points out that sales have always been about the connection between people. That desire to create a relationship drives the very foundations of selling (building trust, uncovering needs, collaborating) .

If you think you may not be very empathetic, don’t worry.  Empathy is not a fixed trait. As Fisher explains, “much of your empathy is developed as you mature, but it's a muscle that can be exercised and improved.” You can actively work on building your ability to pick up on others’ emotional cues and interpret them. And, it’s not difficult; no trainings or workshops needed. In fact, Fisher explains that your daily sales activities provide the perfect opportunity to work on your empathy-​building.  He shares five “exercises” that you likely do every day that you can focus on to develop empathy in sales, two of which are below:

Pay full attention to answers.

With your mind on your own agenda, it’s easy to miss cues from others. Make it a habit to listen fully and completely to prospects, making eye contact and looking for telling body language. Listen to the tone and cadence of their speaking and digest the answers before responding. As Fisher points out, “In sales conversations, it’s way too easy to get wrapped up in what you want to say.” Oh, and one more thing: Put down the phone!

Make yourself engage face-to-face.

Sure, it’s easier and more comfortable to communicate by phone or digitally. But it’s not making you any better of a sales rep. Break free from your comfort zone and engage face-​to-​face with others, especially prospects, as often as possible. Seeing someone, and his or her reactions, in front of you can do wonders for your ability to empathize with others. You’ll see how your words affect someone, and you’ll find how much more in-​person interactions impact you than those done behind a screen.

Once you are able to connect emotionally with others, you’ll understand them that much more. You’ll be able to create that deep connection that is necessary for any great relationship and uncover their true needs and wants. And, as Fisher writes, “Once you can understand those emotional motivations, you'll be able to sell more effectively and efficiently.”