Empathy is an emotional intelligence skill. Put simply, empathy is the ability to “walk a mile” in someone else’s shoes. It requires paying sharp attention to know what another person thinks or feels. An enormous influence skill, empathy is not often covered in sales books or sales training courses.
Why? Because the word just sounds too touchy-feely and soft. Top sales producers, however, understand the importance of empathy no matter what it might “sound like.” They incorporate empathy into their daily interactions with clients and prospects.
Here are two reasons that top sales people win more by using empathy:
#1: Validation. Let’s say a salesperson is selling recruiting services, and meets with a potential buyer. She has done a good job of building rapport and trust. As a result, the prospect opens up, shares goals and challenges such as, “I am having a difficult time finding good people.” The salesperson hears a buying signal and does a good job of not offering an immediate solution. She continues to probe, asking further questions about the hiring problem. Sounds like a good sales call, right? Wrong. This salesperson missed an important cue from the buyer. The prospect doesn’t want to be asked more questions—he wants more empathy!
Being empathetic is as simple as acknowledging you’ve heard the prospect. “You know, you’re not the only one having difficulty finding talent. Hiring good people is one of the more difficult and frustrating aspects of running a business…you’re not alone.”
#2: Objection handling. The empathetic salesperson knows the power of bringing up potential problems before the prospect does. Empathetic salespeople are good at seeing the world from the prospects point of view.
For example, a prospect knows that her current vendor is average, however, the fear of change and the unknown lingers in the back of her mind. The empathetic salesperson knows what the customer is thinking and brings up the fear of change. “Joan, if I were sitting on your side of the table, my biggest worry would be the perceived hassle of change….is it going to be worth it? Should we talk further about that?” Empathy demonstrates expertise without product dumping because you show the prospect that you get her, her business and her concerns.
Empathy elevates trust, exposes potential elephants and increases close ratios. Soft skills do produce hard sales results.
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