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The Role of Empathy in Sales

It has been a tumultuous year for most of us, and even though we have a vaccine now, it may take a while before we see some level of normalcy. Since I am not a medical professional and cannot predict what and how things will unfold, the best I can do is hope for an ounce of luminosity.

Before we delve into the blog, let me tell you that I am a salesperson at heart, and salespersons are always optimistic and focused on the positive. Post-pandemic, business travel is highly curtailed, and the business environment has become volatile. Additionally, clients, as well as employees, are fighting through the internal challenges of WFH.

So, how do salespersons bring value to the workplace, clients, and those around them, especially in these trying times? How does sales play a role in shifting focus on the silver lining? In my opinion, it depends on how we look at the sales process. A sale is not merely selling goods and services to trusting people. It also is not about how you sell sand to someone living in the desert. Sales is all about empathy.

The ABC of Elevated Selling

Align your values

What I mean by aligning values is matching the frequency of your client or prospect- respecting them, caring for them, and delivering excellence to them. Sales should lead with empathy; competency, experience, and everything else comes next. I will elaborate on the why part in my podcast.

So, how does empathy, help in sales? Why must we always keep it at the front and center of our sales process?

Allow me to explain with our selling-sand-to-someone-living-in-the-desert example. If you are asked to sell sand to someone in the desert, you should first find out if it would actually help the prospect. (Pardon my sales jargon, but the prospect, in this case, would be the potential buyer of the desert sand). And how would you know if it will help the prospect? By empathizing with them, essentially means understanding their situation.

Bring in the right approach

Having the right attitude is important, but it is also necessary to know how to channelize it and chalk up a strategy to make that selling “customer approved”!

Let me continue with my desert example. So, maybe they want to build a shelter to keep the heat away. Now that you understand their needs, you need to find out what will help them achieve their goal. Perhaps you can come up with a concoction by mixing some ingredients in a particular kind of sand, making it stand on the soft ground. You could prepare this sand mixture and then sell it as a solution to the prospect. This is known as the solution set approach. This is also something for which I will need a good old podcast to explain in detail.

Another possibility is that you do not have the means to provide these services to the prospect. What you can do then is find a company/people who can help the prospect. This is called the partner-driven solution approach.

A third possibility is you can provide manpower (resources) to the customer to solve their problem. This is the extended team(staffing) model.

Lastly, if you aren’t able to provide help, it is better to walk out by appraising the prospect of everything you tried to do. How will that help you? The prospect will realize that you attempted to understand them and address their needs, instead of “selling” them what you wanted. Believe me, in the long run, you will make a reputation for yourself and in turn retain your customers.

An added benefit of course is that now you understand a bit more of the process. You have gained experience and perhaps another opportunity in the future from the prospect.

Command the situation

Circling back to where we started, the pandemic has all of us sailing in the same boat. Now, more than ever, I would suggest you channelize your empathy. It is wise to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, see what they are seeing or struggling against, and how to alleviate or help them in their endeavor.

So, you have learned to empathize with your clients, understood what approach to take in most situations, and now it all boils down to you playing the role of commander on your ship. Use all the knowledge you gained so far and apply it in all the right places to steer your clients or prospects towards complete satisfaction. Us sales folks have a job that entails speaking with a number of people who know their business. Each one of them is trying to find out ways to not only survive but also thrive in the market.

So, when the salesperson puts empathy at his core, he will try to understand what the client or prospect is doing. This gives him a clearer picture by combining the learnings from different clients. This does not mean sharing sensitive information with others, but instead using that to broaden your perspective.

Plus, with empathy at the core, solving the customer’s issue is job satisfaction in itself, and the best part- it actually sells by itself.

In my next blog, I will go into a bit more detail on the role of a salesperson, especially in a pandemic. It would also include how we should play a role in the organization, marketplace and how that same learning can also be used in our everyday personal lives.

The salesperson in me would not allow me to end my blog without asking you to take a look at our services. Also, feel free to reach out to us with any queries, and stay tuned for my next blog.

P.S. I read a lot also several authors and mentors have influenced my thought process. I thank all of them.

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