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June 15, 2012

The Importance of Empathy in Business.

The heart of selling and living with soul.

The 2012 Miller Heiman Sales Best Practices survey (ASTD, June 2012, p.46) identified “three distinct pictures” of what “world class sales organizations are doing more often than others.” The first was “understanding your customers.”

When you have an appointment with a customer, you have an opportunity to listen, understand and share. Empathy, feeling someone else’s feelings, is like a silver cord that ties the two of you together. It is based on trust and respect and putting your own interests after the goal of understanding the other person.

The oldest way that human beings have connected with each other is through the power of story. Whether it was around the campfire or painted on walls, stories shared something of ourselves and encouraged others to share as well. When we are willing to honestly reveal an experience or a lesson where we learned and grew, we make it safe for our customer to also show their human self.

Mike Bosworth, author of Solution Selling and Customer-Centric Selling, calls this “’the mojo,’ the ability to forge real emotional connections with customers.”

People buy from people they trust and respect, and who empower them to solve their own problems and achieve their goals. As salespeople, we provide products and services that do not become “solutions” until the customer actually uses them.  So the importance of understanding the customer is paramount and that takes time, patience, and good questions.

A good question shows you have done your homework and given some thought ahead of time to what is likely to concern this person. If they are in finance, what are the measures they hope to achieve around revenue and profit before tax? If they are in operations, where are they looking for greater efficiency right now? If they are manufacturers, what is the obstacle they must overcome to meet their production goals?

In my book, Selling with Soul, I discuss empathy as one of the two essential qualities of a successful salesperson. Integrity is the other. The only way to build the human connection with your customer is to be vulnerable, to share your own stories, and most importantly, to listen to the stories your customers share, putting yourself in their shoes and allowing yourself to feel what they are feeling.

That is the heart of selling and living with soul.

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Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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