The Importance of Empathy in Business.

Via Sharon Parker
on Jun 14, 2012
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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.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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About Sharon Parker

Sharon Parker successfully sold high-tech products and services for 25 years. Her book, Selling with Soul: Achieving Career Success without Sacrificing Personal and Spiritual Growth, was re-released as a second edition with new content and updated material in January 2012. The book counters the negative notions of selling and explains how selling is an honorable profession that creates value for us all when it is done with empathy for the customer and a firm commitment to integrity. She donates all the profits from the book to educational scholarships for women and minority students. / As Founder and Principle Consultant of Sparker, The Coaching Company, she provides training for sales people and sales managers using the CustomerCentric Selling® methodology. As a licensed facilitator with Corporate Coach U, she teaches coaching clinics to front-line managers and team leaders and offers individual and small group coaching to help people achieve their personal best. For more information, contact [email protected] or visit the website:


7 Responses to “The Importance of Empathy in Business.”

  1. Michael Hess says:

    Dead on. companies make customer service way more complicated than it needs to be, ignoring the fact that it boils down to simple human interaction. I recently wrote an article on empathy in business:


    And amazingly, got e-mails from "corporate types" who told me it is much more complicated than that. No, actually it's not. The logistics may be complicated for some businesses. but the application of empathy and humanity should be natural — if it isn't you've either hired the wrong people, created the wrong culture, or ser the wrong standards and priorities. Great commentary.

  2. Charlotte says:

    I agree whole-heartedly. I have achieved a good deal on success in my career so far and I do believe a lot of it has come from the skill of empathy. Also within my life.. my life would not be quite so rich without the understanding of the importance of intense human interaction.

  3. yaurie11 says:

    Each customer is a new relationship, no matter how small, that relationship truly matters to each person and proves whether your company is going to be a success! Thank you for a good read

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