In sales situations, you, your prospects, and your clients are interdependent. When you realize you are dependent on your sales relationships to succeed, then you become motivated to understand what they are feeling and vice versa.
Being aware of your client’s challenges is not always easy, so you might turn away from it — especially if you think you do not have the time or capacity to deal with them. But it is during difficult times that people really need someone to be there — it is not about saying the right thing, but rather about being authentic, listening, and understanding.
In the modern world of sales, where collaboration is extremely important, empathy in business is the key to you being credible and differentiated. Empathy can be learned, and you can start by practicing how you behave in your relationships with others.
Real empathy is the ability to listen fully so you can come to understand why someone is thinking, feeling, and acting in a certain way. You understand without judgment what triggered someone’s reaction or what prompted them to make a decision. When you seek to understand the person at this level, they feel heard and valued. They feel as if their opinions are validated, even if you disagree with them.
Empathy is one of the most critical communication skills you can develop. You come to understand people at deeper levels. From this place of trust, people will be more open to learning and growing with you.
How do we create empathy?
- Empathy in business is both a trait and a skill. Most people have the fundamental capacity to be empathic. But all of us can work at being more empathetic.
- You can practice by creating empathy maps with your team about your key relationships and brainstorm what you believe they might say, think, do, and feel.
- Read your contacts’ body language and utilize reflective or active listening to understand the person, rather than preparing to respond while they are talking.
- During conversations, focus your full attention and time on listening so the person feels understood.
- Show empathy, but don’t stop there. Once you understand your client or prospect’s perspective, think about the next best course of action.
Many empathic processes are automatic, but they can also be activated in situations when you have an incentive to be deliberately empathic — for example, when you are trying to collaborate with a client and share your point of view or thought leadership, or even simply when you are trying to read the client’s mood.
Being empathetic does not mean being cynical. In the book “The War for Kindness”, Professor Jamil Zaki talks about research to answer the following question: Are women more empathetic than men? In one set of studies, men and women viewed videos of people telling emotional stories and then guessed how the speakers felt. Men performed more poorly than women. But if the viewers were told they would be paid for accurately understanding speakers, this eliminated the empathetic gender gap. So empathetic nudges can be simple, and incentives come in many forms.
Lastly, how can we be empathetic when we interact through emails, voicemails, and Zoom sessions? Our digital world has not made things easy. Technology has a tendency to dehumanize our interactions and has, to some extent, contributed to the polarized world we live in. But the required focus on listening, understanding, and feeling other’s point of views remains core.
The key to high performance in sales lies in collaboration with buyers. Leveraging empathy in business to understand the buyer’s point of view will deliver a comprehensive, mutually successful strategy. In your next conversation, read body language and utilize active listening to understand rather than preparing what you will say next. Focus your full attention on them so the person feels understood.