Empathy: An Endangered Sales Skill
What is empathy? How important is it to you in selling? While experts in psychology and social services are still trying to come up with a definitive definition of empathy, ALL agree that empathy is the ability to exhibit interpersonal sensitivity about another's concerns and understand another person's perspective. Clearly these two abilities are absolutely essential in sales success. But it seems empathy is in trouble. Research at the University of Michigan showed that college students today are 48% lower in empathetic concern and 34% lower in perspective taking and while the decline has been going on for 20 years, there has been a rapid and dramatic decline since 2000 - in the last 10 years. Reasons the experts sight are technology (video games, social media ...) and hyper competition which takes the focus from connecting and relating to others.
So what does this decline in empathy mean to today's salesforce?
A decline in salespeople's ability to be empathetic to customers, i.e. show they are interested in the customer's concerns and see things from customers' perspectives, creates a serious gap in a salesperson's ability to build relationships - the #1 reason why customers by from a particular salesperson.
So check out your Empathy Quotient by taking this short Empathy Inventory. Jot down your responses and then check your score.
What exactly would you say to a customer who says:
1. Our team was impressed with Bob's presentation and I appreciate how much you put into preparing him. We're every eager to get going. When can we get started?
2. You missed our deadline and it made me look bad. When will the order be shipped?
3. Jane's leaving couldn't come at a worse time. It's left me in a lurch. What kind of resources can you offer to help us get over this hump? And what will it cost?
4. I have to cancel our meeting. I got a call from my daughter's school. She may have to have broken her arm. Let's get out our calendars and set another date.
5. I was really counting on this. I thought we could move ahead on the project for this quarter. But we have to put it off until the 3rd quarter.
6. I'm ready to move ahead. But for internal reasons, I feel compelled to pass this by our CTO.
Now assess your response and give yourself empathy points for each statement if you:
1. Before discussing when you will get started, did you tell your customer how happy you are the presentation went well (5 points), reinforce you too are eager to begin and thank him/her for the compliment. (5 points)
2. Before you addressed the missed deadline and what you will do ASAP, did you apologize (even if again) for the delay (5 points) and acknowledge your concern about the position this has put the customer in (5 points)? Also if this were a major problem, did you think of a way to compensate the customer? (5 points
3. Before you answered the questions, did you express concern about the customer's disappointment (5 points) and as appropriate did you ask what kind of support would be most valuable (5 points)?
4. Before taking out your calendar, did you express concern about the customer's daughter (5 points)? Maybe even suggest you'd call to set the meeting and not take time now (5 points).
5. Before finding out more about the delay and what options exist to get this back on track, did you express concern about the customer's disappointment? (10 points)
6. How endangered is this sale? Your customer may be facing internal obstacles. Before you probed the customer's need to check internally, did you reinforce and express appreciation that he or she is ready to move ahead (10 points)?
Your score: _____
Interpret Your Score
90-100+ - Empathy Master
80-70 - Empathy Student
60-0 - Empathy Novice
Of course, empathy has to be genuine and not saccharine BUT a high Empathy Quotient will give you an edge in building bonds with your customers and reaching your business and personal goals.