Why Salespeople Fail at Empathy

Denver-Based Sales Leadership Development Available Nationwide

Posted: February 1, 2018

Sales organizations understand the power of empathy and more sales managers are teaching this powerful EQ skill. They are well-intentioned, but often miss the mark. In an effort to help salespeople make an emotional connection with prospects, they teach validation/paraphrasing skills, not empathy skills. 

Note: Validation/paraphrasing isn’t empathy; it’s active listening. 

For example, a prospect says, “We are really frustrated with slow response time from our current vendor.” The salesperson hears the opportunity for empathy and says, “That must be frustrating. So, if I’m hearing you correctly, you’re tired of your current supplier not returning calls and emails quickly enough.” It’s a nice try, but this salesperson missed the opportunity to emotionally connect with the prospect.  Empathy is the ability to demonstrate that you know what your prospect is thinking or feeling.

And, if you really understood the prospect’s frustration, you would do a better job of describing the thoughts and emotions around it!

Step out of your sales shoes and into the shoes of your prospect. Slow down and think, really think, about what’s going through his head. Is he frustrated with the slow response time because it feels like he was a victim of bait-and-switch selling? (The prospect signed the contract and the salesperson moved on, failing to deliver on any of her wonderful promises.) Or is the prospect frustrated about slow response time because he’s forced to spend too much time seeking answers, which takes him away from growing his business.   

Once you’ve tuned into the prospect’s thoughts and emotions, simply state them. “Mr. Prospect, if I were sitting in your seat, I’d be feeling like the subject of a bait and switch. You received a lot of promises with few deliverables. And you are probably wondering if my company is going to any different.”  That’s empathy.

When a prospect shares a problem, don’t try to sell or solve the problem.  First, demonstrate that you “get” your prospect’s world. Apply empathy and step into your prospect’s brain, heart and shoes. Talk like a real person.  The result will be real conversations and real sales results. 

Good Selling!

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