The late Fred Rogers taught a generation of parents how to better connect with their children. His popular series changed the way parents thought about approaching and talking with kids. Mr. Rogers was known for his ability to demonstrate a deep understanding of a child’s feelings in order to make them feel valued and respected.
Today we call that “empathy” and it is a key skill in sales management. That’s because sales leaders aren’t managing sellers, they’re managing human beings. And at the core of every human being is the deep desire to be understood.
Great sales managers understand the power of empathy. But pressure from the CEO, visible quotas and dashboards can get in the way of demonstrating empathy when working with your sales team.
For example, a sales manager conducts a one-on-one session with a seller that is doing all the right sales activities but keeps missing quota. The eager-to-help sales manager makes a quick check on the empathy box. “I know you are feeling frustrated.” (Check.) “But let’s work together on getting you back on plan.” The sales manager starts dispensing sales advice rather than demonstrate an understanding of what the seller is feeling.
- “Jenny, you must be feeling discouraged because you are doing all the right things and nothing is getting across the finish line. In fact, you might be thinking, why bother?”
- “Joe, I’m guessing you’re feeling beyond discouraged. In fact, you might be wondering if you even have what it takes to be an effective seller.”
At first glance, you might think these statements would encourage a seller to quit or engage in more self-doubt.
The statements demonstrate empathy and show the salesperson you know what they’re thinking and feeling. When a salesperson recognizes you understand, only then can they hear the sales manager’s great advice.
Mr. Rogers was a great teacher for children and parents. I also think he’s a great teacher for all of us in sales leadership.