August 3

Three Empathy Fumbles That Negatively Impact Sales Leadership


Attention sales leaders. Want to be a better leader? Then, it’s time to step up your listening skills by tapping into emotional intelligence skills. The Center for Leadership surveyed 302 leaders and found that emotional intelligence accounted for a whopping 28% of leadership performance. One of the reasons is because emotionally intelligent leaders are empathetic leaders. They are better leaders because they are better listeners.

So, why do sales leaders and leaders in general struggle with truly listening and empathizing with their teams? There isn’t one answer, however, here are three common “empathy fumbles” I’ve observed when coaching sales leaders.

Fumble #1

When a salesperson shares a problem, the sales leader gets more focused on solving the problem than listening to fully understand the problem. There has been more than one problem solving genius promoted to a leadership position. Problem solving is a valuable skill. You take charge and “get after it.”

However, sometimes salespeople just need someone to listen to them before they can even think about fixing the issue.  

The reality is people cannot hear you until you’ve demonstrated you’ve heard them.

Fumble #2

Sales leaders are too busy to listen and empathize. They’re overbooked and overscheduled. Thanks to the 21st century curse of constant connectivity, it’s easy to only be partially present during coaching conversations. With smart phones buzzing and back-to-back meetings, it’s difficult to demonstrate empathy. Hurry is the enemy of empathy and deep listening.

There simply isn’t enough time scheduled to hold deep, trust building conversations. Superficial conversations become the norm.

Fumble #3

Your face and words don’t match! The communication experts share that non-verbal communication can account for up to 93 percent of communication. As a sales leader, you are saying all the right words, however, your face didn’t get the memo!  

  • Your facial expression doesn’t show real concern. You might be frowning while saying encouraging words to your salesperson on a failed deal.  
  • Your tonality sounds like you are ordering a burger at a drive through. It lacks passion and compassion.  

The salesperson isn’t hearing a word you say because of your emotional expression.

So how do we improve our empathetic listening skills? Install this one, simple daily habit.   

Carve out quiet time every day.


That which you are not aware of you cannot change.

Conduct an honest evaluation of how you are showing up to each and every conversation. Are you present or pre-occupied? Are you hurried or helpful? Does your face and tonality express empathy, or is it shouting “can we hurry this conversation along?”  

Get your calendar under control. Get comfortable saying no to things that are not adding value to your role as a sales leader.

Ask a trusted colleague about your emotional expression. You could be suffering from resting face syndrome and not even know it.

Avoid these common fumbles and improve your ability to lead and develop great sales teams.

Good Selling!


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