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What Every Salesperson Should Know About Empathy

Everybody wants to know what drives buying decisions. Companies conduct surveys, focus groups and research projects all the time in search of an answer. And over and over and over again, the word we hear most often from participants is empathy. However empathy is a highly subjective term, and can be interpreted many ways. Here are seven interpretations of empathy to help you get inspired:

  1. First, a definition, with help from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: “Identification with and understanding of another’s situation feeling and motive.” Pretty cool, huh? It says all.
  1. A less-sophisticated but equally powerful way to look at empathy is an oft-used expression: “Walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes.” In other words: try to look at things from the client’s point of view.
  1. We never tire of reviewing management expert David Maister’s quote: “Clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Empathy trumps credibility every time.
  1. Lois Rotkoff calls empathy an “internal mechanism that enables you to better understand what is happening around you…” Use what is happening internally to respond to external situations.
  1. In their bestselling book, Leadership Presence, The Ariel Group explains that empathy is: “Finding the humanity in someone else, even in their weaknesses, and connecting that humanity with your own.” Use this philosophy to connect with your toughest clients – the results will speak for themselves.
  1. In a similar sense, there is the intersecting circle rationale. Here is your circle, and here is your client’s – now, where do those two circles intersect? Or, put another way, what do you have in common and how can you relate?
  1. We conclude with our own look at the concept of empathy. It’s nothing more than listening as hard as you can to truly understand what drives the client, and relating to him or her as effectively as possible.

Buyers demand and expect a lot from the salespeople who call on them. But empathy tops that list. Do whatever you can to demonstrate this behavior – there will always be a payout.

How do you demonstrate empathy to your clients? Share your thoughts in a comment.