My friend looked down at my feet. I guess something caught her eye. My shoelace was loose. With a concerned look on her face and with her soft, caring voice she said, “Hey, your shoelace is untied.” To which I replied, “Yeah, I know, I understand your worry and I appreciate it but did you know that the whole tripping over your shoelace thing is a myth?” She looked confused, so I continued. “The chances of your loose shoelace getting caught underneath your moving feet and causing it to break your walking/running rhythm to force a fall is minuscule. Less than .000001%. It’s not even worth worrying about. Let me show you.” I began to run around crazy with my shoelace untied.
I finally came to a stop, and trying to catch my breath, I looked over at her and said, “see, I didn’t trip”. She laughed. And jokingly said to me, “Hmm, you should be in sales.” And I thought to myself…”Yeah, maybe I should”.
Isn’t it interesting that the most misunderstood idea of selling is that it’s primarily about convincing people to buy something they don’t want or need? The more convincing you are, and more pushy you are, the better you are at sales. Right? WRONG!
What, then, makes a good salesperson? In reality, an effective salesperson is someone who takes the time to understand the customer’s needs, exercises patience in building a trustworthy relationship, and possesses the intuition to provide solutions that genuinely benefit them. It’s more about helping than convincing.
But most of all, the most significant characteristic of a great salesperson is empathy. Empathy enables us to comprehend, relate to, and genuinely care about the customers’ needs and concerns.
So, is empathy something you can develop and learn? Yes, empathy can be learned and developed. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It involves recognizing and being sensitive to the emotions, thoughts, and perspectives of others. How? One way is to actively listen, and pay close attention to what people are saying. Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings. Avoid interrupting or immediately offering solutions.
In order to help guide the development phase of empathy, I came up with some questions you can ask your potential client that can help you better understand their needs and guide them toward a purchase.
- What challenges or goals are you currently facing in your [industry/area]?
- How do you envision our product/service helping you with these challenges/goals?
- Have you used similar products/services before? What did you like or dislike about them?
- Who will be involved in the decision-making process for this purchase?
- What is your budget or price range for this solution?
- Are there any specific features or benefits that are most important to you?
- What is your timeline for implementing a solution like this?
- Can you share any concerns or objections you might have about moving forward with this purchase?
- How do you measure success in your [industry/area]?
- Are there any other stakeholders or departments we should involve in this discussion?
- What would be the ideal outcome or result for you after implementing our product/service?
And while they are answering some of these questions, keep these points in mind.
- Active Listening: Pay close attention to what people are saying. Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings. Avoid interrupting or immediately offering solutions.
- Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Try to imagine how the other person might be feeling and what they might be thinking in a given situation. This can help you better understand their perspective.
- Practice Perspective-Taking: Actively work on understanding different viewpoints, even if you don’t agree with them. This can help you become more open-minded and empathetic.
- Observe and Learn from Others: Pay attention to people who are naturally empathetic. What do they do differently? You can learn from their behaviors and attitudes.
- Practice Compassion: Engage in acts of kindness and support for others. Volunteer or help friends and family when they are in need. This can enhance your ability to empathize.
- Self-Reflection: Take time to reflect on your own emotions and experiences. The more you understand yourself, the better you can relate to the experiences of others.
It’s important to note that empathy is a skill that can be improved over time, but it may not come naturally to everyone. The key is to be open to learning and practicing empathy in your interactions with others.
I truly believe customizing your questions and approach to each client is key to successful sales…and I also believe that being a good salesperson means being a good human. We can all use more empathy…in business and in life.
Looking forward to digging deeper into our “Sales” series. Stay tuned for more next week.
Oh, one more thing, I started running around again without tying my shoe. And I tripped. True story.