The Irresistible Allure of Empathy in Sales

Empathy is one of those words that’s quickly earned a slot on your sales office’s Buzzword Bingo card. It’s sales psychology that is overused and too often abused in the wrong way. But empathy is at the heart of trust – and people buy from people they trust.

The more trust you can create, the more a prospect will share their pain points, hopes and needs with you. When you know their needs, you can make a realistic judgement call to decide if your product or service is, in fact, a good fit. When you’re honest enough to turn down a potential sale, you’re actually building a customer for life – they’ll still refer you, they’ll want to want your product or service.

The first step to building trust is to be perceived as on the customer’s side, to show you understand them on an emotional level and that you’re working proactively to solve their problems. People care about what your product or service can do for them.

Frame your conversation – and the bigger story – in a way that offers real value to the customer. Create empathy and create a better customer experience. Here are six sales psychology tips to show empathy:

1. Slow your roll

When you head into a conversation, of course you’re going to want to have your talk track ready, but slow it down. Allow the exchange to develop organically. Listen to what your prospect says. And, pay attention to what they’re not saying. If you sense some hesitation or they offer you a cue into their pain points, pause the conversation and probe a bit more. Be respectful of their time, but ask questions and get them talking.

Do a little research ahead of the conversation so you can ask the right questions about their company and their role. Slowing down gives you a chance to hear their real struggles and positions you to offer up a real solution to a problem they’ve encountered. Letting a prospect know you care about them, and you understand them, can help to build rapport and show empathy. It develops a sense of trust in you, and innately in your product.

2. Say “I hear you” (and actually hearing them)

Buying is emotional, right? So listen to their emotions and get a grasp on their feelings. What is your prospect struggling with today? What are they afraid of/ What are their frustrations?

Saying “I hear you,” validates their emotions. Hearing their words alone isn’t adequate, though, in sales psychology. Work to understand their position and their perspective. Figure out what their struggles are and how you can help. Asking how you can help can give you a clear picture of the prospects specific pains and lead them down a path of strategizing a fix. This allows you to move the conversation forward as you develop a solution to their problems.

3. Say “I’m sorry to hear that”

You don’t need to be in the wrong to say you’re sorry. Empathize with your prospect’s pain and allow them an opportunity to vent if they need to. But be careful in your tone. Avoid coming across as sympathetic, which could create distance between you and your prospect. A sympathetic tone transfers blame of their situation (or at least the feelings toward their situation) onto your shoulders. With empathy you show an actually understanding of their feelings at an emotional level. And, it’ll strengthen your bond, creating a deeper sense of authentic trust in your relationship.

Pair saying “I’m sorry to hear that,” with active reflecting for maximum impact. Once you’ve listened and understood their pain points, now you can connect with them. It shows your prospects you understand and know them – and it creates a deeper connection. And, the beauty of reflecting is you don’t have to be right. Checking and correcting your understanding is empathy, and it helps you to get to know the person better.

4. Say nothing (listening is fun too, guys)

In my early 20s, I assumed the world was more interested in me than I was in it, so I spent most of my time talking, usually in a particularly uninformed way. I’d spout my insights on whoever would listen, rushing to be clever, thinking about what I was going to say next to someone rather than listening to what they were saying.

The real fascination lies in the conversation you’re having with someone else. What can you learn from them? What are they frustrated with? Listening with empathy is the most effective way to process someone else’s perspective. You’re offering up a shoulder to lean on for the prospect, and it helps them develop a sense of trust with you, giving them the confidence to share more – giving you a better understanding of how best to serve and help the buyer.

5. Practice perspective-taking

Do more than just put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. Be in their socks, shirts, pants, hats, and gloves, and walk around in ‘em for a while. Create a deep understanding of your prospect with sales psychology – know their problems, their hopes and their dreams.

Think about what you would do in their position. Have you been in a similar situation? Imagine the implications if the prospect brought your product to their goals and situations. How would you feel? What’d be your reaction? Use your imagination, then sit in their shoes for as long as you need to help them.

6. Watch your signals

Be aware of your own emotions and how you’re responding. Assure your prospect listening has occurred and encourage continued communication. By giving appropriate replies through verbal acknowledgements, deep and clarifying questions and active reflecting. Be fully engaged with the sales psychology and the conversation at hand.

Do you want to make this sale? Of course! But thinking past the short-term could be beneficial for both sides. Your long-term goals are to help the client and build a lasting relationship.