Today's guest post is by Charlie Johnson, a leading sales force and global sales leadership training consultant with 16 years of experience working with startup and Fortune 500 companies. Prior to that he served as VP of global education, VP of sales, and a corporate officer at US Surgical for 17 years.
After 16 years of training more than 60 companies, I am convinced most salespeople don’t know how to sell effectively. Most salespeople are not able to listen well, which means they almost always lose the chance to learn about their customer.
Instead, they focus on demonstrating features and benefits. They occupy their mind thinking about their next question or the next product or service they can demonstrate and ignore the sales skills of probing, listening, and confirming to identify the customer’s wants, needs, and challenges.
By and large, successful salespeople practice empathy during their interactions with customers. They ask a question, listen to the answer, and ask a new question based on the customer’s response. They then confirm what they heard by repeating the needs, wants, or challenges back to the customer. This is critical for two reasons.
You are demonstrating to the customer that you are truly listening.
You are reinforcing the seriousness of the situation by confirming the customer’s needs, wants, and challenges.
An empathetic salesperson will ask how the customer’s problems affect his or her business and even personal life. That salesperson will also be happy to collaborate with the customer to solve his or her challenges – even if those solutions do not initially tie to the salesperson’s product or service. This builds trust and will create a customer relationship that might eventually lead to a sale and a long-term relationship.
The most successful CEOs have high emotional intelligence. In his book, Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman states:
Resonance (a quality that makes something personally meaningful) comes naturally to emotionally intelligent leaders. Their passion and enthusiastic energy resound throughout the group. When there are serious concerns, emotionally intelligent (EI) leaders use empathy to attune to the emotional registry (any of the varieties of language that a speaker uses in a particular social context) of the people they lead.
A highly emotionally intelligent salesperson will connect with their customer at a different level if they use empathy. Additionally, salespeople with high emotional intelligence (which can be taught) can be expected to have greater success creating a trusting relationship with their customers.
We all know that selling is a process, not an event. People buy from people they trust, and very few sales are made on the first call. A collaborative interaction with your customer opens the door for you to come back. So, stop hammering customers on features and benefits during your meetings and instead work on developing your emotional intelligence. That’s the way to smooth your path to a positive relationship and an eventual sale.