January 1st has come and gone. And what’s happened to your proclamations of “New Year, New Me. I will call my mom more; I will lose those last 10 pounds; and I will work less – be a better parent, colleague, and daughter”?
According to Urban Dictionary: “New Year’s Resolution” is a goal that you propose then forget the next day. Now that’s a more accurate definition.
So, instead of a yearlong resolution, I focus on the moment and what I can do each day to be more present both at home and work. The number one question that keeps me on track is: “How can I have more empathy?”
As a mother, it is a daily exercise empathizing with the needs and demands of my teenage daughters by drawing on situations from my youth. As a global solution marketer, using storytelling to connect customers to our brand and solutions requires me to empathize with the challenges our customers are facing and understand how those challenges affect their daily jobs – and the flip side of understanding the challenges our sales leaders face selling to prospects.
While a robust CRM solution plays a part in sales success, a truly successful salesperson has empathy. In the digital age, where technology accelerates and complicates the sales process, there will also be a need for salespeople to connect on a personal level with their prospects and customers. Here are three practices that can help you build your empathy skill set.
1. Be Present.
Empathetic salespeople know you must be present to win. Put away your smartphones, close your laptops, and just listen. Don’t try to push the speeds and feeds of your solution. Ask open-ended questions and listen. “What are you trying to accomplish today that you aren’t able to? Where do you see your organization a year for now? And, more importantly, where do you see yourself three years from now?” Pick up many nonverbal communication clues from prospects, such as a change in tonality, facial expression, or body language. Adjust your questions and approach.
Empathy creates an emotional connection, which elevates the sales conversation beyond the product or solution you are selling.
2. Think Like Your Customers. Put Yourself in Their Shoes.
You need to understand how buyers think about their business, so you can understand their thinking. This means that, first, you need to educate yourself on buyers’ businesses, challenges, and the complexities of their selling environment and find a common ground.
Recently our sales team closed a multi-million-dollar deal. A huge contribution to the win (solution aside) was the ability of our sales team to connect with theirs. From one peer to another, from one end-user to another, they candidly shared their own struggles and frustrations from their own sales organization and the path they took to resolution and success. This helped the customer visualize the steps necessary to overcome hurdles that seemed insurmountable.
3. Know Your Decision Makers and What Motivates Them.
You need to understand the various stakeholders impacting deals: who they are, how they connect, and what motivates them to have the conversation in the first place. It’s your job to uncover ways to help buyers navigate the purchasing process internally. Understand the relationships. Uncover who might put roadblocks in your way. A promotion? An upcoming reorganization? Personality conflicts?
While technology can help identify influencers in the context of past deals within your organization, there is a human element of understanding what motivates all these stakeholders and what is personally at stake.
So, this year, focus on how to be present in the moment, switch shoes with your customer, and really understand what motivates and drives them. And stop feeling bad about New Year’s resolutions that have fallen by the wayside. In fact, throw out those New Year’s resolutions. Focus instead on how you can develop more empathy. This characteristic will be essential to your success in the sales profession.