Sales Coach: High Level of Empathy In Selling Important?

The question of whether a high level of empathy for a sales professional was an advantage or a disadvantage was asked on  Below is my public answer to this question.

This is a great and interesting question! It looks like most people so far are saying that empathy is essential for sales people, and I agree!  I will expand on the concept and how to develop it a little further as it may be of help for those who want to enhance it.

Empathy is defined by Wikipedia as: “the capacity to recognize or understand another’s state of mind or emotion. It is often characterized as the ability to “put oneself into another’s shoes” or in some way experience the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself.  Empathy does not necessarily imply compassion, or empathic concern because this capacity can be present in context of compassionate or cruel behavior.”

From this perspective on what empathy means, it is clear that it is critical for a sales person to have or to develop a high level of empathy to have great success.  Some people, as you mention, will naturally be more empathetic than others, yet luckily, this is something that can be developed for those who lack a high degree of empathy.

Daniel Goleman, one of the experts on emotional competencies/emotional intelligence, breaks down emotional intelligence into 4 key areas.  One of those areas is Social awareness — the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks.  I’d say empathy would significant part of this.

So, how does this apply to sales? Simple, put yourself in the client’s shoes. Put yourself into their perspective and view their business, your business, their goals, and the world from their perspective for a moment.  Think about how your approach is coming off now? Should you change it? What really is important to them? Maybe you think something is so important, and you are explaining on and on about it to them, but if you pause, use empathy, get curious, and place yourself into their perspective for a moment, and then brainstorm ideas or ask questions from that place, breakthroughs are possible. 

I find that if you use empathy, and from that place, ask great questions, you can really find out what is most important for your prospective clients or current clients. The great thing about emotional competencies such as empathy is that they can be developed and enhanced. 

For those who want to learn to be more empathetic, the first step is becoming more aware of what it is to be empathetic, and then to consciously choose to translate the awareness into actual actions and changes in behavior.  There is much more to it than this, but I wanted to give a tip for starters that can help people immediately.

Jeremy J. Ulmer, Professional Coach, Sales Coach, Executive Coach, Sales Mentor, Life Coach, Business Coach

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