A Note From Alice: One of my big takeaways from Sales 3.0 was that in the face of new technology, sales leaders, and business owners must focus on their humanity when dealing with clients. My friend Brian Carroll wrote a great post at the www.b2bleadblog.com about how important empathy is to sales, and I wanted to share it with you.
With more communication channels and content than ever before, it’s become harder to connect with customers. They’re weary of pitches, cold emails, hype, and manipulative messages. So, they tune them out.
As sales leaders and business owners push reps to get leads, drive opportunities and move the needle, it’s easy to forget to address the fears, hopes, wants, and aspirations of the customer.
But, here’s the kicker, as neuroscientist Antonio Damasio discovered, “We are not thinking machines that feel, we are feeling machines that think.”
Damasio made a groundbreaking discovery that when emotions are impaired, so is decision-making. This means we need to go beyond logic to understand how our customers feel.
Customers aren’t saying, “We need solutions.” Instead, they’re saying, “We need to solve a problem.” What would happen if your sales team focused on helping them do just that? To do that, you need to train your team to think empathetically—to share your customer’s feelings and think what they think.
What Is Empathic Marketing And Selling?
Empathetic marketing and selling is about moving away from business-centric thinking to customer-centric thinking. It’s built on the following ideas:
- The best selling feels like helping.
- Selling isn’t something you do to people. It’s something you do for people.
- Focus on empathizing with your customer’s feelings and understanding their problems.
- Think like your clients when they set out to solve a problem and discover each step they may take to solve that problem.
- Understand ways you can help make your customers lives better.
- Provide your customers what they want by understanding what motivates them.
- Help clients identify and solve problems.
- Give customers content and expertise that helps them gain clarity.
- Empower employees who touch your customers with the resources, training, and tools to really help them.
Here are seven ways you can to practice empathetic marketing and selling.
1. Put Your Customers First
Instead of trying to sound interesting to others, be interested in them. Understand your customer’s motivation (what they want) and make sure it’s something you can deliver. The root word of emotion and motivate is the same. Buyers base most of their actions on feelings and then backfill with logic. That’s why it’s so important to get beyond the product to and speak to the end results and the feelings your buyer seeks.
2. Listen And Seek To Understand
Join your sales reps on customer visits and just listen and seek to understand customer motivations. It’s shocking how little of this happens. Too often we rely on survey data or focus groups, but empathy is not the product of survey data. It helps you intuitively interpret the context and understand the pressures facing your customer. The key to understanding another person is empathetic listening—trying to understand everything (including the nonverbal signals) the other person is communicating. What emotions are motivating them? You listen for feeling, for meaning, for behavior and other signals.
3. Stop Pushing, Start Conversing
Focus on developing conversations. Don’t err on the side of pushing your agenda rather than extending an invitation to converse. It’s the difference between a customer thinking “somebody wants something from me” and “maybe they can help me get what I want.” Train your team to demonstrate that they’re interested in the customer’s world and motivations. Use empathy maps and personas to understand your customer and how to better connect with them in conversations. For more on this read Copyblogger: Empathy Maps: A Complete Guide to Crawling Inside Your Customer’s Head. Invite, listen, engage and recommend.
4. The Best Selling Feels Like Helping (Because It Is)
Our sales efforts and lead nurturing are anchored on this idea. As customers, we can feel when someone’s trying to push us to do something. And we also recognize when someone sincerely cares. They’re not trying to push their agenda, and they’re genuinely trying to help us.
5. Give Content They’ll Want To Share
This content organically emerges from the first four points of placing the customer first, understanding them, conversing with them and helping them. But so much of today’s content does not do that. We’ve become publishing machines, creating content for content’s sake. Customers don’t need more content. They need useful content that helps them convince colleagues inside their companies to choose a different path. Much of the content I see lacks that empathetic context and content without empathy is just noise. It becomes very noisy in the B2B marketing.
6. Remember That Proximity Is Influence
Empower those closest to your customer (your sales team, sales development reps, inside sales, and customer service people) to be able to achieve the points above. We formulate our opinions about companies based on our interactions with their people.
7. Practice Empathy Personally To Set An Example
Be the change you want to see. Our customers are everyone we serve—including our staff and our coworkers. Show how it’s done by practicing empathy yourself.
This all may seem altruistic, but it’s not. It has an economic benefit. If we can give customers what they want, we can create a competitive advantage that will reap higher margins and profits.
For example, Slack (currently the fastest growing start-up in history) practices empathy as part of their core values. In this interview, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield stated, “It’s very difficult to design something for someone if you have no empathy.”
Additionally, IBM is gearing up to become the world’s largest design company. As part of their boot camps, employees are learning how to apply empathy to connect better with colleagues and clients. They’re learning how to tap into their customers’ and colleagues’ feelings and the need to come up with better solutions.
IDEO’s Empathy on Edge puts it this way, “When organizations allow a deep emotional understanding of people’s needs to inspire them—and transform their work, their teams and even their organization at large—they unlock the creative capacity for innovation.”
Our job is to make each person we connect with online and offline—feel as if they are the most important person in the room (because they are.)