I think that the best sales people have many qualities and one of them is empathy. When I talk about empathy I don’t necessarily mean feeling the same way as a client, or even agreeing with a client … but more the ability to put yourself in their shoes and understand their issue. If you cannot do that, then how can you help them?
I am not convinced that empathy is entirely an inate skill, although some people are more naturally empathetic than others. For many salespeople there is a learning curve in becoming adept at understanding how a client feels, and getting the client to articulate their problem. Over time you meet so many people that the same kind of issues will come along again, and an ability to demonstrate your understanding of the client’s situation really helps to build credibility and rapport. And if you are a salesperson then credibility and rapport are two very valuable qualities to have!
Building your ability to be empathetic to your clients is done by being truly interested in them and in their situation. You can’t fake it! You really must want to know the details, in order to be genuine and in order to “get it”. We all meet salespeople who go through the motions, or the sales people that ask you questions but are very obvious about not really wanting to know the answer. They are the people who don’t get the business or we deal with them because we made our decision long before we met them … on the internet, or through some other research. A good salesperson will listen to your issues, understand your problem or need and will be able to show how her product or service will be able to help. If that sales person demonstrates to you that she understands your problem then you will probably open up a bit. If she demonstrates that she can solve it then you will be receptive.
Of course this same quality is not only applicable in the sales world. Anyone who can demonstrate that kind of understanding will be well regarded … as a colleague, boss or an advisor. At home the parent who can empathise with the child or the “understanding” husband both get points!
So, if you want to be a good sales person (or even just a good friend) ask lots of questions and really listen to the answers. If people really believe that you are interested then they will open up!
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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