How to balance empathy with drive during the sales process

Finding the right solution to the pain your prospect is experiencing relies on empathy. Truly listening, and showing that you understand is intrinsic to the sales process. Demonstrating humanity is a crucial part of building trust and rapport, so if selling is part of your role you certainly can’t do without it. 

But can you have too much empathy? When should you listen sympathetically and when should you step up to drive the process forward? When it comes to sales, can you just be too understanding?

We think you can, and here’s where we see it getting in the way of making sales.

Selling is rarely straightforward

Selling complex high value solutions is rarely a straightforward journey, either for you, if you’re selling, or for a prospect interested in what you’re proposing. Even when they’re keen, it doesn’t mean the sale is guaranteed. There will be multiple hurdles to negotiate – other parties, other departments, procurement, budgets, internal politics, external pressures and other contenders – the list goes on. 

It can be easy to fall into the trap of over-empathising. You know budgets are squeezed, you understand that company culture is making change difficult, you can see they’re feeling isolated in their role. But if you allow yourself to share in your prospect’s emotional overwhelm you’re not doing your job.

Your job is to challenge 

Good selling is about challenging, respectfully and gently.

If a prospect believes that the way to solve their problem is to do A, B and C, your role is to acknowledge that ABC is one way of doing it, but that XYZ could get them there too. 

If it’s important enough, the budget will be found, company culture can be negotiated, alliances within the business can be found. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

Weighing up the risks

It often comes down to a conversation about risk. Helping a client weigh up the risk of taking action – buying your solution, implementing your new system, changing the way they do things – against the risk of doing nothing. Often the fear of taking action is deeply felt – what if it goes wrong and everyone blames me? What if this doesn’t work and it’s seen as my fault?

It’s important to help a prospect to articulate their worries whilst also laying out the other side of the story.

If change is needed, then action is necessary.  Your solution will save them money or time, speed up processes, increase their impact, satisfy their shareholders etc. Doing nothing about these things is by no means less risky.

Good selling is helping

A conversation where you help a prospect think the situation through clearly, is a really good use of your empathy skills. Your aim is to help them see the options open to them. So listen well, work hard to see the situation from their perspective, understand their pain points, but retain a degree of detachment so that you can help them see the bigger picture.

When you see selling as helping, first and foremost, it makes selling more comfortable. It makes it easier to sell, and easier to buy. Use empathy to help your prospect paint a rich picture of their present challenges and future goals, and help them engage their intellect so that you can drive forwards to towards a solution together

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