It's nearly impossible to go one day without hearing or thinking about how challenging it is to hire in today's market. Additionally, hiring salespeople comes with its own set of complexities, one of which is determining the criteria for a specific role. You likely have heard many opinions of what makes a great salesperson. Here is why empathy should be on that list.
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing or feeling from within their frame of reference. In other words, it’s the capacity to place oneself in another's position, role, or shoes.
According to the Greater Good Science Center, a research institute that studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, "empathy is also a key ingredient of successful relationships because it helps us understand the perspectives, needs, and intentions of others." Understanding others is essential when it comes to selling.
Why do salespeople need empathy? A study conducted by PwC found that "64% of U.S. consumers and 59% of all consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience." If customers feel like a salesperson is just focusing on closing the sale and not truly understanding who they are and what they need, they may look elsewhere for their solution.
Empathy is crucial because it helps salespeople understand how others, like prospects and customers, feel. As a result, salespeople can respond appropriately to the situation and create a better customer experience at every point in the sales process.
Empathy is typically associated with positive interactions. For example, a study published in the European Journal of Personality found "that people are more empathetic during positive interactions when others are seen as warm, and they are expressing warmth."
A quote from Maya Angelou expresses this feeling. She once said, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." A positive experience means customers will likely build a better relationship with that salesperson.
Here are 4 reasons why you want to hire salespeople with Empathy.
Listening to fully understand what someone is saying is a vital part of empathy. When salespeople listen with the intent to understand, they hear and see things they wouldn't otherwise if they were solely focused on what to say next. As a result, salespeople with empathy typically don't interrupt others, which makes customers feel valued because they have your full attention.
Having empathy makes you curious about how others are doing, what they are thinking, and what they are feeling. Asking questions to uncover this information with a customer is critical.
This information can help identify if a prospect is an ideal client and if your company has a solution that solves the customer's business needs. You can also address objections early to prevent them from becoming roadblocks. Verifying the information uncovered with the customer throughout the sales process allows them to say a series of small 'yeses,' so when it's time to buy, they are confident in their decision.
Not only do salespeople with empathy ask good questions, but they also create a conversation and build rapport so that others are willing to share. Often, salespeople with empathy open up and share relevant information about themselves to relate with customers.
Being genuine and a little vulnerable allows people to share more and connect more personally. Customers make decisions based on personal wins. Empathetic salespeople can identify these individual wins, which allows them to tie these wins to the solution.
Having empathy creates a greater awareness of what is essential to other people.
The time between calls and customer meetings can often be silent, with little to no communication from the salesperson. A salesperson with empathy, however, will engage with their customers throughout the entire sales process. They will often share information that they believe is meaningful to the customer while staying top of mind. For example, salespeople may invite customers to an event and send them articles or podcasts that allow them to learn.
If the customer has an important meeting or life event, the empathic salesperson asks how it went or sends a card or gift to celebrate them. Especially early in the sales process, staying top of mind with prospects is valuable, especially when considering the recency effect and how people make decisions.
A new study from the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, shows that "objective and subjective memory can function independently, involve different parts of the brain, and that people base their decisions on subjective memory – how they feel about a memory – more than on its accuracy." The study distinguishes between how well someone remembers and how well they think they remember, and it shows that decision-making depends primarily on the subjective evaluation of memory evidence.
Empathy has always been a critical skill and applies well to sales, especially given the uncharted world we live in today. Sales is a people-driven business, so it's essential to consider all the qualities that make someone successful in sales. Empathy is one of those qualities. Therefore, it should be on your list when you are hiring for your next sales role.
Contact us if you need help determining what other qualities to look for or want assistance with the hiring process. We've helped hundreds of organizations successfully hire for sales roles and are happy to help.