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Sales Training: Salesmanship and Empathy

Sales Training: Salesmanship and Empathy is the title of the front page of this web site which is begging the question of the relationship between salesmanship and empathy.

Is it the salesman's job to create empathy [and being empathetic of what?] with the prospect and how is that accomplished?

Also, is empathy necessary to make a sale? - by MitchM
Hello Mitch. Thank you for taking an interest in the article. I'd be happy to address your questions. :)

Is it the salesman's job to create empathy...
As I see it, the burden of communication is on the salesperson.

...[and being empathetic of what?]...
As I see it, the salesperson would want to be empathetic to the customers situation, feelings, motives, etc.

...and how is that accomplished?
As I see it, this can be accomplished by taking a sincere interest in the other person and listening with the intent to understand.

Also, is empathy necessary to make a sale?
As I see it, empathy isn't a "necessity" but neither is qualifying a prospect.

I hope you find value in the article and the responses. :) - by Jeff Blackwell
..with the intent to understand.
Jeff's five words are the most powerful I have ever seen posted on this forum. - by Gary Boye
"As I see it, the salesperson would want to be empathetic to the customers situation, feelings, motives, etc." -- Jeff

Very few people can fake this empathy without the prospect knowing it and pulling in the other direction. When the salesman shoots back with an immediate response that is canned or otherwise not related to what the prospect has said, empathy is impossible to create.

Also, while empathy includes rapport, rapport and empathy are not the same necessarily. Empathy is an enhanced variation of understanding. - by MitchM
Also, is empathy necessary to make a sale?
Empathy is the real stuff.

It is a forerunner to connecting as "trying" is to such things as influencing, persuading, and "building rapport". - by Gary Boye
Empathy is the real stuff.
I'm listening to Milt Jackson [vibes], John Lewis [piano], Percy Heath [bass] and Kenny Clarke [drums] - the original Modern Jazz quartet - in an emphatic 1955 recording including pieces from Delaunay, Gershwin, and Django Reinhardt [the flip side of my cassette is an ode to Django by Stephane Grappelli & a cast of fine players.

When you follow your Muse empathy happens with the right persons who ultimately end up in a grove because there's something each can contribute to one another and it's usually very immediate and fulfilling - each compliments the other in ways that nothing else can do.

The best of sales and anything else is like that. - by MitchM
Empathy is the real stuff.
Empathy is a good concept and a good practice for relationships in general. But, how do you do empathy? Can most salespeople learn to be empathetic?

We do not attempt to teach empathy in our sales training courses because the concept is a bit too ambiguous – not by definition, but as a process.

Besides, most salespeople confuse empathy with their erroneous and manipulative concepts of “building rapport.”

Even Jeff, who I have no doubt is very empathetic, sprinkles his article with the word “Like” as if being liked is very important in selling (it is not). And, that gets most salespeople back to rapport.

We do know how to teach the process of establishing Deep Emotional Relationships of Mutual Trust and Respect, which contains a liberal dose of empathy. We focus on that because, for most prospects, trust and respect are the two most important buying decisions factors.

- by JacquesWerth
Can most salespeople learn to be empathetic?
If salespeople can learn the skill of listening then yes they can learn to skill of empathy.

Besides, most salespeople confuse empathy with their erroneous and manipulative concepts of “building rapport.”
Maybe you're hanging around the wrong salespeople. :D - by Agent Smith
That's a good one.
I had three painting contractors come to my house this summer. One was rather inept at sizing it up and giving me a price - I painted houses for a while do I knew what to look for - and his price was too low.

The other was a rapport building kind of guy calling me by my first name, making dumb jokes. being friendly in a "we gotta like each other way." and his price was way too high.

The third guy I liked as he was friendly but cut right to the bidding, he called me by my name once when we introduced ourselves - no jokes - and he gave me a price quickly which was right where it should have been. He got the job.

What he did do was listen to me and find out exactly what I wanted which was easy since I told him what I wanted and he matched it.

Empathy and rapport came from that - not from some kind of superficial template so many saleswannabes try to hold over everyone to make them fit. - by MitchM
Empathy and rapport came from that - not from some kind of superficial template so many saleswannabes try to hold over everyone to make them fit.
Which superficial templates? Do you have any examples? - by Agent Smith
Which superficial templates? Do you have any examples?
The guy I rejected using my name too much, joking too much, trying to be my friend rather than I guy I might hire, not asking me many questions but telling me what he could do for me - all that was superficial to what I wanted.

Had his price been right and the third one's also right, I still would have gone with who I did because I didn't trust or respect the guy with the selling template.

That's one. - by MitchM
If salespeople can learn the skill of listening then yes they can learn to skill of empathy.
Shawn, could you give an example of how a person would learn empathy as a skill--or perhaps a description of the way it would be taught? What would either process, learning or teaching, actually look like with regard to instilling that change into a person who lacked empathy? - by Gary Boye
Here is a brief tutorial: http://mentalhelp.net/psyhelp/chap13/chap13c.htm - by Agent Smith
Here is a brief tutorial: http://mentalhelp.net/psyhelp/chap13/chap13c.htm
Thanks. An informative article.

But I keep going back to Jeff's words: "Listen with an intent to understand." I can't help but think that is a foundation to empathy. And there is sort of a catch22 that bothers me. If in lacking empathy, there is no current intent to understand (my own premise derived from Jeff's words), then how could one learn empathy without an intent to understand? Not impossible, of course, but it seems that it would require some major morphing. - by Gary Boye
...as if being liked is very important in selling (it is not).
I think I know someone who would disagree with your claim. ;)

Who can identify the source of these two quotes?
...what works in smaller sales may become quite inappropriate as the size of the decision increases. Although I hated the projector seller, I liked his product enough to buy it. But with the larger decision, seller and product become much harder to separate. Although I liked the computer system, there was no way I could buy it without also buying a relationship with the seller.
So it should be comforting to know that, as the sale grows larger, the customer puts more emphasis on the salesperson as a factor in the decision.
- by bridger480
Even Jeff, who I have no doubt is very empathetic, sprinkles his article with the word “Like” as if being liked is very important in selling (it is not).
Jacques, Willy Loman would have absolutely disagreed with your post. According to him, it wasn't just a matter of being liked--you had to be well-liked. - by Gary Boye
I was at the zoo today with some family members. We were looking at some Mexican wolves and a guy started telling us about three of them escaping last year and what happened. Then we walked past some huge animal with a huge rack of horns. This same guy made a joke about how that animal would feed him all winter and how it would probably taste like venison.

I told him I was in Malaysia a couple of year ago and we ate venison raised in Australia and it was superb. He asked how it was prepared and why I was in Malaysia. I told him how it was prepared and that I was there because our company opened up an office in KL and I went to do some business.

He asked what I did and I told him in about thirty words what I did then walked on with my family.

Less than an hour later the zoo was closing and he was leaving with the rest of us and he asked me if I had a business card. I said I did and asked him why he wanted one and he said he might be interested in what I did. I told him to give me a call if he wants to talk. That was it.

It wasn't a typical selling situation but thinking about it I realized that in more typical selling situations what happened between me and this guy is how I usually do business. No time was spent trying to impress him, build rapport, or have empathy as a selling strategy. Whatever rapport or empathy happened happened because it was life flowing and that was that.

The more I analyze these things the more I am convinced that even in typical selling situations I don't have to impress, pursuaid, build rapport or create empathy. All I have to do is make an offer and if the other person is receptive we take it from there. Trust will follow honest intent.

I've never been in negotiations or big sales situations involving huge deals so I'm a little guy fishing in the big sea of life from a very sheltered experience so to speak. BUT having a family member in sales who is successful in a conventional business in sales for a large company, we see eye to eye on this.

He is attentive to people, their is some dining and hanging out - getting to know people and how to address their needs - but I also know he's not wasting time trying to impress or build rapport to get the sale - everything is rather organically derived from situations that are mutually connected and can fulfill needs both ways.

That's all I have to say now. - by MitchM
I don't know what you mean by "controlling" in this discussion, Agent Smith. So I can't think what I said does or doesn't - you'd have to explain how controlling has anything to do with what I said - I just disagreed with your reasons.
It sounded to me like you were frustrated that things weren't going the way you thought they should be going. To me that comes across as controlling.

I got that impression from this sentence;
...that's fine I don't mind that, but they never address the topic at hand and they avoid direct questions about the post topic.


I've been on topic specific forums where total disruption came from those whose purpose was to create disruption and they did it in subtle then not to subtle ways - until they were terminated.
I've seen that on nearly every forum I have ever visited. Of course, I've seen my fair share of that type of thing in the non-internet world too. :) - by Agent Smith
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