As salespeople, we think a lot about ourselves – our quotas, our follow ups, our company’s value proposition, amongst other things.
It’s understandable, of course: there are endless pressures to juggle in the sales trenches. But, what if we, as salespeople and as an industry, flipped that perspective in its head? What if we started thinking only of how we can help support our prospects and customers?
What if we infused a sense of empathy in everything we did?
According to Brian Fallon, it can be done. And not only will that empathy make us more sympathetic, present, and thoughtful people – it will increase our sales as well.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
“The challenge in sales is we are trying to get our needs met. That can be motivating – but it can also be a negative. We spend so much time trying to get people to care about what we do, and what we sell, but you have to start with what your customers care about and what they are trying to get done,” says Carroll, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.
“You have to have an inner game of caring, first. When it comes to sales, what would you if you weren’t afraid, you would be different, you would think of others, you would lose the tunnel vision.”
Carroll’s “a-ha” moment came back in 2014 when he caught a local news story about a collections agency that had taken a particularly positive stance to its work. For example, in addition to helping people understand and deal with their debt, the collections agency would also help people find jobs free of charge.
The company’s CEO simply wanted to be compassionate. Oh, and it meant a 200% bump in profitability.
“Something inside me really resonated with this. Their strategy was empathy, they put themselves in the shoes of their customers and tried to help them,” says Carroll.
“At my company, we had always tried to just convert people – we said we were putting customers first, but it was all about us. So, I wanted us to change.”
And so, Carroll and his team started to think like the customer, and ask themselves these questions: why did someone come to an event? Why did they download an e-book? What job are they trying to get done?
That final question is the key. By asking themselves what it was that the customer was trying to accomplish, they could keenly understand the journey the customer was on and how they could support them along the way.
Remember, customers are thinking: “how can I make a change in my company?” It’s not “am I going to buy?”
Driving change in a company is a hero’s journey. So, you need to look at how can you enable that person on that journey. So, how do you help a customer feel calm? Safe? Taken care of? If you can do that, says Carroll, your customers become advocates for you.
That is very powerful.
“It was then that everything started to change. When we focused on connecting and helping, we moved from 11 sales accepted leads to 33 sales accepted leads,” says Carroll.
“That’s a huge increase. And, I realized this was changing my whole world.”
(Editor’s note: we had Brain McLean on the pod a while back to discuss how to ensure your emails are succinct, clear, and convert. You can read about our chat here, or listen to the whole in-depth interview here)
The empathy index
Of course, having your outreach – your emails, phone calls, and social touches – reflect this empathetic outlook is critical. Your outbound prospecting must echo your company’s philosophical stance.
To do so, Carroll developed a simple four-step framework to ensure reps are always thinking about the customer and how to help them. Carroll called it “the empathy index.”
The empathy index framework contained:
- Emotional resonance – am I connected to a person’s driving emotion in this message?
- Customer focus – does the message focus on the customer and what they are trying to get done?
- Relevancy – are you speaking to a specific persona? And, is the story you are sharing with them relevant to them?
- Clarity – being clear is stronger than being persuasive. Are you using buzz words? Or, are you speaking in the language your customer uses?
“Before you send a message, ask yourself these questions. What the empathy index allows you to do is come outside of your own bias, and put yourself in the place of the customer,” says Carroll.
“This is a tool to be the customer.”
Can you hire for empathy?
This is an interesting question – and the simple answer is, “yes.”
Everyone has some level of emotional intelligence. Of course, some are more open to it, or predisposed to it, but everyone can develop empathy.
And there are some tactics you can employ to get there: listen a lot (this is key), read fiction (great authors always use empathy to build characters) and watch movies.
There are also some breathing techniques you can try: close your eyes before you get on a call and breathe very deliberately, and envision the supportive outcome you are hoping to get. You can also place a hand over your chest while you breathe in order to feel your heartbeat, and further ground yourself.
By doing so, says Carroll, you begin to further cement the human connection in sales: just like you, your customers are just trying to get something done.
And, again, you’re there to help them do it.
For more on Carroll’s thoughts on infusing your sales process with empathy – including tips on how to restructure your comp framework to better reflect that philosophical change, and some book recommendations to help inspire this move – check out the rest of his interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.
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