Leveraging Empathy to Make That Sale

In my last post, I talked about listening but this time I’m looking at it with a customer focus. I think there are some specific things you can ask and do to build empathy with your customer and make them feel heard.

You know the stereotype that women are better at understanding others’ emotions and responding meaningfully?

It turns out there is some truth to it—at least for many women. In this longitudinal study of 500 young men and women, women were found to show significantly more emotional and cognitive empathy than the men. Could this skill of empathy help women in the workplace?

Of course, the answer is yes. Whether working with colleagues, customers, or competitors, women have the advantage of more easily understanding the emotional and cognitive viewpoint of others. But I suggest that women could leverage their empathy in one particularly concrete way- in sales.

The best salespeople in the world show loads of empathy; they quickly get to the bottom of what the customer wants + finds a way to give it to them. The only way to really understand what a customer wants is by putting yourself in their shoes—by showing empathy. When a customer’s genuine needs are listened to and addressed, they are far more likely to make that purchase.

Borrowing from the wisdom of empathy, here are four questions to ask so your customers feel heard:

1. What can I help you find?

It’s a simple question, but how many times have you witnessed a salesperson neglecting to ask the customer what they are looking for? The salesperson has one agenda, and the client has another. The bridge of empathy—listening to what the customer wants—is missing. This usually ends with the salesperson trying to sell the customer a couch when the customer knew all along they wanted a nightstand. Give your customer the opportunity to express what they know they want. Listen to them. Help them find their perfect nightstand.

2. What is it about your current situation that needs to change?

Two hands holding coffee cups ready to talk. Empathy makes your customer feel heard.Empathy is all about understanding the driving motivations of another. In order for people to change, they have to want to change. In order for people to want to change, they need to see the benefits associated with that change.

Once you understand the benefits your customer is seeking, you can sell them the change they need. Whether the benefit offered to the customer is more comfortable feet in the form of good shoes or less racial bias in the form of a human resources training, understanding their motivation, and offering the associated benefit, is an empathetic key to making the sale.

3. What objections would the other decision maker (co-worker, boss, spouse) have to this purchase?

As a salesperson, understanding another’s perspective doesn’t need to end with the customer. The customer doesn’t live in a vacuum, and neither does their decision making. Their values, decisions, and actions are inseparable from the people around them. Using your empathy to understand the hesitations of the other decision makers on the team will empower you to provide the hesitation-softening facts. Even if your customer doesn’t make the purchase on the spot, they are now equipped to go back to the office or home to convince the other decision makers of your product or service. In a way, you are coaching them to pitch the sale to the others!

4. What hesitations do you still have about this purchase?

Man and woman about to sign agreementAsking a customer to pick apart what they don’t like about your service or product is at once empowering and vulnerable. Hearing critiques about your price point, style, or timing is vulnerable, but empathetically understanding a customer’s lingering fears about purchase is crucial to understanding how to move the sale forward.

The only way to move beyond these fears is to move through them. Ask them about their hesitations, and take the time to really understand them. Once you feel like you are in their shoes, do your best to remove the barrier to sale. Ask about your customer’s hesitations, act to ease them, and watch your sales rise.

Making a sale means making empathy. A customer who feels heard, taken care of, seen, and understood is far more likely to make a sale than one who does not. As women, we are uniquely prepared to walk in the shoes of our customers, understand their needs, and offer them the support they need to make a purchase.

How will you use empathy to help that next sale?