Empathy may seem like a strange quality to look for in a sales person. (See my previous posts on Empathy.) But when you think about empathy, it’s the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another person and feel what they’re feeling. It’s related to EQ mentioned in a previous post but goes further. In normal people, it elicits the need to help. It’s different from sympathy, which to me is a quality of recognizing someone’s pain.
You are empathetic when learning of another’s critical illness when you react, “Oh my God, that’s terrible. I have no idea of what you’re going though, but how can I help?” You are or seem sympathetic when you say, “Oh, how terrible. I’m so sorry. What are you going to do?” And then perhaps think, “Thank God, it’s not me.”
I’ve heard people say that Sales is a “Hurt” and “Rescue” game. First you “Hurt” the prospect by uncovering and amplifying their pain, then you “Rescue” them by providing a way to take away the pain. I don’t agree. This approach may work for some, but it has sociopathic characteristics.
If you are hiring an exceptional sales person, look for someone who wants to help his or her prospects. The emphasis is on help. For the “Me” generation, it’s not about “You,” it’s about “Them.” And as long as it is about “You” and only making the sale, your prospects won’t trust you, and you won’t make the sale.
One filter is to ask a sales candidate is if they’ve ever told a prospect that what they had to sell wouldn’t help them, or that they needed to do something else first before it was appropriate to look at your product or service? If they have, they’ve helped the prospect, and perhaps shown some actual concern and empathy for the prospects situation.
Another filter is to ask your potential sales candidate to give some examples of how they’ve actually helped others, both in their business lives and their personal lives. The better candidate will be able to answer quickly.
Look for the ability to be empathetic and you will improve your odds of hiring a great sales person.
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