A salesperson recently told me they think their job is to “find the customer’s pain, then turn the knife.” She bragged that this method gets buyers to take action. True, her sales cycle is shorter than her peers’. Unfortunately, she wins a fraction of the deals she could. Here’s why:
Jaqueline changed jobs 3 years ago. Her new company didn’t offer a match program, she didn’t know how to roll over her old 401K, and her husband insisted they “do it themselves” rather than work with a financial planner. After years of inaction and knowing she should have been saving for retirement, she’s finally made an appointment with a financial planner.
James has been frustrated with the turnover of his company’s frontline employees for years. He blamed HR for hiring poorly and not onboarding them well. When the company started exit interviews and conducted an internal assessment, it revealed the mid-level managers—James’ direct reports—were the reason people were turning over. He just made an appointment with a training and development consultant.
Josephine is the head of marketing. She’s been building a brand with a recognizable look and feel, but none of her team’s efforts have actually produced and captured leads. She just made an appointment with a potential marketing automation partner.
In sales, we often focus on “finding the pain” and helping customers “fix their problems.” What a vulnerable place to be! Sometimes we forget that asking someone else for help—even in the form of making a purchase—can feel vulnerable. Why haven’t they fixed this yet? They might know they have a problem but don’t even know the cause or best solution.
Whether you’re a financial planner, consultant, marketing professional or in any other sales space, recognize that your actions can exacerbate their sense of vulnerability and put them on the defensive.
We lose sales when we inadvertently make a buyer feel foolish, point out blind spots as if they should have been obvious, proceed step-by-step in a way that makes them feel blind to the process, or go around them to get to the “economic buyer.” They already feel vulnerable, so they are more sensitive to these missteps. They need a partner that helps them win, not an adversary that exposes the gap and turns the knife. They need empathy.
The speaker and author Brene Brown says, “Empathy is simply listening, holding space, withholding judgement, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of you’re not alone.”
People buy from people they trust. And the fastest path to trust is demonstrating empathy. It doesn’t have to be touchy-feely and overly emotional. It is simply a judgement-free acknowledgement of the position they are in and assurance that you’ve seen it—or felt it—before.
Be the kind of partner your customers need when they have a problem to solve. Don’t exploit the pain. Start with empathy.
Want some easy to implement best practices that will help you keep and grow your customers? Feel free to reach out. If you’d like to connect you can find me in all the usual places like my LinkedIn profile, Facebook, Twitter, and my website: WinSource Group..