Empathy, the Secret of Savy Sellers

Filed Under (OP Sales Training) by Don on 19-03-2008

Empathy – specifically, encouraging and empowering employees to engage and relate with customers as people and fellow human beings. No company can make a customer happy 100% of the time but those who understand this critical element of the customer experience know it can make you, or break you. As sellers of commodity products the current state of the business economy isn’t exactly a rosey picture in the office products industry. It’s challenging to get sales people to understand the need to stop selling on price and to sell the value of doing business with them and their company is difficult enough. Your people must understand they need to be empathetic with their customers. I’ve stated before that we need to stop acting like a seller and start thinking like a buyer.

One of the problems with our big box competitors is they have continued to butcher their ability to adequately service and listen to their customers. In difficult times the ‘shirts’ in the corporate office have knee jerk reactions to a slowing economy and start laying off employees and shuttering departments like customer service. If just one of these corporate guys had ever spent enough time in sales they would have a clear understanding that a slowing economy doesn’t necessarily dictate cost cutting measures. The prudent and seasoned sales person knows that when business is slowing down they need to spend more time prospecting for new business and concentrate on vertical categories to grow sales.

What does this have to do with empathy? It places you on the same level as the customer. Empathy allows you to see business through the eyes of the customer. Your customer service (CSR’s) personnel should not report to the office manager or accounting manager, they should be accountable to the sales manager. Don’t act surprised, the sales manager is in the best position to support, train and mentor the customer service team. In many, if not most, occasions the customer service people talk to the customer/buyer more often than the sales people do. It stands to reason that one of the most critical relationships developed is the one between your CSR’s and the customer. Sadly, many companies sit squarely on an untapped empathy goldmine in the form of employees who report to work every day. Employees are measured in dimensions that are incongruent with the outcomes that are truly needed and valuable. With proper training your CSR’s can increase order size, promote new products and up-sell customers easily and matter-of-factly. Cabela’s, a well known marketer of outdoor merchandise views their employees as customers. Employees are encouraged to sign out products and use them thereby giving them first hand knowledge of the products they sell. If you can make your staff understand the importance of being empathetic to the customers needs you will have created a value that pales the competition. While the big boxes consolidate customer service and contract out customer service to people that are simply there to collect a paycheck you have an opportunity to create something amazing, a loyal customer advocate. All because you took the time to care.

The last word, “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” –William A. Foster

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.