Empathy and The Golden Rule
I’ve been exploring the ideas of Empathy and The Golden Rule in selling. I think that the professional salesperson has to demonstrate one and abide by the other in order to have the right kind of career over a long period of time.
To be empathetic is to have the ability to feel what someone else is feeling or to recognise another’s emotions. This ability is essential to doing good business if you are in sales. The very best salespeople are only inhibited by sales scripts because they have the ability to figure out each individual buyer. We all know the classic and very trite car salesman line…”What’s it going to take to get you into this car today?”... Well, the very best salespeople can see through the client’s eyes and walk in his or her shoes and thus could just ask “What would it take for me to buy this car today?”
There is a perfect kind of language that raises the odds of selling to each individual person or couple. The most empathetic salespeople can figure it out. This comes naturally to some salespeople, but for others it must be studied. Just as a Psychologist spends 10 years in college to be able to relate to people, a salesman can study enough material to learn empathy. There are seemingly endless books on the subject. You have to be able to understand what your client is feeling in order to pick up on the subtle clues that are like a breadcrumb trail that leads you to the close.
So here’s the danger to the client. Some of the best salespeople can show empathy but be completely amoral. You know these kinds of salespeople, or at least you’ve seen them in movies like “Boiler Room,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Glengarry Glen Ross.” If you haven’t seen these movies, go and watch them all. These people are real and they are out there folks. I once heard a guy say “I didn’t get in this business to save the world. I can do that when I have money.”
The most skilled salespeople can sell inferior products to clients. They can also sell a good product at an unfair price. What can happen is that a person can be so well trained at selling that the client would literally buy something that makes no financial sense. For example, my business is life insurance. I have worked with many clients over the years who bought policies for 30+% more than market cost even though the agent had access to lower prices for better products.
Let’s talk about why The Golden Rule is so important. As you hone your craft, you have to keep in mind that you must always do the right thing for the client. For some of us, it isn’t hard to always do the right thing. It just comes natural. Others might be tempted by greed. Some find ways of spinning their own truths or rationalizing to make themselves feel better about what they choose to sell. You may be able to get away with making a few sales this way, but it will catch up to you. A reputation of being a salesman of low character will directly affect your income in a way that you’ll never make up for with sales skill.
If you plan on making a career out of selling, you must blend these two important elements. You have to be able to understand what your client wants and needs and be able to convince them to buy. You also have to do so in the most scrupulous way. One without the other doesn’t work.