Friday, July 28, 2017

When It's Impossible to Empathize

Have you ever met a person whose values were so different than yours that it was impossible to empathize?
Image result for sociopath

I often talk about empathy in selling with the people who engage me in sales training.  For this purpose, I’m not talking about the kind of empathy you feel when you see a kid fall off his bike or learn of a person who has just lost a family member.  Since this type of empathy comes natural to almost everyone, it doesn’t need to be taught.

The way we teach people how to empathize is targeted toward reaching a desired outcome.  We ask unique questions that give us an opportunity to understand what is important to the client.  We are looking for the client’s desired outcome (even if they aren’t specifically telling you).  If you can understand where the client wants to be, then you earn the ability to present a way to get there.  We call this Empathy With Accuracy.  

This method of selling isn’t new.  But, the way people communicate has changed by leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades.  So, understanding how to seek out opportunities to be empathetic in person, over the phone, by email, text, skype, and social media is new territory.  We must constantly stay on top of creating the right client experience through all forms of communication.

Getting back to those rare people with whom you cannot relate… the best thing is probably to just forget about trying to sell to them.  I am always up for a challenge.  I have sold things to people from all walks of life.  I have sold to the ultra rich, dirt poor, perfectionists, bohemians, Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindu.  One thing I know to be true is that you are wasting your time trying to sell to someone whose values are so far from yours that you can’t understand what drives them.  

These people will work you, putting no value on your time or expertise.  They will try to find every angle to get over on you.  They will sap you of all your hard work and intellectual capital and then take the business to someone else, who is willing to take it a step further… Like offering an illegal rebate or some immoral enhancement to the deal that you would not even think to consider.

I’m writing this article, because this just happened to a colleague of mine “John” and I want to bring it to light.  John was recently (after 6 months of very hard work) able to offer a friend, who is a prominent businessman in the Raleigh area, a product that was contractually better than what the friend/client already had.

The client in this situation showed signs of an immoral and irrational behavior from the beginning of the process.  His nature was that he couldn’t be satisfied with even the highest standard of work from John.  He would complain over things that most buyers would be excited about.  He was also hot and cold.  He would be into the sales process with quick responses and helpful info for a week or so and then John wouldn’t hear from him over a simple request for 3 weeks.  When the final offer was in, he seemed unhappy and reluctant to buy, even though he was saving 30% on a product he was already paying for.  He complained that the process took too long and looked for holes in the contract.  He couldn’t find any because there weren’t any.  The contract was actually substantially better than what he was already paying for, yet still, he was trying to find a reason not to buy it.  During the whole process, it seemed like the client was challenging John to beat his current deal, while feeling certain that it couldn’t be done.  And when it was soundly beaten, it was as if the whole process was cheapened further.  Instead of feeling appreciation, he felt disgust.

In the end, the client took John’s intellectual capital and hard work and handed the same deal to a better friend of his (the same guy who sold him the original contract!!).  The commission on the deal was about $10,000.

So what do you do when it seems like this is happening to you?  Here is something that I learned a long time ago that works well.  You let the process commit the client.  You don’t do anything special for them.  Actually, it’s better to fall back on protocols.  Keep it dry and stick to only the essentials of completing the case.  This way, the quality and the value is still great for the client, but you protect yourself from getting emotionally committed to the case and wasting time.  If the client doesn’t follow through, forget it.  It was never going to happen.  Often times though, the people with whom we cannot empathize will end up buying when you take a robot like approach.   

-Insurance Professor