Teaching Salespeople Empathy – Listening and Understanding Skills

Empathy in SalesTeaching Salespeople Empathy – We’ve all heard plenty about the importance of listening skills in selling.  Unfortunately, I think many sales trainers and salespeople misunderstand the intention and end up teaching and learning to be quiet and let the customer talk, without learning to really understand the customer.  If our focus is to truly help the customer improve their life, their business, etc., then sometimes we have to take charge and direct the conversation.  Ultimately, it’s likely that the salesperson is the “domain expert” so, they probably have a better sense of what matters and what is superfulous detail.

This is why I’ve been pondering how to teach empathy, the art of putting yourself in another’s place, feeling what they feel, to salespeople.  Here are a few excercises I’ve come up with:

Empathy Exercises

Questioning vs. Telling – One person plays the customer and the other is the salesperson.  The salesperson questions the customer as long as they can without ever making a statement.  See how long you can continue the discussion without ever stating facts or suggesting solutions.  The objective is to practice asking questions, to learn to fight the instinct to educate the customer by telling them things.  The mark of a true expert is their ability to maintain the line of questioning without running out of questions and keep the customer talking.  Measure the time of each exchange and see which “salespeople” can keep going the longest.

Understanding Personal Feelings – One person plays the customer and the other is the salesperson.  The rest of the team observes the exchange.  The salesperson questions the customer as long as they can, attempting to focus on the customer as a person as much as possible, as opposed to talking about business, technology, etc.  Then the group asks the salesperson to describe the feelings of the customer – see how well they’ve understood the personal feelings of the customer.

Asking Personal Questions – One person plays the customer and the other is the salesperson.  The salesperson questions the customer as long as they can without ever asking about technical or business things.  Only personal facts, feelings and emotions.  The objective is to practice asking personal questions, to learn to fight the instinct to stay away from the personal and focus on the technical.  The mark of a true expert is their ability to maintain the line of questioning without running out of questions and get the customer telling stories about themselves.  Measure the time of each exchange and see which “salespeople” can keep going the longest.

 

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