Why Empathy Wins and Selling Doesn't

Connect deeply with your customers by being empathetic to the reason they seek to buy.

learn more about Paul L. Gunn, Jr

By Paul L. Gunn, Jr

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Businesses are always searching for ways to present their products and services to consumers effectively. Many focus on the traditional ways of "selling," but few focus on the emotional reasons for why you obtain customers or they come to your company for a product or service with an authentic reason to understand to develop a product or service that fits.

The mindset vastly still resembles how you must "sell" to your customers instead of "support" them in their motive for spending money with you. I fully agree with the adage or saying, "customers buy from you; you don't sell them." There is staggering intel available across the internet. Experts in many fields provide so much information to review at buyers' fingertips that customers are coming to your company knowing what they want, and some are not looking to be talked out of what they want.

Related: Why Empathy is One of the Most Overlooked Skills in Business

What is your company's overall message and execution for handling new, current and past customers? Are you berating them with constant communication about your products to sell them instead of allowing them to buy from your company? Are you sharing valuable intel with them after they have bought from you? From my own personal experience from sales jobs out of college, even up until now dealing with vendors sales teams, it is apparent that training hasn't morphed that much to allow buyers to make their own decisions without the push from a "sales" member.

We are dealing with recent generations that have been able to access data and utilize it effectively to find what they need, and at a price they are generally looking for. How you communicate products or services should be valuing the buyer with a deep reason for wanting to help them. Your sales team should have 100% buy in to believe in the product or service you are selling. If not, this will be a difficult journey for them to effectively support your customer base, knowing they are providing a product they don't believe in. Hiring teams that understand that empathy for the customer is the foundational piece for accurately building a long term customer will be crucial in the future. There should be a true desire shown to help your customer achieve or receive the desired outcome from buying from your firm.

Related: Why Companies Are Leading With Empathy

Leading with empathy, your teams will ask the right questions and, more importantly, hear what the customer is saying. It is difficult to help a customer when you don't hear what they say. Many consumers find that generally, they won't get the service they are expecting and will be hesitant to voice what they would like because of the headaches of returns or customer service being even worse than the front line team who should be there from the start to give the correct intel. Things go wrong, and they will, and how you handle a customer's buying experience matters. If you don't work with empathy, you are missing the big picture of why they came to you in the first place. Having empathy will send a customer or a potential customer to your competitor because it is the right thing. After all, your firm heard the customer's needs, even if it means losing a deal for that moment. Empathy will also stay in touch with this customer to ensure the need was met and seek to connect even after the initial contact.

Companies should be looking at their customers as buying into a family and treating them as such for the entire time they are in business as long as it falls in ethical codes. You don't lose when you do this because few firms as a whole can carry this out from beginning to end. It works well when you start small, and as you grow, hiring and take a larger customer or significantly more customers, this becomes more challenging to keep up with if you don't make it a focus. Most firms' priorities are misplaced. As you grow, it would be best to put those with high levels of emotional awareness and diplomacy in communication to be the heads at both "sales" and customer service. Referring to your sales function as customer support, both front and back end should focus its energy on the training of products, services and why it best fits those looking for their support to buy from your company. In this, you will be offering the training to learn, hear, understand and execute effectively when dealing with customers. Some fall out of the bell curve on both sides, with some not caring how much you seek to help they will be a problem and those they would buy no matter how they were treated because the product is filling a critical need.

Related: 4 Reasons Why Empathy is Good for Business

Typically in life, most people don't learn to value something until it's gone or removed from the reach temporarily. Show empathy regardless, and your customer base will seek to choose you over their competition because empathy is being shown by seeking to understand the reason behind why someone is buying. Selling traditionally will focus on making the sale even if it is not the customer's solution. Your firm will hurt its brand, in the long run, doing this as those firms who will either fix or provide a better product will hear the pain from a bad experience with your firm and exercise empathy to build a long term customer when you had the opportunity to it first. Don't sell your customer. Help them instead by showing empathy to help them secure the accurate product or service. Your brand will thank you in the end.

Paul L. Gunn, Jr

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder & CEO of KUOG Corporation

Paul L. Gunn, Jr. is highly skilled in procurement, logistics and supply chain for the Department of Defense and private sector. He is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal best-selling author.

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