What does empathy have to do with sales?

Late last year we published the 12 Sales Trends Report for 2013 and released a brief summary of each sales trend in December. Over the year we will delve a little deeper into each sales trend. To kick off the new year we will focus on the sales trend, Empathy.

This sales trend is seeing smart businesses making it a priority to redress the balance and develop our interpersonal sensitivities: our empathetic side to take into account the needs of others as well as our own. We will see people working more in collaboration for the mutual benefit of each other while maintaining the best of analytical thinking and risk-taking.

Why? Well, two reasons:

1. Sadly, for some years now the business world, by and large, has been worshipping at the corporate altar of Profit which has created an Empathy deficit – and most people (read employees, customers, communities, etc) do not like it. It’s not sustainable by itself.

2. There has been, and still is, a shift away from product as central to the complex sale with businesses and markets becoming more intertwined, and people now featuring at the heart of viable business relationships.

Effective selling and building profitable businesses in the 21st century is all about developing viable relationships based on real value and substance which is a combination of the tangible and intangible.

The challenge will be to reconcile the prevailing norms of the cool headedness of the analytical thinking brain and the risk-taking brain of the ‘cowboy’ entrepreneur with the empathetic moral compass brain as we navigate and manage the impact of our decisions on individuals, customers, suppliers and communities.

However, making Empathy a priority is not that easy. A lot of emphasis has been placed on the importance of being ‘analytical’ in business, being rational, yet the newspapers are littered with stories of CEOs and leaders whose rationality and analytical thinking was of the highest order yet the decisions they made failed to consider the people factors; at worst, putting the lives of people and communities at risk, destroying or severely eroding their business brands and future viability as well, and creating horrendous consequences for those affected by their decisions.

We also read countless stories of risk-taking entrepreneurs who are lauded as business celebrities one day for the way they have taken a business from zero to hero faster than the speed of light and then canned the next when their venture takes a dive, leaving people jobless and out of pocket, and investors poorer for the experience.

Interestingly, in this increasingly complex world, capabilities such as empathy, compassion and benevolence are emerging as critical qualities of highly successful people, teams, organisations and communities. Even in the highly competitive world of business and selling, it has been found that those salespeople and leaders who are able to incorporate these qualities into their daily work and personal lives are finding greater levels of success. This is coming in the form of better sales results and healthier, more prosperous client relationships as well as better personal health, resilience, and overall job and personal satisfaction.

And the good news is that the emotional qualities such as compassion, empathy, and benevolence can be trained: they can be proactively developed and mastered.

Numerous articles and books are written about that ‘One thing’ or that ‘Secret to Success’ that will solve all your issues – and what happens? It doesn’t work by itself – it needs to work as part of a system. And so it is with the brain. The brain is a complex network and being able to access and develop key areas of the brain, allowing them to work in concert and counterbalance each other for positive outcomes, is the key.

If you want to understand more about Empathy as a powerful societal force you may enjoy watching a very interesting video about a concept called Outrospection by philosopher and author Roman Krznaric, who explains how we can help drive social change by stepping outside ourselves.

Now is the time to reconcile and place equal importance on developing the empathetic parts of our brain as our new sales and business edge.

If you would like to you can purchase and download the detailed 49 page report of the 12 Sales Trends for 2013 now to see which sales trends will have the greatest impact on your sales optimisation efforts in 2013.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations. Visit www.barrett.com.au.

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