Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, by putting yourself mentally and emotionally in their situation. You might not associate this trait with entrepreneurs, salespeople and marketers, but it is one of the most important skills these professionals should possess. Why? Because if they can mentally and emotionally understand how their prospective customer is feeling and what they are thinking, they can align their sales message in such a way as to connect with them.
Empathising shouldn’t be about manipulating, or taking advantage of your prospects, which are self serving descriptions of the process, it should be about putting yourself in the best position to help them solve their problem, answer their questions, squash their fears, and objections and add value to their lives in some way.
The empathises moves from what’s best for you, to what’s best for them. It’s about serving your customers, not taking advantage and disrespecting them. If your intent to serve and add value is pure, your results will inevitably reflect this positive approach.
Obviously you’re in business to make a profit, you’re not doing it for nothing, but that doesn’t mean you should be gaming the system, looking for short term gains at the expense of your long term, brand equity.
Don’t fake sincerity
People will see through fake, insincere people and will be less likely to want to do business with you now and in the future, they will be unlikely to recommend you to their friends or colleagues. It will make future business more challenging.
Being empathetic also helps you understand what’s driving behaviour, you will be more inclined to see future trends before none empathetic competitors.
An important part of empathy is curiosity, wanting to find out more about customers, their likes, dislikes, where they hang out, and why. The “why” is the most important part of the jigsaw. It allows you to better predict future behaviour if you know your customers “why”.
It’s a good idea to think about your own habits and behaviours, why you do what you do, and why you don’t do what you don’t do. I would recommend improving your own self awareness before trying to understand other people. It will provide insight and experience for you, developing your empathetic side is like exercising a muscle, the more you do it, the stronger it will become. When you do it enough, you will find it becomes habit and your default disposition, and you won’t have to force yourself to think that way.
When you’re being curious about prospects you’re going to have to do some research, find out where they hang out and try to engage with them in social spaces, join groups they are part of, get involved in online groups and discussion boards where they are likely to be found. You’re looking for any opportunity where you can engage in conversation with them.
Ask intelligent questions
When you get involved in discussions, make sure you ask intelligent questions that illicit responses that provide some insight that can used to help you better understand their point of view and perspective.
Listen, really listen
Another vital ingredient of being empathetic, is being a good listener. Be curious in the first instance by finding as much out about your customers, and asking questions, but then you have to listen, really listen to what they tell you or to what they’re saying to other people. If you’re busy talking about you and your product, you’re not learning anything about them. Great salespeople are great listeners.
Don’t overstep the mark
Now it’s important to go about this in a socially acceptable way, don’t just start interrogating prospects, like they’re under investigation. You wouldn’t want people creeped out by your line of enquiry, would you. So be smart and be patient. It takes time to do proper research. What you’re looking to do is immerse yourself in their world and understand over time, where they are coming from and their point of view and perspective. Engaging and interacting with them, also helps you build relationships. Remember you’re there to add value to their situation, not exploit and manipulate them. You want to equip yourself with the knowledge to make your solution the best it can be, for them.
Use Empathy in all aspects of life
Empathy is not just a trait you should develop for your business, it’s a really important life skill, that will improve all of your personal relationships. Understanding other people will help unlock the door to why people act the way they do, and offer you some insight into how to best deal with them for the benefit of all.
It’s a skill that needs developing over time, but an essential one if you’re to enjoy deeper personal relationships. Always try to think about what you say and how you act towards other people and how that impacts them. A careless word can really cause upset if said in an abrupt manner. Every interaction you have with other people has an effect on them, try to make it a good one.