Are we willing to call ourselves out first before blaming someone or something?
It’s always easier to blame others, and sometimes they are at fault, but what have we done to cause the situation? How have we contributed?
And, more valuable to consider, is this even worth getting upset over?
Most things that happen are so insignificant that the best option becomes not saying anything at all. We can tap down the ego with a dose of humility.
Have we ever made a mistake before?
Have we dropped the food right before serving it?
Have we cut someone off in traffic?
Have we held up a checkout line with a lot of items?
Have we parked poorly between the lines?
Have we messed up an order?
Have we had one of the days where we just struggled?
So do other people.
Before causing a scene or yelling at someone or getting angry we need to be willing to look at that “mirror” and tell ourselves that we are in control.
Our actions, right now, define us.
These are the traits we want others to exude when we mess up or are having a bad day.
We need to take that into consideration next time we are in that situation.
EPISODE 214: Author, “Tell Me More About That – Solving the Empathy Crisis One Conversation At A Time”
Episode 214 brings back former guest Rob Volpe to discuss his new book, “Tell Me More About That – Solving the Empathy Crisis One Conversation At A Time” and a variety of topics around Empathy and its importance in our society today.
Rob founded Ignite 360 to deliver actionable strategy, grounded in meaningful consumer insights, presented through story and creative ways that drive results. As CEO, he leads a team of insights, strategy, and creative professionals serving the world’s leading brands across a range of industries.
Rob is recognized as a thought leader in the role of empathy in marketing and the workplace. He frequently talks on the topic, is cited in media, and writes about building and applying empathy. Rob launched his first book, “Tell Me More About That – Solving the Empathy Crisis One Conversation At A Time”, in February 2022. Rob lives in San Francisco with his husband and 3 cats.
If you enjoyed this interview you may also our first interview together back on Episode 121 – Find it Here
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Sales are not simply “selling”. It’s much more than that.
The best sales conversations are rooted in teachable moments and come from a place of empathy.
They come from a realization that our potential buyers are busy with many other priorities but understand the importance of solving problems. However, they may not have the time to research all of the options or feel there might be too much information to make a decision.
By teaching new ideas or ways of thinking, not trying to sell a product, can open up the conversation and allow the potential buyer the freedom to consider an alternative path.
An alternative path that they wouldn’t have otherwise considered if we were just trying to sell them something right out of the gate.
The frustrating thing when you are selling anything is that sometimes the person buying doesn’t always work on the same timeline or priority level you want it to be at.
Although you may think highly of your product it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s high on their list right now.
Empathy and respect for others’ situations go a long way in establishing trust which in turn provides more transparency in our interactions with others.
More transparency means we may not always like the decision or length of time it takes to bring the partnership together but we can at least be confident we’ll get the full story and not be left hanging.
Sales are hard but if we also remember that sales are human it can make it a lot easier to step across the aisle and put ourselves in their shoes for a minute. If we can understand what they might be dealing with we now can take the role of an advisor or friend versus a salesperson.
When I think of sales and interacting with people, I can’t think of a word that describes having a “client-centric” mindset more than empathy. This word embodies a mix of both emotional intelligence, social awareness, and the care factor that are all necessary to work with potential clients.
To make sure we are set on the definitions
Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Sympathy – feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
Sometimes these get confused so I wanted to make it crystal clear. You certainly need to be sympathetic in certain situations that call for it but empathy is more of the “state of mind” that you can relate to what people are going through and put yourself in their shoes.
Here’s an example of a situation I found myself in:
I was speaking with a potential client and we were “late-stage” with the partnership discussions and we had a follow-up call scheduled to progress this to the final steps and get started. On that call, my “champion” shared that their boss’s spouse was gravely ill and this project was on hold for a little while longer until they could get back into the office and focus on this.
I could’ve asked questions like:
Do you have any expected timeline?
What else can I do to help move the project forward
Should I follow-up in a couple of weeks to continue discussions?
All of these would have been bad ideas because it doesn’t put the client first. Sometimes there is NO timeline. Sometimes the waters are muddy and hard to navigate through. That’s not just sales, it’s life.
The empathetic approach is to recognize that there are bigger things at play here, real humans are in pain, and this (insert whatever you are selling) is not the top of mind at the moment.
It doesn’t mean it isn’t an important project or they don’t want to proceed. It’s that the timing has been shifted due to this unforeseen circumstance.
Using this logic and stepping away from the situation and looking at it from a different perspective I did a few things:
I helped my “champion” know first and foremost that I fully understand the situation and this is definitely not a good time to discuss.
I offered up myself as a resource in the comings weeks/months if they personally wanted to have conversations around process improvements away from the software
I acknowledged that there are too many unknowns to set any next steps and that I am going to put it in their hands to reach out
This approach led me to continue our great relationship, solidify myself and my company as professional and “client-focused”, and earn the right to receive a follow-up when the times were right. I built that trust through empathy.
I’ve found that taking an empathetic approach into most of my conversations has provided me the mindset to help clients even more because I’ve already convinced myself they are likely underwater on projects, are stressed about their work, and their home life isn’t an A+. Part of this gets into Emotional Intelligence and social awareness but I still think it falls under the category of empathy. If we know our business better than anyone then we should know our potential clients and all that they are going through.
With that in mind, a couple of additional thoughts to consider in your client interactions.
Be human and express you are also going through challenges as well which helps them reciprocate the empathy in a way
Re-read your emails a second time and ask yourself “what is my tone and what am I trying to accomplish by sending the email this way?”
When you hit roadblocks, don’t take it personally and try to uncover the true reasons behind it. It might not relate to anything you all have been talking about.
Remember that you can’t fake empathy, your mindset and attitude help shape those CARE muscles and if you want to get better at this then you must change your focus and outlook on the process and your interactions with every potential client.
I feel that if I was stack ranking the eight attributes that I would put empathy as higher on my list of strengths because it’s just something I’ve always done and has been in my DNA since childhood. This comes a little easier to me but it’s also allowed me to recognize the importance of it has seen its impact over the years.
I highly recommend auditing your level of empathy, both personally and professionally, and seeing where you can turn the dial in a positive direction.
More to come on empathy as I’m sure we’ll weave it into the other core attributes because it is so important but hopefully this starts giving you some thoughts about the importance of it all.
You don’t need me to tell you this but this is a TON of information out there on the sales profession and a million different opinions on what you should do and how you should do it. From prospecting new clients to navigating the sales cycle, to follow-ups and referrals, it’s borderline exhausting. It’s a big topic, I get it. But it can also be confusing for a lot of the new people that are trying to sell products whether you are “carrying your own bag” for an organization, are running your own business, or are pitching investors and gaining proof-of-concept in a start-up. I think there is an easier way.
I want to strip that all away for a moment and focus on the key characteristics that I feel are essential across the board for any sales professional to succeed. I’ve seen it first hand and it’s not complicated. It’s just logical and takes time to refine and sharpen. However, if you put the time into each and every one of these I am confident that you’ll be able to reach new heights in your career and start to understand the relationship element that is so vital in any partnership.
We are in a new era of sales with much more information out there for the buyer, and frankly, a much savvier buyer which I love. The reason I love it is because human interaction and relationships matter again. Honesty matters. Integrity matters. Respect matters.
I don’t think these things ever went away but a lot of software products were ahead of their time before the client could actually form an opinion and do thorough due diligence. Now, with much more information at their fingertips and the curve from innovators moving to the early and late majority there is more of a level playing field and buyers are back in control.
Times are changing and I feel this new age of sales is going to weed out a lot of those sales professionals that stick with the old way of doing it and fail to make the shift. You are going to have to have true empathy, you are going to actually put the client first, you are going to be professional and brutally honest in your responses when you can do something and when you can’t.
I think the hardest part about sales is all of the BS and bad habits people have learned for years that they try to wedge, fit, or shimmy into an already broken process. They drive to regurgitate what they learned in a book 10 years ago. It doesn’t work that way anymore. People are too smart. That all changes today.
I don’t have all the answers, far from it, but what I do feel I have uncovered is a clear path that new and old sales professionals alike can be cognizant of and continue to build on as they develop their “in-game’ skills. These are not tricks and tactics but the characteristics that will be paramount to future success. None of these should be a surprise but I hope they make you think a bit more about how you project yourself in your business dealings and where you can find areas to improve.
Here are the main areas I am going to focus on:
Over the next 8-part series I’ll break into each of these areas, share some personal stories, and hopefully get you to focus inward on self-awareness and how we can improve in all of these areas. Like a video game, we all have different levels of each of these, and some rank higher in certain areas than others. I expect you to be strong in some and weak in others. What is important is that we know we can improve in all of these areas and my goal is to get you to think differently about each and every one of these and how it applies toward working through partnerships in your sales career going forward.