Here’s a counterintuitive idea for the corporate world: empathy sells.
A coaching client of mine, an excellent salesman, told me he was feeling nervous about a sale. He was in the final stages, and the client had narrowed it down to his company and a competitor. They offered essentially the same services, and my friend’s services were marginally more expensive—so how could he be sure that he would win the deal?
“Well,” I said, “have you asked about the client’s personal win?”
Behind every purchase decision, there’s always two things going on. There’s the surface-level value, the logical considerations, i.e. does this make financial sense, will this save my company money, will it be profitable. That’s what you’re usually thrashing out in the early to mid stages of a sales discovery conversation.
But underneath that is an emotional decision, which is usually invisible to both the buyer and the salesperson. People do things, essentially, because it serves them on an emotional or unconscious level. And really skilled salespeople, at the top of their game, are going to tap into this underlying decision to serve their customer’s best interest and win the deal. They’re going to use empathy—that is, they are going to think from the perspective of the customer—to figure out the customer’s personal win.
Eventually, you should get to the stage where you sort out the business and financial side of a deal. The next question you need to ask your customer is—what do you, personally, want to get out of or stand to gain from this? What’s the personal win for you if you go ahead with this? And in my experience, this question is always followed by silence.
That silence is pure gold. Too often, sales conversations end up being a sort of casual, boilerplate patter on both sides – like you’re exchanging pleasantries at the water cooler. If you can break through that, and have a meaningful connection with your client, you’ll be rewarded with dead quiet—because, for the first time in that conversation, they’re really thinking.
Value is created when you take your client to places they’ve never been before, and introduce them to concepts they’ve never thought about. Just like that, you’ve differentiated yourself from your competitors.
The personal win could be anything, depending on who you’re talking to. An executive with a high-octane lifestyle and a stressful workday might want to buy your solution because it will free up more time so he can go sailing with his wife more often.
Whether it’s success, relaxation, or obligation, everyone has their underlying drives and desires. And it’s your job as a salesperson to figure out what that is.
Most of the time the customer won’t even be clear about what their personal win is. But when you can help them articulate it, you immediately differentiate yourself…and gain a new friend.
My client went back to his customer and asked her about her personal win. It turned out she needed to get a large project under her belt to get the promotion she wanted. When she awarded him the contract, he asked why she chose him. She said she gave it to him because he asked her what she wanted, what was in it for her. The other sales person hadn’t. One question made all the difference.
Remember, when you’re making deals, the numbers and business case are only half the story. Sure, ostensibly, you’re trying to increase revenues, or streamline, or halve operating costs; but you’re also dealing with a human being, not a spreadsheet. Being personable, discerning, and figuring out what your client wants as an individual: that’s the key to success in sales. Lock down the personal win, and you’ve got a happy client.
(Note for sales leaders: If your team suffers low proposal to win rates, start expecting and coaching for a clearly defined business case in your sales people’s proposals (ideally to the ultimate decision maker).
Also, ask your sales people what the personal win for each buyer is. And while the personal win may not be included in a proposal, particularly if several people are involved in the evaluation process, this is good deal hygiene. A business case and personal win are LEAD indicators for successful deals.)
If you found this article helpful – please take a second to share it on social media and with any colleagues who would also benefit from this knowledge.
If you want to learn more, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on +1 647-402-2096.
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