4 Paths To Building Buyer Trust Through Empathy And Humility


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Buyer Trust Is Elusive For Most Marketing And Sales Teams Unless They Can Balance Empathy And Humility

Marketing and sales traditionally believe that the path to building buyer trust is by providing answers. Answers to buyer problems and challenges.  In fact, each prime their channels with marketing content or sales guides at the ready with an answer.  To whatever question comes up, there is an answer. 

The answer usually begins with – “What we can do…”

Marketing and sales leaders are led to believe that you are expected to have answers through education, experience, and training.  You are expected to know everything about every problem and every possible solution.  Marketing and sales teams experience onboarding, training, and enablement programs oriented towards being at the ready with an answer. 

There is a belief that being ready with answers is one way to demonstrate your strength.  And build confidence on the part of buyers.  To a degree, this can be true.  When it is done at the right time.  Most often though, marketing and sales teams are giving answers all the time.

In today’s world of continuous uncertainty and accelerated change, marketing and sales leaders should instead demonstrate empathy and humility.  The road to building trust is riddled with potholes if buyers experience nothing but “quick to answer.”  The path to buyer trust is through empathetic understanding balanced with humility.

Why Humility?

The notion of empathy has received attention during the past few years as an important element to demonstrate with buyers.  One such thought leader in this space is Michael Brenner and his take on empathetic marketing. It is possible, however, that empathy is demonstrated in “quick to answer” manners.  Losing the intended effects with buyers.

Demonstrating empathy balanced with humility means being open to learning, exploring new ideas, and displaying curiosity.  Most importantly, it is being confident enough to say you do not have an answer.  Yet, show a willingness to understand, learn, and explore with a buyer.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, humility is needed more than ever.  Buyers of every stripe are faced with unpredictability, new ways of remote working, and new/redefined goals. It may seem counterintuitive but buyers may not be seeking an immediate answer at every interaction. What they seek is help on how to shape a new future in a new reality.  A future that is yet clearly defined and has only a few answers – if any. 

How Do I Balance Empathy and Humility?

Gaining the attention of buyers is hard enough in this new era for B2B.  When you do have their attention you only have a fleeting moment.  You can think about empathy and humility in two ways.  With empathy, realize how important it is to gain buyers’ attention.  For humility, realize how important it is to engage buyers. 

Now, please do not go here.  Recently, I encountered the business speak of how “we need to operationalize empathy.”  I can imagine encountering a similar statement such as “we need to operationalize humility.”  Empathy and humility are mindsets and comes from the heart. 

When you approach buyers with a balance of empathy and humility, it allows for an open dialogue. It gives you the ability to build trust and helps you and your marketing and sales teams to prevent jumping quickly to programmed answers. 

What Other Considerations Should I Make?

1 – Commit to understanding buyers.

As a leader and an organization, it starts with a commitment to learn and develop a deep understanding of buyers.  Meaning committing to buyer research, gathering key insights, and developing meaningful buyer personas.  The precursor to empathy and humility is understanding.

2 – Activate an empathetic buyer mindset in your teams.

You want to use insight and knowledge about buyers to develop a mindset among your marketing and sales teams.  A mindset that helps teams to develop empathy and demonstrate humility with buyers.  Earning their trust in their interactions with buyers.  Once again, be careful about getting MBA-ish and Business Speak-ish about “operationalizing” empathy and humility.  You will take the purpose right out of both if you do that.  And buyers notice.

3 – Be prepared to say you don’t have the answer.

There is a tendency to jump right to a solution when interacting with buyers.  The “what we can do” mentality is prevalent.  Sometimes, this is off-putting to buyers and demonstrates the opposite. The inability to listen, empathize and be humble about what you can and cannot do. 

4 – Demonstrate flexibility to earn trust and future-enable buyers.

The future is not as clear or predictable as before the pandemic.  It may never have been but a perception existed that it was.  For buyers, it is all about the future.  And marketing and sales teams must become future enablers.  This means working with buyers with a high degree of flexibility and a willingness to truly understand what they face on the road ahead.  Another careful warning also.  Buyers will notice the business-speak of  “what we can do…and we are agile…” that can permeate seller-buyer conversations.

The road ahead is indeed uncertain.  At times, the journey ahead will be both perilous and exciting.  What buyers seek on the road ahead is empathetic understanding.  Not in an “operationalizing” way but with a good healthy dash of humility.  This is the journey towards building trust. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


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