Embedding empathy into sales: 3 steps to make sure your sales teams are leading with empathy


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As the days get longer, more people are receiving vaccinations, and signs of normalcy are starting to return, I’m reminded of where we were around one year ago. The pandemic had just taken hold of our lives. As a team leader at Seismic, I distinctly remember the conversations we had with our sales reps during the earliest days of our “new normal.” We felt it was not the right time to be cold calling and prospecting. We paused outreach – something we knew wasn’t sustainable for an extended period of time, but was the right thing to do at the moment.

Now that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I hope sales organizations and teams can look back at this year with pride and gratitude for how we navigated through it. I am certainly proud of my team and how we led with empathy at every step of the way. Reflecting back, there are three key areas we focused on and stayed mindful of in our prospect and customer communications:

Pause before prospecting
After we suspended all cold calls and prospect outreach during the early days of the pandemic, sales leaders at Seismic gathered our teams and agreed on our approach for the next few months. During daily stand-up meetings, weekly syncs, and in written guidance from our leadership team, we coached our sellers to begin calls by pausing before diving into their pitch, and to simply ask people how they were doing, how their family members were doing, and how they were acclimating to the new work-from-home reality. We also avoided starting calls and emails with “during these times,” or “during COVID,” and continue to avoid using similar language referencing COVID, because we not only felt that it could be perceived as opportunistic, but it also triggered spam filters on various email platforms. Perception is reality – if your email tool is telling you that something is spam, you’ll think it’s spam, no matter if it’s a good sales pitch or not. Taking a brief pause before hitting send to make sure you’re striking the right tone, whether it’s a cold call or LinkedIn message, can be extremely valuable.

Add personalization and thoughtfulness to every customer touchpoint
Empathy is defined as the ability to share someone else’s feelings and experiences. Sometimes the best way to show that you share a common feeling or experience with someone is by adding a touch of personalization and thoughtfulness to every aspect of your communication. Our focus on personalization didn’t begin last March, but it certainly became more important and central to our outreach strategy. We coached our team to look out for “warning signs,” whether that be a lot of background noise, stress or general distraction on the other end. By showing a simple gesture of adding a personal touch to your next outreach, or sending a small treat using a corporate gifting platform like Sendoso, these small acts of thoughtfulness show your customers and prospects that you care. If you actually care about the person you’re reaching out to, your communication will be more valuable to that person, and ultimately get you to your next step of the process.

Align with customer success teams to deliver high-quality customer experiences
Nobody quite knows yet what the modern business landscape will look like in six months, let alone the next year. But even with brighter days ahead, there are several ways to make sure you’re leading with empathy and delivering top-class customer experiences. As I mentioned above, don’t spam your customers – not now, not ever. We work closely with our customer success team to follow a coordinated approach, aligning sales and customer success to be knowledgeable about our customers and the problems they face. I also encourage other sales teams, and organizations at large, to think about empathy through a different lens. One of the simplest ways to express empathy for your busy buyer or customer is to show respect for their time and presence. Don’t waste people’s time by delivering poorly crafted content, or inviting them to a meeting that’s not personalized to their role or business problem. It’s an incredible way to show empathy for a customer who may be distracted or stressed by personal or professional challenges.

As the saying goes, people buy from people. When you lead with empathy, you put yourself in a position to gain your customer’s trust and respect, which can be a great foundation to a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.

Joe Ferrero
Joe is VP of Global Revenue and Sales Development at Seismic. He is a seasoned sales professional, and before joining Seismic held senior roles at Oracle and Sitecore.


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