“To an Octopus” Revisited: Empathy Meets Social CRM


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Remember Denise, the top-producing software sales rep who could kick the fanny of your top producer? The one who awed me into exclaiming we are not worthy!? The empathetic salesperson who makes Mother Theresa seem uncaring?

Denise was the subject of a sales article I wrote in 2007, To an Octopus, ’50’ Means Nothing: Why Empathy Matters.

Here’s what she said:

“Before my (prospecting) phone call, I envision the person I’m calling in their office, along with what’s in their surroundings. I think about what they are doing when my call comes in. I think about what they did five minutes before, what’s on their calendar that day and what pressure they might be facing at home. From there, I think about what I’m going to ask and say. Then I make my call.”

Three years later, Denise is still kickin’ tail. A killer rep with killer technique—and now, access to killer social media tools to hone her advantage. In 2007, Denise wasn’t using LinkedIn, didn’t have a Facebook profile, and thought Tweeting was for birds. Now, with social CRM, empathetic Denise has insight that your its-all-about-me-and-making-my-quota top producer might not recognize. For an empathetic salesperson, Social CRM is like the power saw you’ve wanted after you’ve worn out the dinky blade in your first Mr. Build-it set. With social CRM, when Denise wants clarity for her pre-call visualization, she can darn near get it.

The developers of Xeesm, a new online software tool, recognized that much can be learned about individuals through their social media activity. The company developed a streamlined application that enables an empathetic salesperson to answer the question, “how does the world look to my prospect?” That insight alone provides a salesperson a huge tactical advantage. Add the speed that Xeesm provides through consolidating, organizing, and presenting the information, and an empathetic salesperson can become nearly unstoppable.

The wisdom that “people don’t buy from companies, people buy from people” was top of mind for Xeesm developers, and the Xeesm dashboard supports the empathetic mind.

Xeesm Flights

In a single screen, a salesperson can see influencers, decision makers, advocates, and adversaries for a sales opportunity, along with an estimate of relationship strength. But click on an individual—Joe, for example—and the insight blossoms. Through Joe’s online presence, Denise knows that he’s a member of a Cystic Fibrosis organization on LinkedIn. He just sent a series of Tweets about a fundraiser for his daughter’s rowing team at her high school. He uses Facebook and is active in the local alumni chapter for his university. In the last week, he has sent a dozen Tweets with the hashtag #RFID to learn about how the technology is used in pharmaceutical packaging. From that, Denise has read the comments directed to Joe on the topic. Oh, one other thing–Joe’s stations on Pandora include one titled The Grateful Dead. Denise just spent three minutes getting to know Joe. About the same time that it took another salesperson to retrieve his name from a lead list, and to call him to initiate a discussion that hit with the force of a wet noodle. Guess who is more likely to be invited to join the next step of the buying process.

But Denise’s success doesn’t result as much from what she knows, but how she uses her knowledge. She has an edge over the its-all-about-me-and-making-my-quota salesperson because she knows that the people she contacts have priorities that differ from hers, and she respects those priorities. As Jill Konrath said in her latest book, SNAP Selling. Speed Up Sales and Win More Business with Today’s Frazzled Customers, “It’s a crazy life, even a fragile life, where things such as traffic jams, computer problems, and sick kids can put you over the edge.” With social CRM, these artifacts aren’t hidden from view. There’s less reason than ever to say “gosh, I don’t know why she’s not responding to my email.” As Denise pointed out, selling with empathy begins with visualizing people and their situations, followed by thinking about what you’re going to ask and say.

Xeesm’s focus on providing a complete picture of the people who collaborate in buying networks—and making it simple to access the insight—is a refreshing departure from other tools. But Xeesm and other social CRM tools won’t give a salesperson killer results unless he or she knows what insight to look for in the first place, and how to use it. After all, empathy isn’t a process, but a frame of mind.


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