Sales is tough. Rewarding but tough. Not every one is cut out for a career in Sales. It’s the ultimate “what have you done for me lately” profession. This year’s top performer is next year’s runner-up. Being a salesperson requires high energy, discipline, tenacity and focus. Great sales people possess the ability to visualize their success. They can see themselves on the stage receiving The President’s Award, or cashing that big bonus check. They’re high achievers, hard workers, and by and large, emotionally charged people. Great sales leader have many similarities. But the really great leaders have more empathy than your average sales leaders.
Empathy allows you to connect. It makes you human. Empathy allows you to feel, or perhaps more pointedly, allows you to understand how the someone else feels. Having empathy is different from having sympathy. Many people feel they are the same. They’re not. They’re wildly different. Sympathy is about compassion, “feeling sorry for”, whereas empathy is being able to relate to another person.
Great sales leaders can relate, or empathize, with how challenging it is to find good prospects. They can empathize with how exhausting making 100 dials a day can be. If it were sympathy, I’d be saying “I’m sorry you have to make those 100 calls today…I sympathize for you.” But that’s not the case. The goal of a great sales leader is to have their team know, that they know, what it’s like to walk in their shoes. The team wants to know the leader has “been there, done that.” Great sales leaders are able to demonstrate empathy without effort because they can simply relate. They’ve carried the bag, they’ve suffered the rejections, they’ve ended their day emotionally and physically exhausted without a sale in hand. They’ve lived it.
Great leaders are not scared or intimidated to show empathy. They don’t see it as a weakness to say “I went an entire week once not selling a thing”. They’re not excusing low or poor performance by providing sympathy. In fact, instead, what they are saying is I’ve had some moments like that myself and here’s how I pulled myself up and turned the corner.
We’re emotional beings. Period. We want to know we connect. We’re pack animals. Knowing we’re understood is critical. Top performers, no matter what the profession, just want to be understood. They don’t want sympathy and they don’t want anyone to “cut them slack”. They want encouragement. Not cheerleading. There’s a difference. Encouragement provides direction, a path. Cheerleading provides nothing but a temporary high.
If you want to supercharge your leadership focus on developing your own personal level of empathy. How do you relate to others? What do you say to people who are struggling? If you can improve your empathy skills you can improve your results, and the results of those around you. Now you’ve created two wins. Now you have momentum that will carry you and your team forward, and that’s what it’s all about.