Empathy vs. Sympathy
1. The intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
1. Harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another.
2. The harmony of feeling naturally existing between persons of like tastes or opinion or of congenial dispositions.
3. The fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, esp. in sorrow or trouble; fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration.
What does this mean to you in Sales?
Give me words that you would think of to describe this person when I say Salesman, or Saleswoman. Would they be "pushy," "obnoxious," "overbearing," or would they be "councilor," "educator," "helpful," why?
We want to be liked, we want to have clients have good feelings about us, and we don’t want to offend or come off as too pushy.
We want to be “friends” with our clients, the problem is they aren’t looking for a friend but someone that can help them find their way through the maze of confusion so that they can own a brand new home, car, insurance policy, or whatever widget we sell. They need a consultant, not a buddy. We hurt our client by not helping them decide to own our product now.
How does Empathy or Sympathy relate to how you will work with your clients?
When you sympathies with your client, you are becoming part of the problem, when you empathize you are still outside of the problem and can offer solutions. In other words, you can stay out of the emotional side of it.
Think of this, when you go to the Doctor, or the Lawyer, are you looking for them to be your friend, or your councilor to guide you through you situation? You too are a professional that they are seeking to guide them. You must, as a professional, maintain a level of detachment to be able to objectively guide them and not get too caught up in their emotional soup.
Zig Ziglar’s story of the fire detector.
Once in Zig’s youth as a salesman he was calling on a couple to sell them a set of high end stainless steel cookware. He had gone through his entire presentation, had shown features and benefits, created a need, and then was proceeding to the close when the ol’ boy leaned back in his chair and said, “ Ya know, I’ve been promising my wife for 20 years now that I was going to put indoor plumbing in here for her, and for 20 years something has come up to keep me from doing it. I’ll have you know that I have the money right here (pointing to pocket) to put in that bathroom right now, and I ain’t spending one cent on nuthin until I do.
Well, Zig grew up with an outhouse, and all those memories of the walk down that path in the dark, in the rain, cold, whatever came rushing back. He understood that Ol’ boy’s dilemma and folded up his stuff and went home.
About a week later, he found out that Ol’ boy was bad mouthing Zig all over town. Saying that Zig sure didn’t believe in those pots after all… that he really wanted a set and Zig wouldn’t sell him one. He was really mad that Zig left without selling him those pots. Zig was floored; he sympathized with the problem and didn’t help overcome it.
Contrasting story told by Zig.
There was a young salesman sitting with a couple selling a fire alarm system. He had demonstrated it, shown features and benefits, created a need and a want, and was closing. Just then the Ol’ boy leaned back in his chair and said, “I guess you have heard about our wreck?” The salesman confessed that he had not. The guy went on, “Well, six months ago we had a big wreck, totaled the car, my wife was hurt and in the hospital off an on for quite some time. In the process she lost her job, the medical bills have really been piling up. Then last month, our son wrecked our other car and knocked down the Telephone pole. We didn’t have insurance, and now the phone company is telling they are going to charge us for the pole as well. So, you can see why we can’t afford the 300.00 right now on your alarm.”
The young salesman looked him in the eye and asked, “Other than that, is there any reason that you wouldn’t want this alarm, and the protection it will afford you and your family right now?” The fellow lost it, fell back in his chair laughing.. “No, I guess not.”
The salesman got up grabbed the alarm climbed onto a chair and starting to install it. The fellow said, “Hey hold on there partner, didn’t you just hear what I said?” To this the salesman said, “Yes, I did. Sir, with all the financial difficulties you have right now, another 300.00 isn’t going to make any difference at all, but a fire would WIPE YOU OUT!” He sold the alarm.
That is the difference between Sympathy (becoming part of the problem) and Empathy (helping them over their problem.)