Empathy is always touted as a good trait for sales people. We brought up the concept of empathy for woodworkers before, as a ticket to changing the way prospects think about your product. In that discussion we talked about empathy is a key to differentiation. Showing that you understand your customer’s pain is the best way to grab their attention away from your competitor.

In another sales context, empathy also means the ability to understand your customers' needs and concerns. Improtantly, sometimes you will have several customers within an account. Empathy will help you decide how to deal with each individual's concern in the progress toward winning a sale.

For example, let’s pretend you are selling cabinets to a large contractor. The Project Manager will be very concerned with accurate delivery times, the Installation Supervisor will demand accuracy, and the Purchasing Agent will be concerned with your price. The key to success with this account is to talk with each and stress the areas of their concerns, not yours. Talking price with a installer will only waste his time, whereas a purchasing agent is judged on his cost savings.

The best tactic for multiple level sales is to determine what is the customer’s greatest concern and focus your discussions there. Stephen Covey says it best, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Remember that selling is not about your product, but about solving the customers needs.

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Rick Hill is a consultant specializing in woodworking companies that need to find new markets and more sales. He is also an independent sales rep and founder of WoodReps.Com, a national association of independent reps in the woodworking industry. Reach Rick Hill at his website OnPointSales.com.

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