Empathy is knowing and feeling where the other person is coming from, walking a mile in their shoes, seeing things from their point of view.  Empathy involves understanding that people make decisions for their own reasons, not ours.  There are always reasons.  Customers have reasons, prospects have reasons, employees have reasons, coworkers have reasons.  They might not be our reasons. 

To enhance our level of empathy, it is paramount to focus on understanding others’ parameters for progress.  We may never fully uncover where another person’s motivation, their “motives for actions,” are coming from, but those motives, along with their parameters for progress, are uniquely theirs.  

Always think, and say: “What that means to you, Mrs./Mr. Prospect, is…”  Commit to doing what is best for the customer, ever striving to help provide the right product or service to meet their needs.  Sure, we want to profit, but the customer’s profit is key to ours.  Practicing empathy includes understanding that customers do not want our products and services – they want what they think our products and services can do for them. 

One of my client companies is among the largest trade show booth manufacturers in the USA.  They design, build, and transport the huge trade show booths you see at the big conferences around the country and world.  At the very beginning of a program I was conducting for their sales teams, I stated bluntly, “No one wants a trade booth.”

The room went silent.  The reps looked at the Vice President of Sales and each other as if to say, “What?”

Finally, one of the sales managers in the back raised his hand and said, “No, Dean.  They actually call us up and order trade show booths.”

I said, “You bet.  They order trade show booths, but a trade show booth is not really what they want.”

Again more silence.  Then the Vice President of Sales spoke. “You’re right, Dean.  Our customers don’t want trade show booths they want profit.  We must be able to show them how investing in our trade show booths will help them to profit.” 

It is not the goal of having the product or service itself that creates the momentum.  It is the perceived benefits (feelings realized) behind having or utilizing the product or service that creates the momentum.


Contributed by:  Dean Lindsay, Award Winning Speaker and Author of The Progress Challenge & Co-Author of Stepping Stones to Success   

Dean Lindsay, Sales and Leadership Speaker