Doing business during a major economic downturn requires increased business activity and sales. Naturally, as economic challenges continue, many people are fearful of spending or simply don’t have the cash to buy.
So, how do we continue to trade through an economic downturn while being mindful of our customers’ struggles? How do we avoid coming across as opportunistic or pushy in our sales process? And how do we address these questions while making sure that our own business remains profitable? The answer lies in how well we can dial up our empathy.
Empathy vs sympathy To understand how to sell with empathy, we must understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is feeling pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune, while empathy is your ability to see things from your customer’s perspective and being prepared to do something about it. Your customers don’t need your sympathy. Being too sympathetic can come across as patronising. Customers need you to listen, understand, and help them.
The three kinds of seller you don’t want to be:
The Order-taker, who waits for the sale to come to them. It’s likely this kind of seller is being too sympathetic and doesn’t want to bother customers while they’re finding things tough. In a climate with less demand, being an order-taker won’t work.
The Product-pusher, who will sell any product or service to their customers, whether the customer needs them or not. This is being neither sympathetic nor empathetic and will drive customers away.
The Over-seller, who is prepared to say anything to make a sale, even if it’s not true. Again, this seller is neither sympathetic nor empathetic; they only care about the sale.
The problem-solver seller This is the kind of seller you want to be; someone who discovers the problems customers are experiencing and offers solutions in the form of products or services. This seller is empathetic to the unique situation of each of their customers.
How to become a problem-solver seller:
Connect with your customers and show a genuine interest in how they’re going
Help them address the problems that your products or services can solve
Educate your customers through your marketing channels to show how you can solve these problems
Articulate the value of your products or services and share success stories and testimonials
Offer low-cost, complimentary or DIY solutions
Provide choices and let customers decide what’s best for them
Offer flexible payment options, but don’t become a bank for your customers; you’re also running a business
It is okay to sell. Ensure you’re being empathetic and providing solutions for your customers, only offering what they truly need. Keeping your business going will ultimately help your customers in the long run.