If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own.Henry Ford
A few years ago a friend remarked to me, “My wife says I lack empathy. I have no clue what she’s talking about.” I had no clue how to respond. Trying to illuminate his lack of empathy would have been like trying to explain dry land to a fish. Someone has to have empathy in order to understand the lack of it.
Having empathy, or its cohorts compassion and understanding, for your audience doesn’t mean you have to constantly tug at their heartstrings. Sometimes it’s as simple as explaining your product in plain English, or having a sense of humor about its mundaneness, or posting a banner about how you’re trying to keep your customers safe during COVID-19.
The important aspect is to consider your customer’s point of view before your own. Yes, we want to sell things, but it’s easier to sell things if the customer feels like we’re on their side somehow, while respecting their point-of-view. And in this day and age, respecting another’s point-of-view seems more common in the halls of commerce than in other venues. This doesn’t mean a brand should compromise its values, but those values might be easier to convey if they’re served with a big dose of empathy.
Much of it comes down to our personal belief system. Our beliefs are important to our marketing. We must believe that our good or service will improve someone’s life in order to have passion for it. Yes, it might be easy to come up with a feature/benefit list, but without empathy it’s often not so easy to express that list in a way the customer can appreciate.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is the ability to understand what others are feeling as though we were having the same experience. It differs from sympathy. Sympathy is observing that someone else is feeling and experiencing your own feelings about them. Empathy is knowing what they are feeling because you are experiencing their feelings with them.
How Do We know When We Have It?
I discovered a wonderful online tool at Greater Good Magazine while researching this article. You can take this empathy quiz that will help score you on a scale of 0 – 110. If you score low, don’t despair. I’d simply recommend that if you’re in charge of your company’s marketing messaging that you check in to see if it can be improved from an emotional point-of-view. Perhaps the language is too dry, or too technical. Perhaps your tone is too bossy or takes a superior position to your audience. It might be worth a look.
What is the Value of Empathy in Business?
The value of empathy should be very clear: to live your brand’s experience through your customer’s eyes. To feel what they’re feeling when they’re engaging with your marketing, your sales process, your product and your customer service. Recently, I reviewed a company’s entire web presence and at the end of it I still didn’t fully understand exactly what they offered. The language they used was very flowery and at times extremely technical, but not necessarily illuminating about what I would buy from them. It seemed to me that they had a lot to say, but couldn’t hear themselves say it.
Empathy is an important element of the natural flow of conversation. An empathetic person is a better conversationalist. They’re better at listening and at reading the cues of the other person to determine their level of interest and their comprehension. That’s why empathy is so important in sales.
It all boils down to something I discovered years ago as an actor. Rather than wanting the audience to like me, it always went better when I wanted the audience to have a good time. That’s empathy.