The road in
VUCA will be long, windy and
bumpy. But as Lao Tzu
老子 says "The journey of a
thousand miles begins at
(千里之行始于足下). And if you
can do what Sun
Tzu 孙子 says
"If you can walk a thousand
miles and not feel tired,
you will be
is the key to selling in
times of VUCA.
Need help in motivating your staff to achieve outstanding performance? Simply e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call +86-21-6219 0021 or WeChat: cydj001 and arrange to have a deeper discussion.
Power Breakfast Hour: 20 Apr 2018
- What changes sales people and their managers would have to make, if they were to achieve greater business performance in VUCA?
- How to rely less on past experiences and "tried-and-proven" methods of selling, and more on honing your business acumen during selling
- How sales people need to have more empathy with their customers to better anticipate what they might do as possible next steps
- How companies need and
can be more nimble to
face frequent changes in
their market spaces
VENUE: Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 • 番禺路 400 号 （靠法华镇路）
DATE: Tuesday, 7 Mar 2017
TIME: 08:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
PRICE: RMB 200 ONLY!
To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations too email@example.com
Achieving a Balance Between Assertiveness and Empathy in Sales
by c.j. Ng
While a lot has been mentioned about how one needs to have EQ to be successful at work (regardless of the type of work), but not much has been said about which aspects of EQ are the most useful at work.
As such, we use the sales job as an example of how EQ needs to be applied in the right way to be successful.
Essentially, sales is a balance of assertiveness, and empathy. Assertive, because the sales person needs to assert influence over the customer and drive the sale. Empathy because the sales person needs to listen and empathize with the needs of the customer, and then seek to deliver solutions to fulfill those needs.
Here are some further insights on how having the right balance of both qualities will bring sales success, and how having an imbalance might result in poorer performances.
By and large, sales people need to be assertive enough to reach out to different customers, both existing and prospective ones. They would have to take actions to drive their ideas across, and taking the risks of possible rejections and stalemates along the way.
In a complex sales situation, sales people will need to know how to be assertive to reach out to different stakeholders and influencers that could have an impact on the final buying decisions.
In a way, the assertiveness that a sales person exhibits could include the following components:
- Having the initiative to make things happen;
- Guide and influence customers’ thinking;
- Asking questions to find out hidden needs and agenda;
- Navigate through different stakeholders and influencers that could have an impact on the final buying decisions;
- Being persevered to follow through long sales cycles;
- Not be discouraged by rejections, or when customers say “no";
- Overcoming objections and win over customers;
- Working through and influencing internal colleagues to give the customers what they want;
- Doing whatever it takes to meet sales targets; etc.
facing rejections, sales people
can be assertive in the following
- Be persevered and follow up with the customer over the long term;
- Not be discouraged by the rejections, and move on to other, more suitable customers
Empathy, on the other hand, works in a different way. In this aspect, sales people will have to be attentive to customers’ needs, and then seek ways to fulfil those needs.
Empathy can imply:
- Listening to what customers say, as well as what they did NOT say;
- Building trust with customers;
- Be mindful of the customers’ feelings and avoid antagonizing the customer;
- Having a positive “can do” attitude and provide great service; etc.
- Having empathy doesn’t mean being nice to customers, or not saying “no” to customers. It simply means stepping into the shoes of customers, and see things from their points of views.
Striking a Balance
Now it would be obvious that if sales people are overly assertive, and under-empathize, they could be come aggressive and offend customers. On the other hand, if they over-empathize but are not assertive enough, they may lose control of the sales process, and be pushed around by customers.
Here’s a typical scenario of how sales people need to apply a balance of assertiveness and empathy in sales.
Let’s say you have a prospective customer whom you are trying to make contact. They told you that they are quite happy with the current suppliers that they have right now, and do not need to buy from a new one.
A sales person who is less assertive would just walk away.
A sales person who is assertive, but not empathetic, would try to convince the customer how the new products or solutions will deliver much better performances than the existing ones. However, the customer would see this as aggressive sales behaviour, and then become defensive. The customer might then avoid seeing the sales person in the future.
A sales person who is assertive and empathetic could explore with the customer on a few aspects, such as:
- If the customer were to work with an additional supplier (instead of changing suppliers), what would be some of their selection criteria?
- If the customer were to explore how to make their existing equipment or materials perform better, what will be those areas they would like to see an improvement?
- Who in the customer’s organisation are currently satisfied, and who else are currently dissatisfied, with the solution they have?
that in the initial phases of
selling, the empathetic sales
person will avoid issues such as:
- What products to recommend;
- What price point to hit;
- When would the customer buy;
- What quantities would they buy
because the customer really does
not have a strong need at the
moment, and being assertive to
close the sale would push the
customer away, rather than pull
them closer. The right kind of
assertiveness would be to probe
further and find out if the
customer has other unfulfilled
needs, and explore different
Now, assuming that the customer is willing to explore, and is now actively engaging with your technical colleagues to test your samples and get their advice. However, this “technical interaction” has been going on for a long time, and there has been no further inclination of the customer’s wish to buy from you. In fact, in a couple of new product purchases, the customer had asked for your quotation but did not but from you. You felt that the customer could be taking advantage of your company’s resources, and there’s no firm commitment for a purchase from you.
The sales person who is overly empathetic and under assertive, would simply maintain the way it is, in case the customer gets offended and refuse future communication.
The sales person who is assertive and empathetic would:
- Politely ask the customer if there could be a commitment to buy something in the foreseeable future;
- If the customer could not give an affirmative answer, let the customer understand that the resources provided can only be given to customers with confirmed purchases. The resources that had been provided to the customer will have to be reduced;
- If the customer still decides not to buy, have the assertiveness that there will be other customers who will buy, and be assertive enough to walk away
Hence, sales people can improve their sales performance if they could have better EQ. In this case, it would be the constant practice of balancing their assertiveness and empathy.
Need help in enhancing your sales force's EQ? Simply e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha. All information shall be kept in confidence.
Directions Management Consulting
Directions Management Consulting is the partner of LeadershipIQ in China and Asia. LeadershipIQ helps more than 125,000 leaders every year through the facts drawn from one of the largest ongoing leadership studies ever conducted is used to help companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved.
In addition, Directions Management Consulting is a leading provider of sales performance, innovation and experiential learning solutions in China and many parts of Asia.
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Currently, Directions Management Consulting has served clients such as Delphi Packard, InterContinental Hotels Group, Alcoa Wheels, Standard Chartered Bank, Merial, ThyssenKrupp, Lowe's Global Sourcing, Diehl, Kulzer Dental etc.
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