Sales managers love to talk about empathy—customer empathy. They use it in training sessions and toss it around on the sales floor. Empathize with the prospect, they’ll stress, and you’ll make more sales. Show empathy for the client and you’ll retain the client. Show them that you care about their needs.
Cliche or not, this is excellent advice. Empathizing with clients and prospects, showing a human touch, will inevitably generate more business. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that many sales managers can’t muster up as much empathy for their own employees as they do for their clients. Employee empathy is equally as important as customer empathy — maybe more so. Without it, a sales manager cannot inspire his employees and will struggle to retain them, and as a result business will suffer.
Some sales managers might be oblivious to the idea of employee empathy. It’s not in their makeup. Others might be too caught up in their own ego-driven world to even notice. They’re too busy micromanaging, too busy proving to their employees that they’re top dog.
Today’s salespeople face a lot of adversity. The sagging economy, shorter ramp up periods for new employees that must produce or else find themselves on the street, and fierce competition from other companies all add to the pressure of being a salesperson today. One way to alleviate this pressure and anxiety is to introduce (or re-introduce) the element of corporate compassion. Managers must step back and acknowledge that their talent—their employees!—is the company’s greatest commodity. Salespeople are responsible too. They need to step forward and address this issue with their out-of-touch managers.
There are a few ways to administer this kind of communication, and that’s what this is all about. Communication. I’m not talking about touchy-feely, hand-holding, I-love-you-man ways to accomplish this task. It’s really quite simple.
Managers need to get back to their roots. Many managers were once great salespeople but as soon as leadership responsibilities came calling they quickly forgot, or didn’t care to remember, what it was like in the trenches, making the all those dials, getting hung up on, losing the big deal, just the sheer mental exhaustion of the job itself. Well, it’s time for these managers to leave their comfy office and get back on the sales floor and show, not tell, your team how it’s done. If this doesn’t stir some feelings and create employee empathy then nothing will.
At the same time, there are too many managers who want to do everything; they want to do it all. They believe it’s their show, their movie. They fail to step back and let their salespeople become an integral part of the process—the actual selling. I ask you, how many sales managers have you worked with that insist on taking control of the sale and making it their own, instead of teaching their people how it’s done? These are the same sales managers—the self-proclaimed closers—who jump in only when the deal’s made strong headway and the finish line is in sight. Yet, these are the same people who can’t be found during the dirty work?—prospecting, getting around the gatekeeper, getting cell phones to decision makers, pitching the decision maker, following up with that second or third call.
The sales floor that focuses on customer empathy and ignores employee empathy is only successful in the short run. Lack of empathy creates apathetic employees. These employees will either leave the company or be terminated for poor performance. It’s a loss either way you look at it, and the sad thing is it doesn’t have to happen.