How empathy can stop you closing sales

I consider myself to be empathetic, and many of my fellow sales professionals do, too. If I weren’t an empath, that might make me a sociopath or a narcissist. And I know those are BAD as I have seen the many memes on my social media feeds.

Having an empathy for your prospective client is a huge advantage when it comes to creating rapport. And we are told that rapport is what gets the sale.

What is empathy?

  1. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.


And why is empathy important in sales?

When you are able to connect with, and understand the viewpoint of your potential client, they are more likely to trust you, believe in your ability to help. When we empathise we tend to ask good questions (sales translation: which ‘qualify’ them as leads); we listen well (sales translation: so we discover their ‘pain points’); we ensure our responses are relevant and helpful (sales translation: so we solve their ‘paint points’).

I don’t think it is as measured as the ‘sales translations’ above seem, natural salesfolk I have worked with seem to do this so seamlessly it’s beautiful to watch.

So what could possibly be wrong with empathy? How could it stop you closing sales?

I will start with a recent example. I was shadowing a coachee last week who is doing well, but not hitting target. He says all the right things and his rapport building skills are excellent. He is warm, personable, formal when required, and most definitely empathetic. There were good questions from the prospective client, which were answered well. The meeting was going excellently but he didn’t seem to want to close the sale, or ask for the sale, at least. The meeting was ended and my coachee agreed to resend the info and catch up soon. A firm handshake later, many smiles and we left.

My immediate question was “Why didn’t you ask for the sale?”
He responded “Well I knew it would be expensive for him, he struggles with cash and I didn’t want to be pushy.”

Are you nodding in agreement with him? Ever found yourself in this situation?

That’s lovely, you are a good person. Empathy is not a bad trait at ALL. However, his job is to SELL. He needs to build rapport in order to sell, but ultimately his job is to get the sale. Not by any sneaky means he can, but by using his skills.

By leaving without a sale, that prospective client can go elsewhere. He may not feel that you want his business, it may be annoying that it’s become yet another extra step for him to complete with you even if you had a fabulous time. My coachee was not there to make a new friend, though that might be great, he is there to match what he is selling to the needs of this person. That’s what sales is… so why not ask for the sale..?

At some point you’re going to have to ask for the sale (unless you plan on waiting for the client to ask if they could please buy?). You have lost control of the sales process and at the very least – lengthened it. And lengthening your sales process leaves you less time to find more leads and make more sales. It also leaves the prospective client in limbo without your service/product. Why do they need to wait? You have addressed their concerns and objections and unless you needed to do some more digging for hurdles, they are in agreement that your service/product is the right fit. You are making them wait, is that what you wanted to do?

By being a strong emapth he felt uncomfortable asking for the sale. He didn’t want to make the prospect feel awkward, and didn’t want to ruin the rapport.

Look, this prospect was well informed, as most of our clients are now, having been online and looked at prices. He’d been sent the information complete with rates and terms. They had exchanged phone messages, calls and emails and then had this meeting. There is no way this prospective client DIDN’T know about the prices. It is highly unlikely that he would have gone through this far without being able to afford them. And even if price was a stumbling block it should have been brought up earlier in the sales process.

So being empathetic can be your downfall if you aren’t able to progress to the sale. If you feel you might upset them, it might be you need to practice how to ask. It might be you just need some help on closing techniques that suit you and the prospect. You need to feel comfortable with it. Give yourself some tools, recognise that you might fall at this hurdle and work on it.

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