Empathy. It’s one of the biggest things to which I attribute my success. It’s the reason I believe that I am one of the great salespeople out there. What a lot of people don’t understand about empathy is that it’s not just about being caring, but it’s also the ability to understand people on a higher level. It has allowed me to easily create mutually beneficial relationships in both my business and in my personal life.
Sometimes being empathetic can be confusing. You might ask yourself, “Am I being empathetic because I care or am I being empathetic because I know being understanding will give me leverage in the situation? The answer is both. Being good is always the best option. But I’m not gonna lie either: giving a shit is a real thing and gives you the chance to make your relationships mutually beneficial.
Being empathetic has led me to the two pillars that I believe have allowed me to build multi-million dollar businesses: (1) sales and (2) being an HR-driven CEO.
USING EMPATHY TO MAKE THE SALE
Whether you’re a salesperson, an operator, or a businessperson, if you can understand what the other person is thinking and what their goals are, you can reverse-engineer those aims and map it back to your goals too. That knowledge sets you up to win. You’ll both win.
The best salespeople are the ones who realize the incredible power of empathy and can understand the other party without them explicitly stating it. For instance, the majority of my clients’ representatives (in corporate America) won’t say what they really want in a meeting. Empathy allows me to figure out what they are actually trying to accomplish. I know that when a client’s brand manager says they want “more likes on Facebook,” not only does that mean they want to blow their competition out of the water on a corporate level, but they are also looking to advance their own career via my successful strategies.
My understanding of this allows me to not only help their brand reach their KPI’s and helps VaynerMedia maintain a happy client, but also sets up the brand manager I worked with for a promotion. If you can understand the client or consumer, you can use that knowledge to provide the most value possible to both sides.
BE EMPATHETIC TO YOUR CONSUMERS
B2C companies can utilize empathy just as successfully as a B2B company. In order to sell a product, don’t you also have to be understanding of your consumers’ needs? For example, when designing a digital product, user experience (UX) designers should be empathetic to their end user in creating responsive and mobile friendly designs. Whether that means allowing users to customize their experiences within an app or moving a button to an easier to reach location, the best products take the consumers’ needs into account.
Not only is empathy important during the business’ inception and product creation process, but it also continues to be essential throughout the lifecycle of the business. If you’re empathetic to why somebody doesn’t want to buy your product, and there are enough people expressing the same issue, you will understand how you need to adjust to boost sales. Customer service is also completely based on empathizing with the customer. There’s nothing that turns a consumer off more than a poor customer service experience and nothing that keeps customers coming back like excellent customer service. Businesses love to say that the customer is always right, but their actions need to reciprocate that statement.
INCLUDE EMPATHY IN YOUR HR STRATEGY
Empathy is also the key to leading VaynerMedia’s successful growth, while also maintaining a corporate culture that people want to be a part of. When you go from 40 to 600-plus employees in the past few years like VaynerMedia has, it’s the EQ that helps that culture survive. It’s not a “2-week vacation policy” or office perks. It’s the human part of it. It’s the reason I consider myself an HR-driven CEO.
To be a great leader, you have to be a great listener. If there’s an issue, you need to be able to figure out what the problem actually is in order to solve it, even if an employee doesn’t communicate it directly. You have to be able to empathize with them. Not only have I relied on this trait for the success and retention in both of my businesses, but I also hire for it because I know empathy is what makes a great manager.
Empathy is also what allows me to motivate each of my employees. I don’t manage any single one of them the same way. You need to be able to figure out what actually drives them. Are they here for the money? Is work-life balance more important? Do they care about job titles? Are they happy in their vertical?
Empathy has allowed me to turn potential clients into actual clients and turn almost anyone into a friend. But, I’ll be honest; the tactics behind being more empathic are something I can’t really teach step by step. They are just part of my DNA and have always come naturally to me. But, I like to think that everyone has it at some level. I can tell you tactically how to buy Snapchat filters for brand equity or who to target with Facebook ads, but it’s harder to describe how to become self-aware or more empathetic. (Well, at least I haven’t figured it out yet.)
The best advice I have for you is this: LISTEN. Pay attention to everyone you interact with and be an active consumer of humans. Try to surround yourself with people who are massively empathetic and put it into practical use. Don’t talk, just listen.
I’ll wrap up this article by deploying some more empathy. I’m very aware that 99 percent of you reading this think that I’m a “mouth,” but I promise you, I’m an ear disguised as a mouth.
Image credit: CC by Sharon Sinclair