Why You Should Put Yourself In Your Buyer’s Shoes

Written byGerald Vanderpuye

February 2, 2017

Empathy trumps everything!

During a trip to Texas earlier this year, I found a new passion for walking everywhere. I often walked ten miles a day checking out the incredible scenes of Austin while listening to my fav audio books. It turns out this new habit of walking was taking a toll on my feet. My feet would hurt so badly after 5miles of walking I would have to stop.

It was time to switch from my beautiful shoes to something more comfortable like a pair of walking trainers.

Real Empathy Builds Trust… In A Shoe Shop

I went into a shop and spent 15mins complaining about the pain I was in to the sales assistant, Rose, who attended to me. I talked to Rose about my sales trip to Texas, discovered we both have a love for sales and that she was the top sales rep in the store.

To my surprise after 20 mins of trying different trainers Rose recommends I visit another store to try on a pair of Skechers. “Unfortunately we don’t sell Skechers yet,” she said with an eye roll and sharp look at her manager. Rose had heard from other customers how Skechers were the most comfortable trainers for long walks especially those suffering any pain in their feet. Her brother had also suffered an injury and switched from the fashionable Nike brand to Skechers for running.

I was blown away by the honesty and empathy Rose had demonstrated while she patiently listened to me complain about my feet and try on different pairs of trainers. I left the shop feeling so impressed with her I came back after buying my Skechers and spent money I hadn’t budgeted for in her shop buying gifts for my family.

Real empathy is by far the best way to build trust, and this can only be done by truly putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. All advocacy is, at its core, an exercise in empathy. When your buyer trusts you this tends to trump almost all other decision criteria: price, features, budget, etc.

When you are truly in your customer’s shoes, you are in an actual state of empathy and one step away from building that critical trust required to win any sale.

The Problem With Empathy

According to Harvard Business Review research, conducted by Johannes Hattula and other co-researchers at Imperial College, when marketing execs were primed to be more empathetic, they ended up more egocentric — thinking that the customer would want what they want.

I am sure this is mostly because it’s impossible to fake empathy! I am not certain how one can truly prime for empathy.

The same team went on to run another experiment on how to address this bias and discovered the way to mitigate this effect is simply by making people aware of their bias. They asked managers to decide if a video-game company should sign an endorsement deal with the football (soccer for my American readers) player Cristiano Ronaldo. Managers they didn’t remind of the bias behaved just like the primed subjects in the other studies: empathising with customers increased their egocentric preference predictions. However, managers who were made aware of the bias were able to check their bias.

“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.” Patrick Rothfuss

Not all great stories win deals! However, the prospects story will always win or lose you the deal!

Within the B2B sales and marketing stories are understood to be a powerful tool, and the ones that are easily retold by the salesforce are believed lead to more business won. The problem is these stories are created by marketing execs who may have a heavy bias in their state of “primed empathy” and often develop great stories that reflect their ideas, or a few individual customers’ views, and not representative of all clients.

Stories Primed To Be More Empathetic

Are your sales reps primed with stories? Success stories of other clients or your founder stories. Do these stories help or hinder your reps in getting in their prospects’ shoes and using real empathy to build trust? Are they showing empathy to truly help their buyer construct their own story?

As sales people, it is no longer enough to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes by listening just to tell a story. We have to start every conversation with a prospect as if our business or product does not exist. Let’s actively listen, check our biases and fight the egocentric mindset we have developed through years of sales storytelling.

Do what Rose in the Texan shoe shop did and listen to your customers’ stories; and check your primed empathy bias.

Once we are in the customer’s shoes and in an actual state of empathy, we now have an opportunity to understand and pick up what is needed to help our buyers construct their story for why they buy any products or services.

We don’t win with our stories we win when we understand our customers story!

One way we hope we can help you understand your customers’ stories and put yourself in their shoes is through the BuyerDeck portal. We’re offering you the chance to experience this as your customers could… if you had our tool.

Find out how BuyerDeck can differentiate your buyer experience, creating an opportunity to listen, have a conversation and help buyers construct their story: sign up here for this unique demo.

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