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5 Ways to Improve Your Empathy and EQ in Sales

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
February 28, 2010


Caring comes first. If you don’t care how people feel, it is impossible to be empathetic.


1. Stop to Recognize Other People’s Emotions

Empathy is the ability to share another person’s feelings. It is the ability to share in their emotional experience. There are some people who have an easier time observing and connecting to another person’s emotions, and there is some evidence that some people have a genetic predisposition to being empathetic.

For modern sales professionals, understanding their prospects and their client’s emotional states helps deepen their understanding. It helps to create the connection that you are sharing in the experience.

The first way to develop this skill is to stop to recognize what it is the other person is feeling? Pay careful attention to their verbal cues and their body language. What do they tell you the person is feeling. Listen to the words that they use, especially the emotionally charged words. What do those words indicate that they are feeling?

2. Imagine Yourself in Their Position

Once you recognize what the other person feels, empathy requires that you feel what are they are feeling. That means you need to put yourself in their position. But it doesn’t mean you put yourself in their position in the logical sense of the word. It isn’t the ability to say: “Yes, I can imagine how you feel.” Instead, it is the ability to say: “Yes, I feel what you are feeling.”

For salespeople, this ability helps create the connection and the foundation of trust. It helps put you on the client’s side of the table with them.

To develop this skill, literally imagine yourself in the client’s position. Imagine how you would feel. Unless you easily cry during movies, this is much more difficult than it sounds.  Try working on this during sales calls, but don’t limit your practice to sales situations.

3. Listen and Accept Their Interpretation

Emotional intelligence and empathy requires the ability to listen to others and to accept that their interpretation of events, facts, or ideas is true for them. To truly exercise your empathy and your emotional intelligence, you have to be to listen without immediately passing judgment on the facts or the meaning of what is being said. You have to accept their interpretation as being valid and worthwhile.

In sales, we spend a lot of time trying to change people’s minds. We move people from taking no action to taking action. We move them from buying from our competitor to buying from us. But too often salespeople rush forward trying to change minds without first understanding and respecting the client’s views and opinions, and their revenue growth goals. Empathy and emotional intelligence allow you to suspend the mind-changing until you have built the connection that will allow you to work with their point of view.

To develop this skill, imagine yourself as the buyer. Would you want someone to try to change your mind without first taking the time to understand what it is that you believe and why you believe it?

I’ll have more on listening tomorrow, but know that listening is the second most powerful way to create a connection. Listening without being judgmental and without trying to change minds is the most powerful way.

4. Pause Between Stimulus and Response and Consider Your Outcome

Leading others and changing minds means you not only have to exercise these skills with others, you also have to exercise them with yourself. This means being aware of your emotions. Before you can manage the emotions of others, you have to be able to manage your own emotions.

One of the most powerful ways to deal with highly emotionally charged events is to simply pause before responding. When an emotionally charged situation occurs, and if what you sell has high stakes for you and your clients, they are sure to occur, take the time to pause and collect yourself before you respond.

Use that pause to decide how your response will help or hurt you in achieving the outcome that you need. Don’t focus on the emotions; focus on a response that moves you closer to your needed outcome.

5. Use Emotions to Drive Action

Managers and leaders with high emotional intelligence (EQ) use emotions to drive action. They use negative emotions to create a case for change and to drive their teams to take actions. They use positive emotions to build high-performing cultures that believe that they can succeed.

Salespeople have to be able to move people to action, including their clients and their team members. It isn’t enough to be able to put yourself in your client’s shoes. You have to be able to help your client to get out of those shoes as well.

To develop these skills, determine how you can use negative emotions to build the case for change. Start by making a list of the questions that uncover the implications if there is no change. Then, ask questions that help to elicit a vision (or create one) of the implications if a change is made. What would that change look like? What actions would have to be taken to get there? The best salespeople can move though these emotional states and move their clients with them.


Great salespeople have the ability to create high-level rapport with their prospects and their clients. Great salespeople have the ability to connect on a very human level. This rapport is built upon the salesperson’s empathy and their emotional intelligence. These attributes combine to generate trust and confidence, and they are the foundation of long-term relationships. Use these methods to develop yours!

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Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on February 28, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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