I have a book published by Harvard Business Review titled Business Classics: Fifteen Key Concepts for Managerial Success. The book contains the 15 articles in HBR’s history that have sold the most reprints. One article, published in 1964, was titled, “What Makes a Good Salesman,” by David Mayer and Herbert Greenberg. The author’s research found that there are two qualities that make an effective salesperson: ego-drive (or personal ambition) and empathy. Empathy is your ability to project yourself into the heart and mind of your customer to see things as our customer sees them.
And yet, nearly five decades after that article was published, salespeople are seldom selected for or taught empathy. The predominance of sales training literature is still focused on the steps of the sale, the things that salespeople need to do to sell the customer: prospect, approach, question, qualify, present, handle objections, close, etc. Are we still in the 1950s or what?