Empathy is the number one skillset sought after by both employers and consumers alike and is the new buzzword for skills development and retaining customer loyalty.

In his thought-provoking book, Humans are Underrated, Geoff Colvin quotes Meg Bear, group vice president, Social Cloud at Oracle as saying, “Empathy is the critical twenty-first century skill.” Here are five ways you can create empathy in a sales environment.

Allow employees discretion when dealing with customers

American Express took a risk and threw out their scripts and instead their customer service staff had access to customer information and could say what they wanted, which encouraged more genuine interactions.

Consider allowing your employees access to a small float from which they can buy greeting cards or send flowers to those customers who mention an anniversary or birthday. Small, personal gestures go a long way towards demonstrating to customers that they truly matter.

Focus on relationships, not technology

I remember twenty years ago when technology was taking a foothold, real estate agents were so worried that their entire business was going to disappear. Even today with big money being invested into some real estate models, agents are holding onto that fear.  The only time that technology is a threat is when people rely on it as a crutch to the detriment of developing their people-skills. Technology is meant to be a tool. Empathy is a skillset and it’s that along with accurate market knowledge, superior negotiation skills, etc. which will determine who does extraordinarily well in this business. That is not going to change.

Do your research and ask effective questions

An active customer database is a vital tool, but it’s supposed to trigger to you to do human things, not just send out the next email. There must be a personal touch, or your clients will feel like they’re just a number. We must prioritize the human being as the number one thing. Most sales professionals have approximately 25 clients who are the most influential people in their business. When you really connect with those people, they’ll sing your praises from the rooftops.

Focus on building a strong core relationship with them. Be consultative. Find out as much as you can about them. Technology can be used to your advantage during the research phase. Google them and friend them on Facebook to keep track of what’s going on in their life. Ask effective questions such as:

  • Where do you see yourself in the next one, three or five years?
  • When do you plan on retiring?
  • Are you planning to sell your home/business or pass it down to someone?

By finding out what’s important to your clients you can help them paint a whole-life picture and show some options they may not have considered to help them advance to the next level.

Get face-to-face

Technology is changing some people in the wrong way. Instances of suicide, opioid addiction and depression are on the rise.  People are comparing themselves unfavorably with others on social media. They’re texting instead of engaging in face-to-face conversations.  During a real estate transaction, instead of negotiating face-to-face so the parties can build a relationship and observe emotional cues to gain a perspective on how the other party handles him or herself and what’s really important to that human being, they’re negotiating remotely.  People don’t want to live a virtual life, they want to live a real life. Technology has put some people on autopilot. Using technology is easier and more convenient than getting in my car to go have a conversation with someone but I build empathy and get better at my job by doing it. I get better at relating to people by relating to people.