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Why Empathy Matters. With Bridget Gleason [Episode 577]

Bridget Gleason is VP of Sales for Logz.io and my regular partner on Front Line Fridays.


This episode is about empathy. Andy quotes Meg Bear, “Empathy is the critical 21st Century skill.” As selling becomes automated, the ability to connect in an authentic fashion becomes highly valued. Society has a shortage of empathy.

Bridget and Andy discuss whether empathy is rewarded in business. Bridget has never seen a job description for a VP of Sales that called for empathy. People hire for the number. If empathy is not present though, success will not be long-term.

Andy reveals the one question a customer will never ask a Sales Manager: Will you make sure my rep is really salesy? They do want someone dynamic and inspirational, with some degree of empathy for their situation.

In early-stage startups there is more need for aggressiveness. Bridget says that culture gets embedded early, and if empathy is not a core value of the Founders, it will not develop in the company. Trust and empathy go together.

Andy cites Stephen M.R. Covey, who says empathy is necessary to develop trust. Recent research says empathy in college students is decreasing over the last few decades. It may relate to engagement with screens rather than people.

Empathy is fading in the national discourse. Try to understand the other person’s point of view. Andy quotes Michelle Norris “We are losing the ability to actively listen and therefore to engage in deep and meaningful conversation.”

Salespeople engage with an increasing number of stakeholders in various cultures around the world. If you can’t identify with them individually, you impede your ability to help them and win the sale. Bridget reflects on the team at Logz.io.

Empathy is not stressed enough. Michael Bungay Stanier talks about the ability to listen without judgment. This is the critical skill. Understand them.

Identify your own filters and make a mindful effort to set them aside. The sales process does not control the buyer. People tend to respond to influence, but each has their own reactions, emotions, and reasons.

What does it take to develop empathy? It is a behavior that can be learned, but it takes mindfulness. Sales is a game for thinking people. Every action should be deliberate, not reactive. If we lack empathy, we should cultivate it.

Continuous learning is not just about reading books but learning about ourselves, in personal growth. Society changes one person at a time. We all need to model empathy.

People buy from people and the connection and trust is important. Empathy is key. Quoting Eric Shinseki, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” Empathy is a ‘gotta have.’