Do you want your salespeople to nurture and serve at the extreme nurse potential for existing customers? Are you looking for a salesperson who is a hunter, a farmer, or a combination? 

Last Christmas my niece’s Cavapoo climbed into my lap, and I really found out why they call many of these dogs lap dogs. They are made to nurture and companion those they are with. Maybe you live with someone with a high level of compassion?  Or, are you that person who likes to listen to and nurture the needs of those around you? 

At the high end of the compassion scale, we find people working in nursing homes who live to take care of others. How long it takes to accomplish this task isn’t thought about or more important than what it takes to make someone comfortable and happy. At the low end, we find someone without empathy or a concern for people beyond what can be extracted from them for the task at hand. 

High vs. Low Compassion in Salespeople

The CTS Sales Profile is a validated sales assessment tool with hundreds of thousands of uses for both existing sales reps and people applying for sales positions. It measures 9 traits that, in various amounts, are important to high-performing sales reps. 

Depending upon the market and product, compassion is one of the most important traits for sales success. That’s because it measures a salesperson’s concern for customers or co-workers—concern that needs, wants, and problems are helped and taken care of with a purchase. This trait could even make a positive difference in good relationships at home with sons and daughters and the significant people in your life.

High scorers on the compassion scale are people whose brains fire off with empathy when serving others. An international team, led by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, have shown that one area of the brain, the anterior insular cortex, is the activity center for human empathy. For some people, this part of the brain is more active than for others.

People with an enhanced level of compassion have a natural inclination to help others, and when their independent spirit or their need to control is low, they will also tend to be agreeable. They derive pleasure from fulfilling the expectations of others. These individuals are often drawn towards markets that are more personal and relationship-centered, such as healthcare, hospitality, and financial services. 

Those high in compassion tend to encourage and listen to the expressive sharing of someone’s feelings about the emotional reasons for their purchase. When this is combined with high ego traits like independent spirit and deadline motivation, people work to perform and be the best, and they do it while being persuasive about getting people what they want while they get what they want.

In contrast, low scorers on the compassion scale are better able to prioritize their time and can stay “on task” without being distracted by the personal problems of people. As a result, they may be more effective in markets that are more transactional, such as manufacturing, logistics, or trucking.

What the Research Shows

We have found that salespeople with low levels of compassion often think of a person as an element in a checklist. Sometimes, they do not hear or even want to ask about the frustration of personal needs and problems. They can miss the hidden desires for what a product or service should do for a person. They focus solely on the task at hand and may not take the time to build a genuine connection with their clients. This can lead to presentations that do not remove pain, worry, or fear. The result is missed opportunities, lost sales, and future business from people with a better buying experience.

On the other hand, salespeople with high levels of compassion are better equipped and motivated to build stronger relationships with their clients. They can take the time to understand their clients’ needs and desires, and they use this information to tailor their sales presentation. By doing so, they are able to create a sense of trust and loyalty with their people that buy from them.

According to the Harvard Business Review, compassion and empathy can be an essential trait for greatness in selling, but it is important to note that having high levels of compassion could mean that a salesperson is weak or ineffective if there are not corresponding levels of ego drive or the motivation to achieve sales goals. They can spend an excess amount of time nurturing people who have a low potential to make a purchase.

To see when and if it can be a challenge, you will have to look at your sales process and typical customer. You must know the culture’s customer expectations for the business and its leadership.

Final Thoughts

Now, let’s think about the following. As compassion and empathy levels drop, there is less of an attempt to listen to or care about the needs of others. This can make us come across as arrogant or narcissistic. We may appear to be the competent jerk who only cares about the money. And even if we have this side of the brain firing, it may only be involved with manipulating the feelings and behavior of others with stories that promote ourselves and make a sale.

I’ve gone through this hard life lesson. Recently, a close friend of mine with lower levels of compassion came across like a jerk to some of his own family members, for which an apology was required. There’s one thing that will turn this around for those of us on the lower side of the compassion scale.

See yourself as a person of service, working hard to sell and serve the needs of others as a problem solver. Act like you’re interested in them even if it’s difficult. At the end of the day, you’ll be like the students of one of the greatest acting coaches that ever lived—Konstantin Sanislavski

He would say to his young thespians, “Do not try to feel what your character would feel, just act as they would act.”  So, my advice for myself and others is do not try to feel like someone who actually cares about the needs of others, simply act as they would act. Portray the attitude. That will, as Dale Carnegie would say, help us, “Win Friends and Influence People.”  Later, as a bonus, we may even feel that way!

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