It has always been an important quality of top performing sales professionals to empathize with their clients and prospects challenges and pains. However, you can overdo it on the empathy for others. If you are paralyzed from asserting your problem solving solutions, your empathy does not help the people you have empathy for. 

In other words, you feel their pain, but you feel it so deeply that you buy into their belief that things are really bad. And if you let them suck you into their “poor me… things are really bad” mindset then you can’t pull them out of it. 

When prospects and customers are hurting, a top performing sales professional’s best chance of being truly of service to them is to help them open up to another possibility.

But there’s a problem. If you listen with empathy and turn too quickly to offering solutions, they might be the best solutions in the whole wide world, but they won’t be heard. They won’t be acted on. Why? Because you offered premature solutions. 

First, lean into your strength of empathy. Listen, really listen to them. Let them clear their minds of whatever is frustrating, challenging, upsetting, overwhelming, concerning or confusing to them. It’s like when you take out the trash bag and bring it to the curb. You have space in the trash bin for a fresh smelling clean new bag… which you will ultimately fill with trash and have to empty again.  

But that’s exactly what it is like for your prospects and clients. 

They have problems. They are piling up. That causes them to feel emotions like frustration, overwhelm and concern. You come into the picture. You are the garbage collector. The best thing you can do is let them fill up the bag with everything that concerns them and then help them walk it to the curb. 

Now they have space. Now you can talk to them about what is possible so those concerns and frustrations don’t come back or come back less frequently or in a less costly way. 

If you have too much empathy for their situation you leave them with a bag full of trash that they don’t know what to do with. And what is worse, is that while you think you’re being a good listener, they have linked talking with you to more pain. 

Listening with empathy is valuable. It allows you to help someone clear their mind. But, if you have appropriate solutions that can serve them in dealing more effectively with that problem, then you are not doing them any favors by not being assertive in offering them.

The magic transition phrase is this…

Thank you for sharing all of that with me. Can I ask a question?

Have you already decided it can’t get any better or are you open to talking through some of the ways we can work together to deal with this now?

First of all, you acknowledge their vulnerability in sharing all the issues. That starts to create a safe space. 

Then you ask permission to ask a question. Permission changes everything. It gives them a sense of control which will help since this is the first part of empowering them to take action to fix their problem.

Finally, you unlocked the door to possibilities by asking are you open to… because nobody wants to admit they are not open. Now you can transition from a discussion about their problems to a conversation about partnering together on solutions.

Wondering about your level of empathy and if it is in balance with your level of assertiveness? Good news. There is a scientifically validated assessment tool that will give you that exact answer along with 13 other Emotional Intelligence attributes and your level for each. It’s fascinating stuff and it will forever impact how you sell, manage and lead. 

To purchase your Emotional Intelligence assessment which includes a 1-hour private coaching session with Merit Kahn to debrief the results of your 27-page custom report, click here: Emotional Intelligence Assessment and Coaching Call


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