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Empathy and EI: Soft Skills and Sales Results

These are the questions buyers ask themselves about sellers. These back-of-the-mind questions influence buyers’ decisions to meet with you and buy from you.

  • How do I know I can trust you?Soft Skills and Sales
  • What will people think if I buy from you and it’s a bad decision?
  • Will this be more time and hassle than it’s worth?
  • What am I missing here? What’s the hidden agenda?
  • Will I be able to recover if this is a mistake?
  • How important is this compared to other things I need to do?
  • Is there a better price, better opportunity, or better solution out there?
  • Do I really have time to meet with a seller right now?
  • Who else should I involve in this decision?
  • Can I count on this seller if something goes wrong?


Unfortunately, sellers often fail to recognize that buyers are mentally questioning them in these ways. Or, if they do realize that buyers have these doubts, many sellers try (too hard) to compensate with smooth-talking, charm offensives. They think they can replace those doubts with likeability or with the logical business case.

Not answering these questions can backfire. Ignoring these unasked questions may magnify buyers’ resistance to moving forward with you. It takes soft skills, especially empathy, to recognize, acknowledge, address, and move past these kinds of questions.

Soft Skills and Sales Results Go Hand-in-Hand 

Sales are driven, in part, by the relationship between the buyer and seller.

Buyers want to feel understood. Buyers want to trust the sellers they choose to do business with. Buyers expect clear communication. And buyers want to know they can trust a seller’s judgment and ability to work out solid solutions.

What buyers want from sellers is largely linked to emotional intelligence, communication, and critical thinking. We’ve covered these soft skills extensively in this series from the CONNECT2Sell Blog. This infographic is a quick recap of all the ground we’ve covered.

Soft Skills and Sales

There are numerous ways to display critical thinking, communication, and emotional intelligence in buyer/seller interactions.

A seller’s traits and behaviors make lasting impressions on buyers.

Buyers notice and respect certain behaviors like DWYSYWD (Do What You Say You Will Do). When you follow through on your promises and commitments, even in little ways like sending information in a timely manner, you demonstrate that you can be trusted.

Buyers appreciate certain traits, too, like empathy. When sellers take the time to listen and understand, buyers feel that the seller has their best interests at heart and isn’t like the money-grubbing stereotypical seller that all buyers fear.

Research with buyers absolutely proves that buyers want sellers to show up as leaders. They want sellers to behave in ways more often associated with leadership than with sellership. Soft skills are essential for leading others.

If You Miss a Little, You're Missing a Lot

 The little moments are what bond people together. We trust people who notice the subtle cues we send.

You might lose the sale if you miss or race past a buyer’s puzzled look, apprehensive comment, defensive posture with folded arms, question that signals a misunderstanding, or sigh of regret. We all communicate in a variety of ways. It’s critically important to remain fully present and responsive so you don’t miss buyer cues.

Noticing gives you a chance to respond and show empathy. If you’re not sure what’s being signaled, you can ask. Say something like “I noticed your hesitation there. What else do I need to know?” Or you can tilt your head and furrow your brow to signal a lack of understanding and invite explanation. Do what you would naturally do in conversations with others. Don’t let the buyer/seller dynamic change how you interact in a human-to-human way!

This isn’t to say that you should try and psychoanalyze your buyers. Unless that’s your field of practice, it would be unnatural to overdo it. The aim here is to connect in exactly the same ways you would with other people.

Sales results come from connections. Connections come from soft skills.

What to Do If Soft Skills Are Hard for You

We all have strengths.

If emotional intelligence, empathy, or other soft skills come naturally for you, it will be easier for you to quickly connect with buyers. Just be careful not to let those connections cloud your judgment. Be sure you don’t let your new friendship override your professional sellership.

We all have… not strengths.

If emotional intelligence, empathy, or other soft skills aren’t your strengths, don’t shortchange the importance of them. Your logic, business savvy, analytical, or other abilities will come in handy when the buyer is ready for them. First, though, you have to connect and do the work on building rapport and trust. Just because these aren’t your strengths doesn’t mean you can leapfrog over this work of selling.  

If soft skills are hard for you, here’s some good news. Like any skills, soft skills can be learned. With knowledge and practice, you can improve your soft skills. Communication, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and empathy are not bound by your preferences, natural tendencies, or current comfort level. You can choose to develop in these areas.

Here are three resources to help you get started.

If you’d like to work on critical thinking skills, check out this video playlist from the YouTube Channel for People First Productivity Solutions.

If you’d like to work on your communication skills, the DISCOVER Questions® Online Training course is a great place to begin.

If you’d like to work on building your emotional intelligence, be sure to read Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success by Colleen Stanley.

The point is to start somewhere. Every small improvement in soft skills can make a big impact on sales effectiveness.

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Topics: emotional intelligence, selling skills, soft skills for sales professionals, Soft Skills and Sales

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