Marketing Strategy
The Surprising Secret to a Full and Flowing Sales Pipeline

The Surprising Secret to a Full and Flowing Sales Pipeline

February 10, 2020
4 min read

What would you think if I said I had the secret to making sales? A copywriting trick maybe? Or a psychology hack to help you master the skill of persuasion? But, there’s no easy trick to successful sales. Forget trying to trick people through sneaky tactics. The secret to keeping your sales pipeline full comes down to simply understanding other people and genuinely meeting them on their own level. In other words: empathy.

Empathy isn’t the first skill that leaps to mind for most people when they think about the characteristics of a successful salesperson. And, it’s certainly true that not every salesperson takes an empathetic approach. But, from what I’ve seen working with brands and my own experience working marketing and sales, empathy can mean the difference between losing a sale and starting a long and fruitful business relationship.

Quick Takeaways:

  • It’s more important than ever before for brands to build a relationship of trust with their customers.
  • Focusing on being empathetic rather than direct selling will help you to understand your customers better and build that trust.
  • Empathy can be learned just like any other sales skill – start by focusing on your listening skills and asking the right questions.

Using Empathy-Driven Marketing to Understand Customers

Advances in digital technology mean as marketers we now have more tools and possibilities at our disposal than ever before: AI-powered optimization tools, social media, augmented reality – it’s all there for the taking!

But, all this technology has not made the job of the marketer easier. In fact, the opposite is true: today’s consumers are increasingly distrustful of marketing messages and so desensitized to advertising that they’re practically blind to it.

Data-driven marketing pushes marketing teams to optimize their campaigns for higher ROI. But, I would argue that it’s equally important to think about the people behind the data. There’s only so much you can do with data. True marketing success requires an empathy-driven, rather than data-driven strategy. It’s important to remember that you’re selling to a real person. Don’t reduce your relationships with your valuable customers to a set of data.

It’s time to face facts: people simply don’t like being sold to. Have you ever walked in a store meaning to buy something but have been so put off by an overly “helpful” shop assistant that you’ve walked right out again? Pushy salespeople and ineffective marketing tactics do more harm than good.

But, your product won’t sell itself, right? What’s the answer to driving sales in today’s world of marketing-averse, increasingly skeptical consumers?

Rather than thinking about the best way to sell to your customers, think about how you can help them. Take a walk in their shoes (figuratively, unless you’re actually trying to sell them shoes) and figure out what problems they’re facing, what motivates them, and how you can make their lives better.

Thinking about your customers and prospects in this way helps to develop a relationship of trust. And, developing trust is critical for brands of today to succeed. The 2019 Edelman Brand Trust survey found that trust is an important part of making buying decisions for over 80 percent of consumers.

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The Importance of Asking Questions

So, how do you really understand your customers? The key lies in asking the right questions. Rather than telling them about how great your product is, focus on listening to what they want and need.

By starting a conversation with your customers, you show them that you really care about their opinions, pain points, and what really matters to them.

But, being empathetic doesn’t just mean listening to what your customers say in words. Empathy helps you to uncover their true issues and needs, which they may not have even been aware of. An empathetic listener understands how to ask the right questions to uncover these hidden needs.

It’s vital to think carefully about the questions you ask to understand the potential buyers’ needs as fully as possible. Rather than simply asking a set of fixed questions, use the information you’ve uncovered to probe deeper into the prospects’ needs and concerns.

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As your empathy skills improve, so too will your questioning skills as you learn how to better understand your customers and direct sales conversations to define their problems and come up with mutually beneficial solutions.

How to Take a More Empathetic Approach to Making Sales

Learning empathy doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it is a trait that can be learned along with other sales terms. However, even those who are empathetic to others in their personal lives may find it more difficult to translate their sense of empathy across to the cutthroat world of business and sales.

Developing your listening skills is the first step towards becoming a more empathetic salesperson. Rather than focusing on your sales pitch, give your prospect a chance to talk, and pay full attention to what they are saying.

As well as actively listening to the person you’re trying to sell to, imagine you’re sitting on the other side of the sales conversation, and try to see things from their perspective.

The final step is to demonstrate to your prospect that you’re both listening to what they’re saying and that you empathize with their point of view. By vocalizing the questions and concerns that you’ve uncovered by direct listening and putting yourself in their shoes, you show that you’re really taking the time to understand them and not just wanting to make a quick sale.

It may take time to shift your sales technique towards a more empathetic approach, but it’s a skill worth mastering. Putting your customers first can only have a positive effect on your business relationship and is sure to lead to more sales in the long run.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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