What online marketers can learn from creating empathy in the sales process

creating empathy

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Selling your ‘stuff’ in person is hard, hard work … especially when your product is an artwork and thus highly subjective in value.

But during the last months, I’ve learned tons about the process, which is helping sales for me and my artist peers. I’ve learned the value of embedding empathy in the sales process.

Below, I want to share three examples of closing sales that have taught me to be a better marketer online:

Use the the ‘two drawers’ mentality

Vera F. Birkenbihl, the late German entrepreneur and productivity coach, once introduced the two drawer analogy in her books. It’s a simple mental model where you put every statement of a business talk into two mental drawers:

  • What’s in it for them
  • What’s in it for you

This simple model works incredibly well, whether you’re buying or selling.

For example, if someone wants to sell a product to you, you use the two drawer model to determine how many of his sales arguments benefit him or you. The best deal then benefits both parties equally.

I used the same model to seal an artwork sale for a close friend.

A client wanted to buy one of her artworks worth a couple of thousand euros. He claimed the price was too high, and that he would definitely buy the work at a discount.

My artist friend soooo wanted the sale, but desperation is a deal killer.

Now, what to do?

If you discount your work, you risk reducing your artistic value, conditioning your customer to bargain and never accept the price you’ve set for yourself.

But if you straight-up deny your client’s request, you can easily lose the sale.

I used the two drawer mentality:

  • What does the client want: Making sure the artwork is affordable
  • What does the artist want: Selling the artwork for the full price

The solution was dead simple: Allow the client to buy the artwork in installments over a couple of months.

This way, he was easily able to afford it while my artist friend received the full sum without discounting her value.

Foster genuine customer care

I’m just about to finish my first art catalog, featuring the best 32 pieces of my work.

It’s an expensive venture, especially if you want thick and premium paper and vibrant colors.

So I was looking for a printing company in Berlin and checked many outlets offering competitive prices. I picked one company that an artist friend had recommended and promptly showed up at their Berlin HQ to pick up samples.

Unannounced, by the way.

One of the office workers quickly approached me, looking like a Berlin hipster including a lumberjack’s beard and skater cap.

I thought he was going to ask if I was lost but instead inquired about my project.

He generously shared valuable tips, including which paper format to pick and what kind of binding I should use and answered every question without being PUSHY or urging me to close the sale.

We ended up talking for almost 40 minutes before I left their little office with a couple of sample prints and brochures and a hurting head full of info.

Back at home, I thought: What a great little company, taking so much time to explain their stuff.

But after filling out my printing order online, I discovered that they were one of the BIGGEST printing companies in Berlin, which wowed my mind.

A giant company with the care and friendliness of a small, local biz.

It proves one of Mark Schaefer’s core statements that the most human company wins.

Supporting your client’s story

Selling artwork in person is hard work. I’ve learned the bitter lesson when I single-handedly screwed up a near-hit sale.

Here’s what happened:

During my last exhibition at a former military horse barn, a woman approached me with a glass of wine, raving about a particular artwork of a slob:

She explained her interpretation of the guy, involving a heavy political message which I hadn’t intended.

Being truthful, I quickly revealed my own intention behind the work, which contradicted her ‘story’.

You should have seen the gravity pulling at her face.

The conversation died in fewer than 30 seconds. Her smile vanished as my story obviously didn’t grab her as much as her own. She excused herself and shortly afterward, left the exhibition in her shiny Benz.

Lesson: When a potential client explains their reason for liking your work, don’t contradict them. Their interpretation and reasons trump yours. Adapt your approach instead, using empathy to seal the deal with their story.

Conclusion

If I were to find a common denominator of all three examples, it would be to develop empathy in the sales process.

Not just understanding what the client is saying but seeing the world from their eyes, showering them with so much value that they deem your product valuable without you have to be pushy.

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at www.marsdorian.com and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

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