Spencer Green on Sales: Empathy and Alignment

If you’re in sales, the chances are you know the alligator example: all mouth and tiny ears. Great sales people are the opposite. But when you do talk to a potential client, how do you have the biggest impact? I have one golden rule: sit next to them…

Spencer Green Sales Blog Empathy

Pitch like a butterfly, close like a bee. Well, you know what I mean.

I was reminded of the alligator story in this excellent sales video from GDS International’s executive learning website, MeetTheBoss TV. Bob Hoey tells it. His LinkedIn profile says:
“Bob is GM, IBM Global Technology Services, for General Business selling outsourcing, information technology, maintenance and managed business process services to general business accounts around the world. He moved into this job in May 2010 after successfully leading IBM’s sales in Systems & Technology Group since 2003.”
My guess: Bob knows what he’s talking about.
Listening more than you talk is always good advice, but you do have to talk – and that’s where a lot of sales people go wrong. I use my experiences here, and those of my wife and friends. We don’t like obvious sales questions; we don’t like to be the first, second or 32nd person to get the same pitch that day. You’re probably the same way.
I have one golden rule: don’t sit across the table from your prospective clients; sit next to them. I don’t mean physically. I mean don’t talk at them, but build a rapport. The best sales people always work alongside their clients.
What does this mean in real life? It means asking intelligent questions instead of obvious, ‘trained’ questions. For example: you want to buy a car. The sales person asks you what you do for a living. Why? It’s a trained opening question that leads from page one of the pitch to page two, and we all – as clients – know it. Say hello. Comment on what they have been looking at. Talk about the weather. Listen to the answers and build a rapport: the opening will come naturally.
It’s the same for telephone sales. Don’t be obvious – people are happy to buy, but they don’t like to be sold.
Don’t use aggressive business acronyms or phrases too early (things like ROI, decision maker, budget holder), or your potential client will have his guard up quicker than Ali when he gave Foreman the rope-a-dope.

The goal is to build rapport in your opening so the client lowers their guard and listens (and you sell. Lots).

This is the simple truth: whether your potential client puts his or her guard up or guard down is due to the rapport you build in the opening! As Ali illustrated, when his guard is up, it’s very difficult to get him to lower it. And it don’t matter how hard you batter.
This is the greatest challenge in sales. You have to be intelligent and understand that, while you are involved in a directed conversation, it is still a conversation.
Do your research. Know their needs. Align yourself with those needs, sit beside them, build intelligent rapport and empathy, and then move the call forward.
When a potential client is comfortable that your agenda and their agenda are aligned – that both parties will benefit – then discuss your product. And if your agendas are aligned, and both parties will benefit, then any client who hasn’t got their guard up will really like.
This is intelligent selling. It may seem easier to control your agenda sat opposite the client, and it is more difficult to have control when you’re sat alongside them, but that control is real, because it’s mutually beneficial, which makes it a lot more powerful.
Does it work in real life? My company, GDS International, has grown 78 per cent in the last two years. It took us a while to learn these lessons, but that’s why we still tell the alligator story.


About Spencer Green

Spencer Green founded GDS Publishing Ltd in October 1993 to specialise in industrial, government-led publications for the burgeoning Chinese market. The company launched over forty business-to-business titles, was name-checked alongside Tony Blair on China’s national news as ‘best for Chinese business’, and – following a move into India – deemed to be ‘of national importance’ by the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. In 1998, GDS Publishing became GDS International and launched its first conference, Enterprise China. The hugely successful Enterprise series of conferences was rolled out across China and Latin America in the next two years. In 2000, GDS International launched its first Senior Executive Summit under the ‘Next Generation’ banner. This became the catalyst for nine years of 25% year-on-year growth... and 40% growth in 2010. In 2011, GDS held over 70 Summits for C-level Executives from a wide range of industries and across the globe, and eight digital marketing conferences. Today, GDS International is determined to become the world’s no. 1 business-to-business media and services company. It’s going to be an exciting journey! Spencer is married to Emily. They have two children, Finlay and Maya, and live in Bristol, UK.
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