A marketer's pursuit in living a meaningful life

The Marketing Trait No One Talks About: Empathy


Today I went shopping for a mattress. The first store I went into ended up being my last. Not because I walked out of there with a mattress, but because I was treated like a cardboard cutout. The salesman that decided to help me when I walked into the store knew exactly what he was going to say and do the entire time I was there. I imagine he read every sales manual given to him by the company. He was excited to sell me a bed because he knew everything there ever was about beds. And well, he was looking to make a sale.

I walked in there with one intent: to do some research. That is the stage I was at in the buying cycle. Test some beds out, get a feel for what I wanted. The first two questions the salesman asked after introducing himself were “What size bed are you looking for and what’s your price range?”

Okay, that’s a start. Straight to the point. Not the point I was looking for, but a point nonetheless. I replied, “Just shopping around, seeing what’s out there. But I do know I’m looking for a double.”

He nodded his head and inquired again with a more approachable tone, “So what’s your price range though? We thinking on the higher end or maybe something a little more affordable?”

Wanting to move onto the next point in the interaction, I reluctantly say affordable. He walks me through most of the store to the far end and informs me that this side of the store has their cheaper beds, while the other side has the more expensive ones. I was a bit speechless. That could have been the first thing out of his mouth besides, “Hi, welcome to generic bed company name, I’m generic male name. What size bed are you looking for and what’s your price range?”

How about, “…Our more affordable beds are located towards the far side and work their way up to the more luxury ones on this side of the store. Feel free to have a look around and let me know if you have any questions.”

Then he could observe which way I walked. Instantly having his desired question answered, while giving me the freedom of choice. They’ve had the forethought to arrange the entire store for this purpose, why not use it to your advantage right out the gate. When I walked into the store, I didn’t have a price in mind. I just wanted to flop onto some beds and test the variations in comfy level. My favorite scale to test on.

However, this was not the way this sales interaction was going to transpire. After a few more back and forth Q&A’s, he learned that I was merely looking to do some research. His mind clicked to the page number in the sales manual informing him on what to do when a prospective customer is looking to be educated. He excused himself, went back to the front desk, and came back with a 3-D boxed model of bed strings. The model was broken up into two sides. One side had a set of bed springs in parallel rows. The other side had a set of bed springs in offset rows; bringing the rows closer together. He informed me, with the help of this model, that to spend more money on a bed with offset springs is better than one without because of how x,y, and don’t forget z will make sleep that much more comfortable. Fortunately for him, all the beds they sold had this advancement.

Now I will say, he wasn’t wrong. Of course those beds would be more comfortable. That’s not the point. The point is that has zero effect on my buying decision. I don’t need to know the revolutionary scientific breakthroughs in bed spring arrangement technology. Am I supposed to be impressed? How long did it take the bed industry to come up with moving the springs closer together? Ask me what type of bed I’m looking for: hard, soft, adjustable, additional padding, etc. Then point me in that direction. But starting out with hammering in where my price point is at then climaxing your sales pitch with a comparison in spring arrangement is not going to win me over.

Was the sales interaction as painful as I painted it to be? Certainly not. Maybe a bit awkward when I wasn’t blown off my feet when I was introduced to the world of offset springs. Needless to say, it made me think. The one thing this salesman was missing was not knowledge, passion, preparedness, or any other sought after salesperson trait. He was missing empathy.

To be able to sell anything you have to understand your audience. Regardless if it’s a commercial, ad, blog, email, sales pitch, or any other medium where you have the stage, and therefore the opportunity to present what you have in a meaningful way, you have to have empathy. Think of why they are in front of you now listening to what you have to say. What would move you to take the desired action of the salesperson if you were on the receiving end? Additionally, think as if you were the specific individual you are targeting. You have to consider everything from their demographics to their psychographics. If you’re selling a Dish Network plan, you better approach a 45 year old accountant who favors quality over quantity different from a 20 year old college student who values time with small groups of friends. Those two individuals both might be interested in Dish Network, but the picture that needs to be painted in front of them needs to be drastically different. Tailored to them specifically.

Empathy does not come naturally. To be empathetic you have put yourself in someone else’s shoes and know where those shoes have been. Educate yourself, travel, have an open mind. Want to become a better marketer? Become a better person.

What's on your mind after reading that?

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Jonathan Horiel

I am a marketer by trade, and a story teller by heart. This blog is a compilation of my stories, both personal and career focused. Follow me on my journey and feel free to join anytime.

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