What is Professional Empathy?


“We need to be more empathetic” as sellers. A phrase that I have heard more than normal in the last few months. It’s usually a well-intentioned remark but has become a bit of a red herring IMHO.

A great sentiment to be sure however “be empathetic” may misdirect ‘sellers’ to focus on customer’s emotions outside of the business context. When this happens, there is a distinct possibility to come across as insincere or look like one is simply “checking a box”. After all, it’s hard to believe the person selling pest control door to door genuinely cares about how your family is doing during these strange times. It might even become today’s version of starting a cold call with “How are you today”? Really?

Before you dismiss me as some sort of Grinch, let me state that we must always have empathy as sellers. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s situation and perceive things from their perspective.  To earn the right to have the personal conversation that many are alluding to, we must first begin with professional empathy.

Even though the world has changed, and we are continually gravitating to the ‘next normal’, our job as sellers really hasn’t. We must focus on the priorities and challenges that our prospects and customers are facing. And, we need to be aware that these priorities are shifting more than normal due to the current climate.

Results that professional empathy delivers are generally more meaningful and more sincere than the red herring empathy we’ve all been bombarded with lately. They also provide the platform to develop a deeper relationship that can last over time.

To be blunt, we are not in sales to make friends. Many of us have chosen this profession because we truly believe that we can make a difference to individuals and organizations and help them overcome their Business Issues and challenges. And if we achieve that then we provide real, meaningful value to them professionally and personally.

If we’re not already empathetic to the person’s Business Issues, objectives, and outcomes, then we’ve been missing the boat all along. If it takes a global pandemic for us to demonstrate empathy as ‘sellers’ [insert whatever word you feel is appropriate here], that’s a scathing mark on our industry, and it must be rectified.


David is an accomplished ValueSelling Facilitator, Coach, and Practitioner with over 25 years of applied ValueSelling experience. He leverages his leadership experience by guiding sales professionals to become more effective, efficient, and relevant.