An Honest Way to Develop Empathy

Go buy something.

Go buy something. Today. Go visit your favorite clothing retailer, or your favorite electronics shop, or your favorite widget emporium. It doesn’t matter what you’re buying as long as you’re genuinely interested in the product. Put on your shoes—or at least pick up the phone—and go buy something.

While you’re buying, here’s what you shouldn’t do: judge how good or bad you think the sales rep is.

Here’s what you should do: focus intensely, deeply, wholeheartedly, on what it feels like to be a buyer.

Do you feel excited? Nervous? Bored?

Do you feel rushed to make a purchase? Do you feel like your sales rep is acting in your best interests? Do you feel like a purchase will make you better off?

Capture these feelings, and remember them, because these are the exact feelings your buyers have when they buy from you.


You hear a lot about empathy being important in sales. You need a high EQ, they say. You need to step into the buyer’s shoes, they say. And yet, too often, you hear this from sales gurus who do little but talk about themselves.

Most salespeople have heard it’s important to think in terms of the buyer’s interests. Those who act on this understanding are few.

In defense of sales gurus everywhere (and let’s be honest, in our own defense, too), thinking in terms of your own wants and needs is entirely natural. It’s no easy task to put your needs second.

“I just wanted to…”

“I’d like to…”

“I know that…”

“I was just saying…”

“I would love…”

“Personally, I…”

New sales reps, take note.

There is zero room in the sale—zero—for you.

Your sale is exclusively about your buyer.

These sales legends say it best.

“The word ‘I’ has no place in a sales presentation.” –Jerry Vass, Soft Selling in a Hard World

“The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.” – Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

“Selling is no place to get your needs met.” – David Sandler, Best of Sandler

Be relentless in thinking in terms of your buyers’ needs. Be unforgiving in your use of “I”.

Here are a few rules you can use to stay focused on your buyer’s perspective.

  1. Never, ever, ever, start an email with “I”.
  2. Before sending an email, challenge yourself to see how many “I”s you can replace with “you”s.
  3. Never show your buyer a benefit that she didn’t ask to see. Just because you think it’s cool doesn’t mean your buyer does.

But these rules are only rules. They don’t mean a thing unless you genuinely understand how your buyer feels.

So go buy something. Soak in what it feels like to be a buyer. And the next time you propose next steps to your buyer, ask yourself, “If I were the buyer, would I say yes?”

Empathy will give you the answer.

Yours on the grind,


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