Is your sales team building empathy for small business owners?


Courtney Meggs was having another tough day.  As the founder and owner of Brew Squared, a new building-empathy-350.pngneighborhood shop that brews homemade coffees for customers in the morning and handcrafted beers in the evenings, Courtney was dealing with the usual list of daily challenges. Employees calling out sick, a coffee bean delivery that didn’t show up, a call from the bank asking where the latest credit card payment was, several irate customers complaining about the service, and a video call from her mother (a major investor of Brew Squared) contemplating moving to Arizona and asking for her money back.

Just another day in the world of a small business owner in Advantexe’s new business simulation Brew Squared.

For sales professionals selling into small businesses, understanding and building empathy with the owners on a value-added business level is the secret to success.  Unfortunately, too many sales people still think selling is all about pushing transactional deals and moving on to the next sale.

Building empathy in sales is an emerging science and it can have a profound impact on a small business owner.  In Advantexe’s Sales Empathy model, high performing sales professionals selling to small businesses are able to put themselves into the shoes of their customer and focus on the customer’s challenges and opportunities.


Specifically, they are able to:

  • Recognize and ask meaningful questions about the customer’s business strategy
  • See the business from the customer’s perspective
  • Comprehend what the customer is feeling (both positive and negative)
  • Understand what the customer is hearing

No matter if you are selling software, insurance, point-of-sale-equipment, financial services, equipment, cleaning services, or any other product, being able to leverage the model is the best way to achieve long-term success.

Based on years of experience working with many different varieties of sales professionals, we believe the best way to implement this framework is to:

Aggressively preparing for every interaction

Investing the time to review the customer’s website, search news stories, visit with the customer just to understand the business, and talk to the customer’s customers about the business.

Engage in rich and meaningful questioning dialogues with customers

Approach every customer interaction through rich and meaningful questioning dialogues that uncovers what the customer is concerned about, what they are seeing in their business ecosystems and markets, how they are feeling, and what they are hearing about the business.  Of course, all of this has to be done with authenticity and sincerity and not as part of a pre-conceived sales pitch as customers will see right through that.

Listen more than talk

There is nothing worse to a small business owner than a sales person who talks and never stops to listen.  The best sales professionals in the world are able to listen 80% of the time and talk just 20% of the time.  It’s very hard to do, but with strong practice of empathy skills it is something that can and must be mastered.

Take great notes

Small business owners have to have a tremendous attention to detail to survive and will be watching to see if the sales professionals calling on them also have that attention to detail. Make sure you take great notes and summarize any and all interactions with a written summary and email about accomplishment and next steps.

Follow up with the right value proposition that positions solutions from the customer’s perspectives

Ultimately, great sales professionals have done their job well if they are able to positon the value of their solutions in terms of meeting showing empathy and illustrating how the solution can meet the customer’s challenges and take advantage of the customer’s opportunities.

Ask the customer how you are doing

The final and most important step of illustrating true empathy is asking the customer how you are doing?  Ask them if they feel cared for and if they feel you are listening to their challenges and opportunities; you will never go wrong as long as it’s accomplished in a true and authentic way.

 building empathy skills


Robert Brodo

About The Author

Robert Brodo is co-founder of Advantexe. He has more than 20 years of training and business simulation experience.