The details we can uncover about an individual or an organization through a website, a Google search or reviewing an internal file are all extremely valuable and they do support our ability to be a storyfinder.
But often, they are only the tip of the iceberg.
The deeper story is not visible on our screens. Discovering it relies on our ability to employ empathy, a skill many of us shy away from because we believe it requires us to inspire emotional conversations.
That’s not true.
There’s a simple logic to empathy that makes it one of the most powerful skills we can develop. And it’s available to everyone … with a little practice.
Why is empathy so powerful? And how can you access it consistently?
The word empathy first came into use in 1908 from the German Einfühlung, Ein meaning “in” and Fühlung meaning “feeling”. So, yes, there is an emotional aspect to employing empathy. But … the skill is not creating or making something emotional. The skill is taking the time to understand (be “in”) the feelings of your prospects and clients.
If the word “feeling” is still making you uncomfortable, substitute the word “situation”.
You employ your empathy by allowing yourself to be in a prospect’s current situation.
You take the time to consider their experience of life right now, as you are speaking to them, working with them.
Here’s an example:
At the beginning of the pandemic, one of my most active clients went silent. It wasn’t a surprise. Everyone was scrambling.
Their West coast team was the first to re-approach me in January 2021. The tone of the conversation was very different. There was a deeper level of hesitation, a type of uncertainty about what they wanted to do that was highly unusual.
After we spoke I simply sat at my desk and thought about what it might be like to be in this company, this industry. What would a typical day look like? What would be expected of my contact? What would be expected of their team members? How would this impact their time, their stress levels?
I quickly realized several things:
- Everyone had needed to quickly learn new technologies in the past 10 months;
- They were all still adjusting to a hybrid workforce;
- They were struggling to meet the demands of their own clients;
- They were exhausted and really tired of online training sessions and meetings.
The result? I created a series of 30-minute training sessions for them. Each one focused on a single topic and skill, and included an action plan for them to start using the skill immediately.
This training, which I call micro-learning, was not only a perfect fit for this client but has become one of my most popular training formats for all teams across all industries.
And it came from my taking the time to be “in feeling”, or empathetic. It’s a logical process of stepping back from facts and figures, of putting aside your need to get the sale or receive a quick answer to something, and simply thinking about the other person’s world, their circumstances.
Use empathy to uncover the deeper story.
Of course, you can’t uncover all the details this way. And sometimes you can be completely unfamiliar with an industry or service.
When this is the case, you can ignite your empathy by:
- Scanning the news to see what situations are possibly impacting a prospect/client;
- Viewing their recent posts and/or press releases for information about current activities;
- Speaking to connections or colleagues that are more familiar with that industry or service; and
- Asking your contact more open-ended questions to expand the conversation.
Questions such as:
“What current events are impacting your industry right now?”
“What’s the biggest challenge for your company right now?”
“Tell me a bit more about how you are impacted by … ?”
Empathy is the true champion of storyfinding. It demands that you stop thinking about yourself, your desired outcome, and give your full attention to not only the needs of your prospect/client but to how they are experiencing life at this moment.
Employing empathy results in greater trust, increased loyalty and, perhaps most importantly, more clarity. Empathy gives you the ability to deeply understand the “why” behind a prospect’s/client’s actions and reactions, and allows you to deliver what they need.
Empathy is one of several skills needed to become a storyfinder.
Storyfinding allows our prospects/client to share with us their challenges, triumphs, experiences and desires. This is where our value takes root and how they understand that their answer to working with us must be “yes”. Learn more about storyfinding here.