Empathy. For some medical sales reps, it’s a natural part of their personality, allowing them to connect with and understand the emotions, reactions, and motivations of those around them. For others, it’s a wishy-washy emotional nightmare.
In medical sales, empathy is a key component in creating authentic relationships with both customers and co-workers. However, a recent survey by Business Solver found that while 92 percent of CEOs would call their organization “empathetic,” only 72 percent of their employees agree (a number that is reduced from the 2018 findings). Further, despite their confidence in their empathy, 72 percent of CEOs say the state of empathy still needs to evolve.
Lacking empathy and coming off as cold or disinterested in a medical sales role can negatively impact your career. If you’re not a naturally-empathetic person, intentionally practice these four skills to build your capacity to genuinely connect with others and build lasting relationships.
Stop talking and start listening
Active listening with the intention of fully understanding emotions is the first tip to developing higher levels of empathy. Instead of listening to respond, listen to gather insight on the person’s reactions and how what they are talking about affects them on an emotional level.
You don’t always need to say the right words to prove that you understand what your customer is saying or what they’ve been through. You can show your understanding and provide support by acknowledging their emotions and showing genuine interest in what is being said.
Remember that the most effective sales conversations are the ones with true dialogue — not the ones where you’re constantly looking for an opening to speak. It’s ok if you don’t get your two-cents thrown in. Your customer will notice when you actively listen and respond in a way that’s valuable.
Crack open your shell and be vulnerable
As a medical sales rep, you’re expected to show up with a smile on your face and look as though you’re always having a great time. As you work to build your ability to empathize, let your guard down a bit and show some vulnerability in front of your clients.
It’s not an easy thing to do. You want to be professional, of course, and to position yourself as an expert with all the answers. When you’re able to open up a bit, acknowledge mistakes, or admit when you’re not sure of a fact, you’ll find your customers are more drawn to you.
Everyone you encounter will be dealing with their own shortcomings. Admitting your faults and showing some vulnerability will prove you’re human and help others feel more connected and less like you’re a robot.
Practice emotional intelligence
According to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence, “refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” In sales, the acknowledgment and awareness of emotions can help you navigate the way in which you interact with your customers and colleagues.
It starts with acknowledging and naming your own emotions. Practice noticing how you’re feeling beyond just “good” and “not so good.” Are you anxious? Content? Surprised? Can you name the way you’re feeling, and, if so, can you communicate that feeling to those around you?
Once you’re able to name your own emotions, you’ll be able to use them in critical thinking and problem-solving situations. Realize which emotions will benefit you in the situations you face, and work at harnessing them in order to apply them accordingly. When you’re able to access and manage your own emotions, you’ll be able to help others process theirs as well.
This emotional awareness and control will directly relate to your ability to empathize. If you can identify in another person how they are feeling, and then connect that with the ways in which you interact with them, they will realize that you understand their feelings. Your openness coupled with your ability to control reactions will make others feel more comfortable in sharing their genuine feelings with you.
Be aware of your non-verbal expressions
Body language makes a huge impact on how others are able to connect and interact with you. More than just a friendly smile, you need to assess the ways in which your body language might impact the person you’re speaking with.
Give them your full attention. Face them, look them in the eye, and limit distractions (like cell phones) and certain postures (like crossing your arms) that could convey a sense of disinterest. Use non-verbal responses to show you’re really listening to what they have to say and keep an engaged and interested expression (one that doesn’t glaze over).
If this is something you really struggle with, sit down with a mirror and practice, or have a trusted friend point out when you’re closing yourself off physically during a conversation. Body language can greatly impact a person’s ability to feel safe, connected, and unjudged, so keep it top-of-mind when interacting with others.
Empathy isn’t always greeting people with a hug or offering a shoulder to cry on. It’s the understanding that emotions play a vital role in our actions, reactions, and decision-making process.
Capitalize on your strengths and pay attention to the ways in which you can work to build deeper and more genuine connections with your customers, co-workers, and even family and friends. Your career will thank you for it.