“Compassion” is not typically the first thing that comes to mind when closing a sale. Depending on the context, the guiding mantra for a salesperson might be “create a sense of urgency,” “overcome objections,” or “be genuine and convincing.” Yet there is a strong case to be made that compassion when closing a sale is good for business.
In fact, there are multiple benefits to instilling compassion as a core business value on a sales team, so that compassion is in the forefront of each exchange with a prospective client or customer. I’ve learned this lesson from working in sales contexts that have ranged from car dealerships to, more recently, the admissions department for a private provider of addiction and mental health treatment. What follow are some pointers for what compassion might look like when closing a sale, some examples of companies that do a good job of prioritizing and embodying compassion, and a closer look at the business benefits of compassion.
What Compassion Is in a Sales Context
To be sure, some sales contexts may seem naturally more conducive to compassion. It might be easier to channel when the “good” or “service” that you’re selling is treatment for a mental health condition or substance use disorder, as opposed to a new or used car. That said, certain features of compassion seem applicable to most sales interactions. Here are three that help illustrate what compassion looks like in a sales context.
Listening well and relating to the person where they are – Listening can be hard to do, especially when there’s a sense of urgency to close the deal. (This may be especially true if, as in most sales, your performance is judged on sales.) But listening is key to meeting a prospective client or customer where they are and forging trust and a sense of connection.
Consider this example from my context: A mother calls in regarding her son, who needs treatment for alcoholism. (Learn how treatment at FHE Health is helping people overcome a drinking problem.) She’s frantic, highly emotional, all over the place and constantly interrupting you.
If you’re on my end of the phone, you can get frustrated. That’s when it’s important to realize she is in crisis and not in a position where she is able to be thinking rationally. A good listener meets her where she is and, from there, finds a way to guide her to what will be in her and her son’s best interests.
Putting people before numbers – What this means within a private healthcare context is that if a person has particular treatment needs that would be better served elsewhere, we refer them to a provider that will be better able to serve them. People need to feel like their interests are in the driver’s seat. The truly successful organizations are those that are willing to say, “We’re not the best place for you, and here’s where you should go.” That is putting the prospective client’s interests first.
One way to convey to a prospective client or customer that their interests come first is to take a consultative role. This approach requires a certain level of detachment from the outcome but ultimately can also build trust, which is sacred.
Another way to convey to the prospective client or customer that they matter is to connect with them at the human level and note things you might have in common—if these points of connection naturally emerge during the conversation. For instance, if one of my team is from Arkansas and someone from Arkansas calls in, some brief conversation about this shared experience can help the caller relax a bit and feel more at ease. But this starts with a willingness to open up, which is another dimension of compassion.
Going beyond just “business as usual”
What might this look like in your sales context? In my context it might mean staying over time or taking personal time to help a family in crisis. It also means staying in daily touch after that first phone call to answer any questions, assist the person as they make admission arrangements, provide the advice and support that they might need to follow through with their decision to get treatment, and meet them in person once they finally arrive for treatment.
How Compassion Is Good Business Sense
Listening well and relating to the person where they are. Putting people before numbers. Going beyond just “business as usual.” These practices not only help to illustrate what compassion looks like when closing a sale—they also make good business sense. Compassion makes good business sense because it can increase sales, referrals and client/customer loyalty.
Take the claim that compassion increases sales. It is not uncommon for there to be a certain level of fear involved when a prospective client or customer is considering a big purchase or investment. For example, in the treatment world someone may call in expressing concerns about their loved one, on the one hand, and fears about treatment and whether it will be effective, on the other. If the person to whom they are speaking is more of a salesperson than a compassionate human being, then they are not going to get over this fear; but when they feel accepted and understood, they are less likely to be ruled by fear in the decision-making process. In this sense, a salesperson who shows compassion may be more likely to close the sale and increase their sales.
Compassion is also a solid, long-term business strategy. Say, for example, that your sale doesn’t close. If you have shown care and compassion, you will have been more likely to have built a relationship of sorts with that prospective client or customer, and they will be more likely to refer others to you in the future.
Similarly, over time, compassion can increase client/customer loyalty. When a person knows they are not just a number and that you have their best interests in mind, they are going to keep coming back.
Examples of Companies That Do Compassion Well
In the healthcare world that I inhabit, several organizations come to mind as examples of doing compassion well. The Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic have a concierge service for patients.
The concierge will call you, get your background, ask for permission to get your records from your family physician. As organizations they are very thorough at explaining the process to new patients and show a lot of care with follow-up. The University of Miami operates similarly.
By putting their patients first and acting with care and thoroughness, these organizations embody compassion. They’re also doing what’s best for business.
The article is provided by Donny Martinelli, who is Director of Admissions at the national behavioral health provider FHE Health.