Salespeople: Steve Jobs Didn't Need Empathy, So Why Should You?

Salespeople: Steve Jobs Didn't Need Empathy, So Why Should You?

Do you really need empathy to be a good sales rep? My podcast guest this week says no. He’s Nicolas Vandenberghe, CEO of Chili Piper.

Nicolas started his career selling newspapers in the streets of Paris in high school, studied math in undergrad, and then got an MBA from Stanford. He then started and sold 3 tech companies, and also ran sales for a $2B telecom firm.

Today he runs Chili Piper which provides companies a brilliant solution to a sales problem they probably don’t even know they have. You can hear Nicolas talk about all of this and more in our conversation above.

A few highlights of our conversation . . .

Closing the leak in your sales funnel

Chili Piper solves an interesting sales problem a lot of companies have. See if this sounds familiar — Someone comes to your website and they click a button or submit a form saying they’d be interested in talking to someone or seeing a demo. Then they get a message that basically says, “Thank you. Someone will contact you” which obviously leaves them wondering who’s going to contact them and when.

And that causes a lot of leakage in the sales funnel because salespeople and the prospect end up chasing each other on email for days and don’t always have a call.

So, what Chili Piper did was to create a JavaScript program you can add into your website so that when that prospect submits the form, the program qualifies the prospect, finds the right sales rep, and calls them on the phone to connect them with the prospect immediately. And if the sales rep isn’t available, they access their calendar and schedule a meeting right on the spot. As a result, you book more client calls and close more sales.

Nicolas meets Steve Jobs and has an epiphany

While at Stanford, Nicolas got to attend a small meeting with Steve Jobs. His reaction: 

“Everyone said he was the best salesperson in the world. And theoretically, salespeople have lots of empathy. Well, the guy sitting in front of me was super inspiring, but he didn’t strike as someone with much empathy.”

And that set Nicolas off to learn more about a number of topics to help him figure out that dilemma.

Nicolas concluded what you really need to be a good salesperson is not empathy (which is feeling other people’s feelings), but the ability to recognize and understand other people’s feelings.

For example, if your prospect is getting frustrated during your sales call, the last thing you want to do is get frustrated yourself, which is what a highly empathetic person would do. What you want to do is be able to stay calm but recognize the signals that they’re frustrated and figure out why so you can change that.

And that ability will help you identify objections or opportunities in a conversation that you might not otherwise know about.

Some of the books and articles that came up were:

You can find out more about Nicolas and Chili Piper at their website here:

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Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author.

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