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A recent Today show segment discussed toys that taught kids empathy. Fisher-Price had received feedback that parents want emotionally intelligent children as much as they want successful ones, or at least saw a corollary.

Conversely, the sales-heavy Silicon Valley, according to Om Malik, has an empathy vacuum. Some of you reading this may either have one foot in or entirely work in Silicon Valley, and I want us all to take a step back and remember that anyone we interact with online or in-person is a person, not a number.

In the case of the customer, this means living by a simple idea: that we have to be customer-centric salespeople. We have to build deals with partners that are mutually beneficial. I’d like to share some ideas as to how you can do so.

Share Your Customer’s Pain
It’d be easy, as the COO of a mattress company, to say that everyone should sleep on an Amerisleep mattress. But what helps customers fully appreciate the advanced design, materials and technology we use in our beds is a contrasting experience where they’ve slept on a bad mattress. We make sure our salespeople know the difference and have experienced it firsthand.

Want to sell someone on faster internet as their ISP? Stay with a relative and live your life on slower internet — heck, maybe even switch to dial-up for a week. If you think your calendar software is amazing, switch to your competitor’s service, and if they’re great, you learned something. If it is painful, awkward and frustrating, stick through another seven days with it.

This isn’t masochism, it’s valuable personal growth. True empathy comes from feeling the struggle others feel (even if it’s in a business sense).

Be Digitally Empathetic
You should always have a social media presence to answer questions, but make sure that every single person who answers a tweet or Facebook comment is an authentic and empathetic person. The best way to do this? Have at least part of your team in the building with you. You can post as many fun Instagram pictures of a store as you want, but talk about your customers, too. Honor your customers, celebrate them and take them along for the ride with you. Also, build systems that actually help your customers. Your online chat systems should be manned by empathetic individuals who prioritize customer education.

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