The "You" Word: Empathy in Selling, Job Hunting, Whatever

I’m amazed at what some people put forward as ideas and proposals and suggestions. I can feel your pain, I think, if you’re trying to drum up business during this recession. Don’t make it harder for yourself.

Technically, start your letter with “You.” Start your email, start your phone call, start your tweet with “You.” As in “You are,” or “you need,” or “you want.”

Metaphorically, figuratively, the same thing. Call it empathy. Understanding what the other person wants. You’re selling, they’re not; so put it in their terms. In letters, emails, phone calls, whatever, start with benefits. Not benefits for you, but benefits for the other person across the table. How is this going to be good for the person you’re addressing?

  • Please, do your basic homework. There’s so much information available on the Web. When selling to a company, or looking for a job, know what they do — what they sell, to whom.For example don’t ever, for example, suggest somebody replace their own content with your content on the same topic. They probably like their own content. What a waste of time that is. Amazingly, though, it happens all the time.

    (An aside here, that I can’t resist adding: I was with a friend watching our kids play on the soccer field. An annoying person came up, interrupted our conversation, talked about how great his kid is. As soon as that ended, the person walked away, my friend turned to me and said, “I still like my kid better.” We all do, don’t we.)

  • Use the party metaphor, as in what you bring to the party. How is what you’re selling going to help my business? What can you bring to the party?
  • In the job search context, don’t tell them how much you want the job; tell them what you can offer them; preferably, something they need, but don’t have. That’s hard for the entry-level jobs, but even there, how are you different? You can add later how much you love their company or want the job, but first, what benefit do they get?

So, it comes up because I get emails asking how to write business proposals, and then I get emails suggesting business deals that make absolutely no sense. If they’d seen our website, they’d never propose that.

Start your proposal with benefits that your buyer will get.

The best salesperson I ever worked with had one outstanding quality: he listened.


  • Moving From Me To » Blog Archive » A Bountiful Life Isn’t a Zero-Sum Game says:

    […] Mike Masnick of Techdirt takes it further: “go out there proactively and try to help others.” Business plan guru, Tim Berry reflects that proactive attitude beginning with the language one uses, suggesting a “you” rather than a “me” approach.  […]

  • @Factor77 says:

    I love the analogy that Social Media is like one big party… you’ve gotta bring stuff to the party, you can’t just walk in and expect to be liked. Make sure you provide content for your network. Then you’ve gotta schmooze around a little and see what you can do–you’ve gotta be interesting at the party, or nobody will want to talk to you!

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