Are your sales reps empathetic? A new trend of human-centered selling is prompting sales organizations to re-evaluate what really drives the sales process. If you haven’t heard about this new sales philosophy, human-centered selling puts people at the center of the selling process, valuing strong relationships and empathetic understanding over numbers and sales. Instead of relationship-building as an incidental byproduct of the sales cycle, it’s the end goal.

While technology has revolutionized how we sell, it’s also distanced us from our customers. When we over-automate the sales process, our relationships suffer and we risk losing touch of what’s really important to the customer. That’s where human-centered selling comes in: it’s calling us back to what the sales process is really all about — the customer. Let’s dive into what this new trend is all about and how to make it work for you.

What Is Human-Centered Selling?

Human-centered selling isn’t complicated: it’s all about using collaboration, empathy, and experimentation to build a deeper connection with the customer. If those three pillars sound familiar, that’s because this approach shares some DNA with human-centered design thinking. Design thinking is an inclusive, innovative approach to designing a product, service, or process. Today’s customer craves meaningful interactions, and they’re making decisions based on whether or not those connections are there. Call it backlash against the digital age, but there are real repercussions to ignoring the human element of selling.

More than ever, the most successful people across all industries possess these traits and utilize them in their daily work to achieve better results. While the traditional salesperson might be motivated by self-interest and calculation, human-centered selling invites reps to use empathy to understand a customer’s unique situation and motivations, and collaborate with them to come up with real solutions. The human-centric salesperson brings real value into the customer’s life, and that results in a lasting, fruitful relationship.

Why Does Human-Centered Selling Matter?

In its purest form, sales is about connecting with people and going above and beyond to offer a solution to their problems. But our jobs are busy, and sometimes we create so many processes and systems that we lose touch with our customers. The human-centered approach encourages reps to get inspiration from real people on how we can do better. It can feel uncomfortable for reps to bring feelings into the sales conversation, but it’ll help unearth the emotions, challenges, and ideas that inform a sales process that resonates better with customers.

In an increasingly digitized world, human relationships serve as the one true compass for continuing to solve problems and create value for the customer. Human-centered selling serves as a strong foundation to build better customer and client relationships, align your salesforce, and design a more effective selling process — all of which directly impacts revenue. You can’t replace the business edge that strong relationships provide: it’s the best way to understand the things your customers are trying to accomplish, the things they care deeply about, and their challenges in business and life.

Making Human-Centered Selling Work For You

How can we replace traditional selling methods with human-centered selling? It’s often challenging to get buy-in for new selling methodologies, so start with the ‘why.’ Human-centered selling is all about creating a high-quality customer experience that paves the way for a more efficient sales process and better results. Plus, it gives reps permission to cultivate more enjoyable relationships with customers, so work is going to get a lot more fun, too.

Not sure how to get started with human-centered selling? Here are a few strategies for bringing the human element back into sales:

Build Confidence

A confident salesperson knows their story inside and out and delivers it with finesse. If you don’t already have video practice built into your sales LMS/CMS, it’s time to take the leap. Video practice helps build communication skills so that reps can focus on being present and building a dialogue with customers. When sales reps are prepared and informed, it frees up their attention to focus on connecting with the customer and expressing genuine curiosity about their situation.

Ask the Right Questions

You can’t empathize, collaborate, or experiment without asking a few questions along the way. Encourage your sales reps to get in the habit of asking human-centered questions. Curiosity is key to keeping questions focused on the human, not the sale. Scenario-based practice and video coaching help reps learn the right questions to ask in different scenarios and practice helpful responses that move the ball forward. Focus on questions that prompt real emotion, address frustrations, and allow for honest feedback, like “What’s the biggest challenge holding your team back right now?” or “What’s something we can start doing, stop doing, and keep doing for you?”

Leverage Content

This methodology is all about cultivating a flexible dialogue with the customer. That means a one-size-fits-all approach to presentations isn’t going to work anymore. Customers will ask all kinds of questions about the product, and reps need to be ready to respond with compelling content that gets them excited about buying. Support your reps with a mobile content library that they can access on-the-go. Ideally, they’ll be able to search a term and pull up resources in a matter of seconds, even if they’re not online. That means you’ll also have to keep your content library fresh and up-to-date — keep tabs on what customers are asking for and create resources that solve for it.

Hire for Soft Skills

You can train someone how to sell, but you can’t train for culture fit. A human-centered approach means building your culture around creating a great customer experience. When you’re recruiting and hiring, screen for soft skills like empathy, listening, and collaboration. Can they share a story that demonstrates their ability to build relationships? What does it mean to them to be a good listener? Getting the right people on board will help unify your sales team and create alignment around what really inspires your sales process: the human element.