When it comes to mastering consultative sales and requirement elicitation, Eric Maddox is the guy. As an inspirational and motivational speaker, he can fill venues of people eager to hear his successful negotiation techniques. 

He didn’t learn these strategies the traditional way, though. They involved countless hours of intelligence gathering, interrogations, and months in Iraq, searching for the ace of spades named Saddam Hussein. 

How Empathy Captured Hussein

It was in April 2003. Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, had already fallen. But the infamous president, Saddam Hussein, was nowhere. With his wealth and profound political and personal connections, people assumed he had already left. He might already be in Syria. Then by December 2003, they received a breakthrough when they found the unkempt dictator hiding inside a hole in the ground. 

What led him to his arrest? It wasn’t firepower or technology. It was empathy. Eric Maddox became part of Operation Red Dawn as an interrogator. Early on, he knew the usual tactics that ranged from waterboarding to black sites wouldn’t work as before. Times have changed—so does warfare. 

Instead, he relied on a universal human emotion: When in a difficult situation, every man works for himself. When in despair, everyone dreams of hope. That’s what he offered to prisoners he used to gather intelligence. During months of interrogation, he listened attentively and understood their needs. 

Then, he provided them with the solutions they’re looking for—in exchange for valuable information. This technique eventually led him to Hussein’s bodyguard, who provided critical information on the man’s whereabouts.

people holding each other's hands

How Can This Apply to Your Business?

Business and war are two different worlds with shared elements. Both need careful negotiations, intelligence gathering, and analytics to succeed. 

In all these, empathy can play a vital role, especially in consultative sales. In this process, you get to the bottom of the needs or problems of the consumers. Then, it’s your job to give them the right solutions. 

And yet, many consumers feel companies are not listening to them. In a 2018 poll, more than 60% of the consumers believed businesses still treated them as case numbers.

In spite of the popularity of chatbots, half of the respondents didn’t enjoy their experience. Customer service is essential; it can impact revenue. For example, 68% said they’re willing to pay a higher price for companies with excellent customer service. 

Empathy can also boost sales by creating more effective sales teams. When your sales consultants understand consumer needs, they can enhance the value of the products and services they’re offering. The power of this soft skill also extends to your organization. Take, for example, Google’s story. As a tech company, they hire people with hard skills. 

However, it’s not them who provided innovative ideas, according to a 2017 report. Instead, it was individuals who had a wide range of soft skills, including emotional intelligence and empathy.

Empathy is not sympathy, Eric Maddox used to stress. The former doesn’t have an emotion. It’s a deep understanding of the plight and needs of the other. In many cases in business, it’s more than enough to negotiate or close a sale.