Building a Roadmap to Empathy for the Customer

Brent Adamson, the author of “The Challenger Sale,” described why empathy is a key attribute of the next-generation Challenger seller during his podcast episode on the Voice of Value.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and view the landscape from their perspective. In order to be a Challenger and affect change to a traditional system, you need to know the customer’s challenges, desired outcomes, and the way that they think about the business generally. Importantly, it does not matter whether the customer’s perception is wrong. Once you understand it, you can change the way that they view the business challenge and the solution that you are trying to provide to achieve their desired outcomes. Empathy can be viewed both organizationally and individually for stakeholders relevant to the buying decision-making process.


Organizational Empathy

You should first make a “mental map” or “mental model” of the customer organization. Obviously, the B2B customer has an overarching commercial objective to make money. Taking this down a notch, you should ask, “what might we, as a supplier, have some sort of material impact on?” This leads to the customer’s desired business outcome (or “objective,” as Brent calls it), and it’s okay if that outcome is wrong. Next, you should aim to discover the drivers of that outcome. In other words, what does the customer need to do to make the desired business outcome happen? The final level is to ask, what are the sub-drivers, or material steps, that the customer needs to occur for each relevant driver?

Once you complete your “mental map,” you will be able to construct a “roadmap to empathy.” The roadmap is a comprehensive picture of what the customer thinks about its own business. This allows you, as the salesperson, to assess what the customer got wrong, what they are missing, and that solution you can bring to the table to help them achieve their desired business outcomes.


Individual Empathy

As you probably know, in today’s complex buying age, it takes about 7 individual stakeholders to make a buying decision. Brent discusses the concept of “identity value in the world of consensus creation.” This concept essentially asks what you would have to do to get a customer stakeholder to put his or her credibility on the line and have a conversation with others within the organization on your behalf. In other words, you want to move a stakeholder from merely considering the purchase to acting as a champion – an advocate of the purchase to others.

After you have identified each stakeholder, you should construct a “mental model” for each one. The different roles and personal value drivers will lead to very different perspectives on the outcomes themselves, as well as the drivers and sub-drivers. You can then try to connect the dots between similar stakeholders and align your champions with other like-minded personas.

As you are constructing the mental model for each stakeholder, you should consider three dimensions of personal value:

1. Company value:

Company value is centered around one’s job, but is more organizationally oriented. It helps the person’s bottom line. For example, consider whether the purchase would allow the stakeholder to reduce costs, achieve a quota, or meet an internal deadline.

2. Professional value:

Professional value is about the person’s job as well, but is more individually oriented. It helps the person excel in his or her role on a regular basis. Examples of professional value include increased efficiency and productivity.

3. Identity value:

Like personal value, identity value is individually oriented, but is not tied to a person’s job. Identity value changes a person’s perception of himself or herself. For example, if a solution increases identity value, it could make the stakeholder feel that she is more credible or important, or it could win praise within the organization from colleagues and management.

Brent notes that identity value has not only a statistically significant but material impact on the person’s motivation to connect with other stakeholders, increasing the number of champions within the organization and your odds of closing the deal. Once the stakeholder is motivated to speak with others, he or she will speak in terms of company value and professional value. However, you first need to know how the stakeholder views himself or herself in order to understand how to incentivize your opportunities.

Ecosystems has over 2,000 proven outcome templates that help to discover, propose, and track business outcomes. It also offers roadmapping software to map relevant drivers and sub-drivers for each desired outcomes and buyer persona within a collaborative platform that the customer can edit and access. Contact us at to learn more.