Maybe She’s Born With It: My Journey to Empath & Salesperson

By Leslie Cunningham 

There is no such thing as a born salesperson. There are, however, people with empathy and learned charisma who choose to work hard. I would know: I am that person.

For years, I resisted the comments and asides about my talent for sales. “You are really good at sales,” they’d say, or, “You should consider a career in sales.” But I was in human resources—how dare anyone classify me as a salesperson? Over the years, I tried to prove that I was on the right track, but my sales numbers would always indicate otherwise. I was good at sales, but it wasn’t because I was born with a natural affinity for sales (there’s no such thing); it was because I’ve spent my whole life passionately studying the one skill that breeds sales talent: the human connection.


You see, all my life I have studied the human connection: what makes us tick and then what makes us click were questions that always ran through my mind. Through research and development, I began to understand not only how people connect, but also the true nature of sales—because they’re one and the same. It’s not an inbred skillset that makes a good salesperson, it’s empathy, or the true understanding of yourself and the desire to understand others. Through my research, I developed empathy, and hence my skill as a salesperson. I stand as proof of the idea that we are not born to be salespeople because they don’t exist. There are only people with empathy and a passion to connect, with an understanding of how to build credibility and establish rapport in an effort to create a relationship. Everyone is a salesperson on some level, they just need to develop their interest in and understanding of the human condition.


It’s that understanding that’s largely synonymous with empathy, and it’s why it’s one of our favorite buzzwords. Empathy is the gateway to understanding those around you, and therefore how to build credibility with them. You learn how to establish yourself as an expert in their eyes by reacting to their current condition or understandings. Empathy also allows you to know how to build rapport, and how to connect with authenticity and genuine interest.


It’s important to recognize where empathy begins: with yourself. True empathy stems from true understanding, but you can only understand those around you if you first understand yourself. It was a lesson I learned early on in my studies, and it has proven one of my most valuable skill sets as an empath and a salesperson. I am able to understand the feelings and ideas of others because I can share my own. I know which questions to ask because they’re the queries I would want to hear myself. I know how to connect with others because I can connect with me. Minding your own thoughts about the situation is a critical component to authentic connection.


Empathy isn’t the only attribute I earned through my desire to understand human connection. Charisma is also a learned skill, as is kindness. Though these skills of connection aren’t ones we’re born being good at, they are skills that rest within us and just need a little coaxing. Yet we take these skills for granted, rather than develop them like we would a skill of a trade that has a more measurable outcome.


Empathy. Intuition. Compassion. Observation. Awareness. All of these are skills that are needed for the success of human connection. All of these are skills that are unmeasurable in the world of sales. And all of these are skills that make a salesperson great. If we would only make the effort to develop them—as managers coaching employees, as employees looking to improve—we would see the inherent connections between these soft skills and human connection, and human connection and sales success.


What I know for sure: Connecting with humans is complicated. Even armed with empathy and intuition, the only thing that you can really know is the approach you are taking to developing the connection. We are not mind readers, but focusing on being credible and learning the tactics for building rapport creates a great empathetic approach to human connection and vulnerability in order to be effective at any type of selling.


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