August 11, 2017

#537. Empathy: In Shorter Supply as Demand Increases. With Bridget Gleason.

Bridget Gleason is VP of Sales for and my regular partner on Front Line Fridays.


[3:24] Andy recently interviewed Geoff Colvin about his latest book, Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will, a deep dive into the impact of industry and tech on employment, so far, and to come.

[4:57] Colvin covers the job changes through industrialization, electrification, technology, and the fourth phase, where the largest profession, drivers, are about to be replaced, and legal discovery will be done by machines, better than attorneys.

[8:01] Colvin claims the skills that will be more valuable are the human skills: relationship building, collaboration, and co-creation, where machines are ineffective. These skills are in the province of sales. Salespeople are not going away.

[9:17] Andy notes that sales management discussion groups online are filled with threads on technology and process, but free of questions on the customer. The interaction between two humans is what will continue to drive sales.

[11:04] Geoff Colvin quotes an Oracle exec: “Empathy is the critical 21st Century skill.” — Meg Bear, Group VP, Social Cloud, Oracle. However, yearly college research shows the amount of empathy is declining in students, since 1980.

[12:11] The population of people coming into the workforce has less of the highly valued skill of empathy. That may give an edge to women, and may help attract women into sales leadership roles.

[14:51] Oxford Economics research lists near-term needed skills: empathy, relationship building, teamwork, co-creation, collaboration, and cultural sensitivity. Women may be strong in these skills. Bridget sees one female to 19 male applicants.

[16:29] Does your job description call for empathizing, collaborating, co-creating, and building relationships? Andy has never seen a sales posting for those needed skills. Bridget recalls a former ad that moved her, based around empathy.

[19:44] Bridget first had a female boss at Engineyard, in 2012. More often she was one of a few females on a team. Females are underrepresented in sales — especially in sales leadership.

[20:52] As technology moves more into human jobs, it is still limited in the space of human interaction, and will be limited for some time. Human characteristics differentiate yourself in how you sell through engagement.

[22:33] Machines are getting better, but we are not. Moore’s law is still on track, or accelerating. So the way to be better is to be more human. Will SDR roles become automated? That may come sooner, as the role is more automatic.

[26:08] Co-collaboration will not become easily replicated through machine intelligence. If your role is one that does not add value to customers, they might as well be talking to a machine. Add customer value to your role.