The Convergence of Mirroring and Empathy: Communications Training in Business-to-Business Personal Selling Persuasion Efforts

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Purpose: This study assessed the value of training in mirroring combined with training in empathy in a personal-selling setting when these two supplement training in more conventional areas. To a large extent, this investigation is exploratory. Previous attempts to probe into this topic do not appear in the literature. Methodology: Students in personal-selling classes acted as sales representatives in an attempt to sell a service (attendance at a seminar) to small retailers. One group was trained in mirroring and another in empathy. Yet another received instruction in both mirroring and empathy. Finally, control-group members received neither mirroring nor empathy training. Chi-square tests, t tests, Tukey k tests, and an analysis of variance were used. The hypotheses were that mirroring and empathy training, and especially mirroring combined with empathy, would perform better than no training in these areas. Findings: The analysis revealed that those who were trained in mirroring were more successful in obtaining intent to purchase than were control-group members. Likewise, trainees in empathy were more successful than those without training. Both of these experimental groups performed at levels that did not diverge significantly. Members of the group with instruction in both mirroring and empathy contributed more effectively than any other group. Originality, Value, and Contribution: This is the first published study that systematically examined the effectiveness of both mirroring and empathy training in a personal-selling setting. Previous writings have presented research relating to nonselling functions. Others have discussed the value of mirroring and empathy in narrative that was not supported by data. The findings of this study suggest that both of these topics of coverage have merit when acting as a supplement to more conventional training content. They reveal that sales managers may be more successful in training members of the sales force if mirroring and empathy training is employed. The investigation supplies support for the proposition that this form of instruction can be useful in both academic and practical applications.



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