Meet The CEO Who Basis His Sales Strategy On Empathy

One corporate top-dog is changing his sales strategy to focus less on competition and more on compassion.

When it comes to building a successful business, a solid sales strategy is usually front and centre. Most often, it involves setting targets for sales teams, creating a bit of healthy competition between employees, and lauding exceptional sales with benefits and bonuses (or, at the very least, a bell to ring when a sale goes through). It’s a traditional approach that seems tried and tested. But, one CEO is looking at things a little differently, implementing a strategy based on empathy and compassion into his sales teams. And it’s working.

Bill McDermott, the CEO of global software and technology company, SAP, has been at helm since 2014. It’s widely reported that McDermott doesn’t refer to his team as employees, or staff. Instead, he calls them family. And, he is responsible for 83 000 family members. Coming from a working-class family, McDermott watched his father work three jobs to care for a sick sibling. It’s that background, apparently, that allowed him to gain understanding for people’s struggles to look after their families. So, when he took over as CEO, he implemented an empathy-based plan that was rooted in caring for other people – particularly fellow employees.

According to Fast Company, McDermott asked his team – sorry, family – members to write down why they wanted to hit their sales targets, on a big board everyone could see. The team shared its goals, from buying new cars, to paying off student loans or getting a new house. The idea was that if everyone could really see what their fellow employees dreams and goals were, they’d be more likely to empathise with them, support them, and help them get there – all of which are good for the business.

He further developed the strategy into a formula that saw team members dedicate 80% of their time to achieving their personal goals, and 20% to helping other team members who were falling behind. Seeing the goals displayed allowed others to understand just how important reaching sales targets was to others – and rally together to help them get there. When things were tough, “all 18 of us went into that territory and helped them out… We don’t leave anybody behind on this team,” McDermott told Fast Company. “If we could just finally put all this collective passion together for the common good, not just the team but everybody on the team, we would be the best. It turns out, it worked every time.”

And it’s not just the celebrations they share, but the problems too. The idea is there are 83 000 family members, and sharing the highs and lows is certainly going to make a more successful working environment. In fact, according to Forbes, research from the Center for Creative Leadership found that empathy is positively related to job performance. “Managers who show more empathy toward direct reports are viewed as better performers by their bosses,” they report.

The philosophy of using empathy for the greater good is one that inspires The Philanthropic Collection™, a social entrepreneurship collective that collaborates with businesses to find new approaches to philanthropy. Its projects – particularly The CEO SleepOut™, which sees business leaders spend a night on the streets, raising funds and gaining empathy for the homeless – focus on changing people’s attitudes toward others.

“It benefits Beneficiaries to raise funds, there’s no doubt about that, but what we really need to concentrate on is changing the ongoing mind- and heart-sets of our leaders,” says pioneering philanthropist and founder of The Philanthropic Collection™, Ali Gregg. “A little more understanding and compassion for those those less fortunate just may help us drive humanity forward. That’s the message we want to share.”

– By The Philanthropic Collection –


The Philanthropic Collection™ is a boutique social enterprise,
where we tailor haute-couture brands for philanthropy.


Our appliqué is made up of global leaders, influencers and forecasters,
all creating conscious capital for humanity.