Since the 1960s, emotional intelligence (EQ) has been recognized as a critical component of both personal and professional success. Yet many organizations focus primarily on building hard sales skills on their sales teams, while neglecting emotional intelligence skills.
Here’s why developing emotional intelligence in sales matters, and how it impacts sales performance.
What Is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?
Emotional intelligence, also referred to as Emotional Quotient, is the ability to be aware of one’s own emotions and the emotions of others, and to manage them in a productive and empathetic manner.
Daniel Goleman, the science journalist who introduced the idea of emotional intelligence in the 1960s, divided EQ skills into five categories:
- Social skills
Together, these five emotional intelligence skills comprise the building blocks of a healthy, productive approach to life and work.
Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important in Sales?
Emotionally intelligent sales professionals perform better than their non-emotionally intelligent peers.
To understand why that is, let’s take a look at how the 5 types of EQ affect sales performance.
Self-awareness is the ability to identify and understand one’s own emotions and the impact they may have on your actions and on other people.
A self-aware salesperson is better able to manage their time and energy around their emotional states. They are less likely to anger or annoy a potential customer with their own negative emotions. And they bounce back from disappointment and rejection faster than sales reps who ignore or are unaware of their negative feelings.
Self-regulation, also referred to as impulse control, is the ability to control and adapt one’s own emotions to fit the situation or to avoid disrupting others.
A self-regulated salesperson is able to avoid bringing their negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, or irritation to sales conversations. They are better able to adapt their behavior to the needs of their job. And they’re capable of generating enthusiasm and motivation over the long term to fuel their job performance.
3. Social Skills
Social skills are the ability to have social awareness, make meaningful connections, build rapport, and maintain relationships over an extended period of time.
A sales professional with strong social skills will be successful at prospecting because they’re able to maintain a larger, stronger network from which to draw sales opportunities. They’ll be good at collaborating and cooperating with their peers. And they’ll know how to “read a room” and make adjustments to their own behavior to get the outcomes they desire.
Empathy is the counterpoint to self-awareness. It’s the ability to identify and understand other people’s emotions, and the desire to respond to them productively.
An empathetic salesperson is good at judging how the customer or prospect is feeling, so that they can adapt their approach and steer conversations in the right direction. Empathy also helps the salesperson visualize the customer experience to better understand their needs, their goals, and their pain points so that they can address them in the most effective way.
Note: For a salesperson to be effective, their empathy levels shouldn’t be too low or too high. After assessing thousands of salespeople, we’ve found that too much empathy can cause a rep to be overly sensitive to the feelings of others, resulting in avoidance during the sales process.
For example, they may avoid:
- Asking who else is involved in the decision-making process
- Inquiring about budget
- Asking for the business because they feel the other person may find it rude, pushy, or confrontational
Motivation is the internally generated desire to complete a task or accomplish a goal.
Salespeople with strong motivation get more done in a day. They respond better to rejection, and seek out training and opportunities to improve their skills. They embrace new behaviors and activities that help them reach their goals. They listen to coaching and apply it to their work. And they pursue promising leads and follow up on opportunities more assertively than their peers.
How to Develop EQ on Your Sales Team
Emotionally intelligent sales professionals are:
- Aware of their own strengths and weaknesses
- Resilient and able to bounce back from setbacks and losses
- Capable of establishing and maintaining strong internal and external connections
- Assertive in obtaining what they need to do their work
- Eager to learn and apply new skills to improve their performance
- Capable of generating their own internal motivation
- Skilled at recognizing other’s behavior styles and adapting their own to match
Help Your Sales Reps Better Understand Themselves and Others
Having a high level of emotional intelligence allows a salesperson to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power of their own emotions during interactions with buyers to improve sales rather than derail them.
Often, sales reps are derailed or distracted by their emotions in the sales process, which can lead to them leaving value on the table, presenting off-target solutions, not asking the right questions or enough questions, or failing to position themselves as a trusted advisor, rather than a nuisance.
You can help your salespeople increase their emotional intelligence and perform to their maximum potential with the EQ Assessment.