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Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to a person’s ability to recognize emotions within themselves and others, and understand these emotions. It is the ability to use emotional cues as guide to one’s thoughts, behaviors and actions. An emotionally intelligent person is able to adapt to changing environments, and continue to work towards a goal.
If this sounds like the description of a successful salesperson, you’re correct. Emotional intelligence has an immense impact on sales performance. In fact, Colleen Stanley, author of Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success (in an interview with sales speaker and strategist Jill Konrath), describes EI as: “It’s your ability to identify, assess and control your own emotions and other’s emotions. It has a direct impact on sales results.”
Emotional Intelligence in Sales
Emotional intelligence was coined for a paper by Michael Beldoch, Clinical Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at Cornell University. It was made into a buzzword by Daniel Goleman and his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence.
In the book, Goleman claims that EI matters more than technical expertise when it comes to job performance and leadership, and that 67% of the abilities required for success derive from emotional intelligence.
This rings true in sales, where the ability to develop and sustain relationships is essential to success. There’s only so much that theory can do. The true test of a great salesperson is when you put them in stressful situations. Many make the mistake of letting their emotions overpower their purpose/ goal. This leads to unproductive behaviors, such as product dumping, pursuing non-qualified leads and more. It can also turn prospects off, instead of bringing them into the fold.
A study by Gallup consultants Tony Rutigliano and Benson Smith claims that customer satisfaction and loyalty depend on their emotional connection with the salesperson. They say that a customer is 12 times more likely to remain loyal if they like the salesperson.
Top Emotional Intelligence Competencies in Sales
There are key emotional intelligence competencies that are shared by successful salespersons.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of your prospect. It is when you go outside of yourself in order to be aware and understand another person’s feelings and needs.
In sales, it bears on your general outlook towards another person. Are you able to look at them objectively? Do you try to understand their motivations? Is your customer service attentive and able to anticipate customer needs?
Shift your focus from your prospects for a moment and look at yourself. Remember that you also have your own set of motivations and needs. You have your own strengths and limitations, as well.
Wherever you are in ‘knowing yourself’ affects how you reach out to others. Do you come off as confident? Are you able to stand your ground and persuade your audience to consider your side? Can you influence and gain the commitment of your prospect?
Colleen Stanley puts it succinctly: “Know thyself. What are your hot buttons? What situations cause you to react or not act in a manner that serves you well personally and professionally?”
Once you have a good level of self-awareness, you can be strategic in how you approach business relationships. Play on your strengths instead of highlighting your weaknesses. Put your best foot forward as you work towards self-improvement and becoming a more emotionally intelligent salesperson.
A salesperson eats rejection for breakfast. Thus, if you want to succeed in this field, you need to have a healthy level of self-esteem. Rejection is a part of sales. A salesperson achieves success by facing this reality, and waking up each day ready for breakfast!
What do you want for yourself and how do you hope to achieve this? Are you driven enough to try to attain your goals? Do you have what it takes to sustain the work necessary to achieving these goals?
There is a process in sales, which usually takes months. It is not a field suited for someone who is incapable of delayed gratification. The hours are long; and the work can sometimes be frustrating. You need to be driven, consistent, and optimistic if you want to succeed in sales.
Emotional Intelligence for Your Sales Team
Several high-profile companies, such as Motorola, 3M, American Express, Honeywell and MetLife have begun to offer emotional intelligence improvement programs as part of their management training. While EI in sales is still new, several sales leaders are already integrating emotional intelligence training into their sales training programs.
According to Collen Stanley: “Elevating your Sales EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) helps you sell bigger deals, in less time at full margin…. You have a sales team that knows how to manage themselves, read prospects better and overall are more enjoyable to work with.”