The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Sales

Studies have shown that emotional intelligence can boost mental health, job performance, and leadership skills. EQ plays a major role in sales conversations and it is a must-have for sales leaders. Here are some interesting facts about the importance of emotional intelligence in sales and sales leadership.

Emotional intelligence, also known as EI or EQ, is the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle our emotions. It primarily involves self-awareness to observe and recognize one’s emotions, and empathy, as the ability to view and understand things from another person’s perspective. Emotional intelligence allows us to respond appropriately in different settings, which is particularly challenging during stressful or difficult situations.

emotional intelligence in sales

The Role of EQ in Sales: How Does Emotional Intelligence Affect Sales Performance?

Emotional intelligence helps us build meaningful relationships with other people. It is a skill that can be applied to both our private and professional lives. Sales is about being able to connect and build trust with our clients, meaning that EQ plays a major role in sales conversations. Improving the EQ skills of salespeople could have a significantly positive impact on their overall sales performance. Emotional intelligence bestows us with the ability to listen deeply to the people we interact with, leading to a true understanding of our customers' problems.

We all want to be seen and acknowledged. Do you know that feeling when you are talking to someone that is only listening to you with half their attention? These kinds of conversations tend to be superficial. We will probably feel less inclined to share details on our whole situation because the other person isn’t listening to us anyway. However, when we recognize that someone is focusing on us and listening intently, the chances of having an honest and meaningful conversation grow exponentially because we feel valued. This mindset also applies to customer meetings. If you can show your customer that they have your genuine and undivided attention, they will leave the conversation feeling like you really care about their challenges and most importantly, feeling they can trust you.

Have you ever found yourself in a sales conversation and suddenly felt like you had forgotten all you had learned? Have you ever been tempted to desperately lower the price of your offer, although you knew that you should be focusing on value instead? We all know how important hard selling skills are, and every salesperson spends years learning to master them. However, during challenging sales conversations, many salespeople fail to implement them. Emotional intelligence may represent the bridge between knowing and doing. Improving our self-awareness can strengthen our ability to control our triggers and overcome them, whilst also maintaining focus during challenging conversations. And that’s where emotional intelligence starts.

 emotional intelligence in sales

What Are the Most Important Emotional Intelligence Skills?

Colleen Stanley, president of SalesLeadership, a sales development firm specializing in the integration of emotional intelligence, sales, and sales leadership skills, highlights four main categories that serve as the most important emotional intelligence skills.

1. The Three Es: Emotion Management, Emotional Self-Awareness, and Empathy

The Three Es allow us to tune into our own emotions and tune out other people. It represents the basis for building our emotional intelligence skills.

Managing our emotions can reduce the likelihood of fight or flight conversations, which tend to be non-productive and keep us from executing the right selling behaviors. Emotional self-awareness is about being aware of what triggers us, it helps us to recognize our patterns and prevents us from repeatedly making the same mistakes. Lastly, empathy is essential to create personal connections that accelerate trust, improve relationships, and, in the long run, increase closed deals.

2. Stress Management Skills

Most salespeople regard sales as a stressful job. Under these circumstances, if we don’t learn how to manage stress, our bodies may produce high levels of cortisone, resulting in fatigue. A salesperson who feels this way can’t be productive, and there are no hard skills that can change that. Learning to effectively assess and manage our stress levels reduces frustration, increases productivity, and makes our jobs and lives much more comfortable.

3. Recognizing and Escaping Self-Limiting Belief Systems

People love stories. We even construct our own identity around the stories we tell ourselves. And by repeating these stories repeatedly, they become the truth. If you believe in yourself, you will be motivated, resilient and increase your chances of accomplishing your personal and professional goals. On the contrary, if you think you are not good enough, you will probably feel defeated before venturing into a new task or opportunity. How can we fix this? The first step would be identifying what you believe about yourself. Once you have discovered your self-limiting belief system, change your story. This is easier said than done. No one said a high EQ was easy to achieve.

4. Embracing Failure and Feedback

Mastery is inseparable from failure and feedback. Nevertheless, our culture doesn’t recognize the value of these qualities, making it harder for us to embrace them. It is essential to keep in mind that, when we fail, it is attributed to our job or profession. It does not define who you are as a person. Our personal value has nothing to do with how successful we are at a particular task. Being able to separate our “do” from our “who” is called self-regard. People with high self-regard can admit their strengths and weaknesses but are also able to accept failure and feedback without taking it personally.

emotional intelligence  embrace failure and feedback

How to Develop Emotional Intelligence Skills

The first and most important step to developing emotional intelligence is to start observing our own thoughts, emotions, and reactions in social settings. For this purpose, it is helpful to block some time each day to reflect on our interactions with others. During this time, we can evaluate if our reaction within a given conversation was skillful or unskillful. Reflection is not for beating ourselves up with remorse. Its purpose is to assist in our learning, through observation and awareness, about our triggers and how to better manage our emotions.


Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership: How to Develop EQ Within Your Sales Team

Just as it is with our clients, team members also want to be seen and valued. One way to improve the emotional intelligence of your sales team is to schedule regular meetings with individuals to ask them how they are doing. This will not only nurture trust and boost team spirit but also shows your sales reps what active listening looks like and why it is important. Additionally, this approach can help you discover problems or difficulties within your team that may have otherwise remained in the dark.

Intentionally setting aside time to reflect upon a deal (won or lost) can also help salespeople develop self-awareness. It encourages them to recognize what worked and what they could have done differently.

The best way a sales leader can help others develop EQ is by firstly developing their own emotional intelligence skills. Emotional intelligence can be seen, and leaders can show the way by walking the talk. Don’t just tell your sales reps to put themselves in the client's shoes but try to actually put yourself in the shoes of the person you are talking to. Don’t just demand accountability from your team members but start by admitting your own mistakes, and apologize if you are at fault. Of course, you can also incorporate a formal EQ skills training program into your sales coaching model, but remember that, as a sales leader, you lead the way. Therefore, you should present the behavior and skills that you wish to instill in your team.

“It is time to incorporate emotional intelligence skills into your sales and leadership process.”

Colleen Stanley

About Colleen Stanley

Colleen is president of SalesLeadership, a sales development firm specializing in the integration of emotional intelligence, sales, and sales leadership skills. She is the author of three books, Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success, Emotional Intelligence For Sales Leadership. Colleen has been named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers and Top 30 Global Sales Gurus. Additionally, she was also named by Salesforce as one of the top experts of the 21st century. 

Download our new e-book ABC of Sales Enablement, a glossary with the general terms you need to develop a solid understanding of the topic and start an enablement initiative in your company.

ABC of sales enablement

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