Emotional intelligence in sales: Why it’s a secret weapon

Emotional intelligence (EQ) has been taught and embraced in the ranks of executive leadership for a while, but it’s been relatively slow to catch on in the sales world – until now. The value of EQ in the sales profession is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

To date, many hard-charging sales leaders have been reluctant to include a soft skills component in their training programs. They mistakenly think that the so-called soft skills produce, well, soft sales results.

Nothing could be further from the truth. When you take a closer look at top-performing sales cultures they generally have one thing in common: high emotional intelligence and strong soft skills.

Here are three reasons why emotionally intelligent sales teams outperform the competition.

1. Emotional intelligence creates sales cultures that are competitive and collaborative

Too many people still buy into the myth that your best salespeople are lone rangers, high maintenance and self-centered. Yes, there is research showing that this type of salesperson is effective. But, are these really the attributes that are going to take your company to the next level? One or two great lone rangers can’t and won’t scale a company.

The best salespeople are both competitive and collaborative. They recognise that the competitor is outside, not inside, the building, and that it takes a sales village to win. They don’t just talk teamwork, they live and breathe it. These teams possess strong interpersonal and social responsibility skills.

Experienced salespeople mentor and help new hires. They share best practices (like how to get the tactical mix spot-on), knowing that the sooner the new starters achieve quota, the better. Why? Because it adds one more salesperson to the team who has the selling skills to take business from the competition. And with more customers talking about your great product or service, there’s more referred and repeat business. Soft skills make a difference in hard sales results.

2. There’s high personal accountability in emotionally intelligent sales teams

Without personal accountability you wind up assigning blame and making excuses. Neither action grows people, sales or profits.

Personal accountability requires the skill of self awareness, which is linked to high emotional intelligence. Self aware salespeople reflect on all the reasons for their successes and failures. You don’t hear comments like, “I lost because of pricing” or “I’m not hitting budget because I don’t have good prospects”. Salespeople with high emotional intelligence own the outcome of the sales call, and of their successes and failures.

Instead of excuses, you hear, “I got outsold”, “I lacked the assertiveness to state what I needed during the sales meeting”, or “I need practice to be more effective on sales calls”. Personal accountability and self awareness is a powerful skill combination, creating sales cultures that manage and increase results, rather than make excuses.

3. Salespeople with high EQ don’t take shortcuts

Emotionally intelligent people don't need instant gratification – they have the ability to resist the temptation of an immediate, often smaller, reward in order to gain a larger one later. This soft skill is essential to developing your sales grit.

Angela Duckworth, author of the best-selling book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, cites ground-breaking research that supports the idea that most successful people possess grit. One component of grit is perseverance, which is closely related to delayed gratification.

Duckworth shares the story of an aspiring entrepreneur, who is tempted to flit from one good idea to another. In response, she says, “There are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise and figuring out really hard problems take time – longer than most people imagine.”   

Salespeople who seek instant gratification often lack the grit to put in the work to earn the bigger sales reward. They get easily frustrated and discouraged if they lose an opportunity, so they stop prospecting. They aren’t willing to practice selling skills over and over in order to conduct a sales meeting in a confident and conversational manner. When the going gets tough, they get going. As a result, they are a jack-of-all-trades and master of none because they’ve never developed deep expertise in anything.

Sales teams that integrate both EQ and IQ into their sales methodology are a force to be reckoned with. This powerful combination is the key to building a sales team that consistently wins business and outperforms the competition.

We have entered a new era of selling. One where technology-empowered customers expect sales reps to be intuitive, knowledgeable and fast. Propel your sales career today, download the 4 Steps to Transforming Your Sales Process e-book.