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Emotional Intelligence In Sales: How To Develop and Utilize It Effectively

Sales Training
Chris Orlob
February 13, 2024

Salespersons with high emotional intelligence often perform better and thrive in various industries

The advantage is simple: understanding your own emotions can help you positively influence customers' decisions. 

As a result, emotional intelligence can make the difference between good and extraordinary sales success. 

But how do you harness these skills? How do you program or reprogram your sales team to develop the right sales acumen, uncover their unique emotional strengths and become a sales powerhouse?

Here is everything you need to know about emotional intelligence in sales and how to leverage it to close more deals. 

What is emotional intelligence (EQ)?

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to perceive, evaluate, and control your emotions so that you can recognize and influence the emotions of others. This helps you to communicate effectively, strengthen relations, and improve decision-making. 

Sales requires changing people. You are trying to get someone to move from where they are to where they want to be. But people don’t like change, it’s human nature. 

So, how do you get to make them make the changes they need to move from point A to point B? 

That’s where emotional intelligence comes in. 

For example, during high-pressure situations, you are able to respond with clarity and rationality, which allows you to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings. 

Also, influencing the emotions of others positively allows you to create an environment of trust and cooperation. 

What people get wrong about Emotional Intelligence in sales

Several misconceptions surround emotional intelligence (EQ) in sales, hindering its effective application. Here are common misconceptions:

Emotional Intelligence is manipulative or unethical

Using emotional Intelligence ethically enhances genuine communication and builds authentic client relationships. Manipulative tactics contradict the core principles of EQ and sales.

Emotional Intelligence means being overly accommodating

While empathy is crucial, emotional Intelligence is about understanding and managing emotions effectively, not suppressing them.

Emotional Intelligence is just about reading minds

Emotional Intelligence involves active listening, asking insightful questions, and interpreting communication to build rapport and identify needs.

High emotional Intelligence guarantees sales success

While crucial, emotional Intelligence isn't the only factor. Product knowledge and communication skills also play a vital role.

Only "soft skills" are related to emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence encompasses skills relevant to both soft and hard skills categories, influencing decision-making and collaboration.

Understanding these misconceptions helps avoid disadvantageous sales practices, leveraging high EI effectively for stronger customer relationships and improved communication, leading to greater success.

What is the role of emotional intelligence in sales?

The role of emotional intelligence in sales is to enhance customer engagement, build rapport, nurture long-lasting relationships, and manage sales interactions effectively. 

Studies have shown that sales professionals with higher EQ are more likely to have improved sales performance. Closing deals is rarely a problem for them because they easily adapt their selling strategies to meet their customer’s emotions.

The following are the techniques and scenarios where emotional Intelligence plays a crucial role in your sales process. 

Emotional intelligence helps you run a flawless product demo

Most salespeople don’t apply emotional Intelligence in product demos. Once the meeting is on, they dive right into the demo, proclaiming value propositions and overwhelming the prospect with features. You’d be lucky to get any sales out of this especially if you’re selling to executives

You and the prospective buyer must be aligned on the same objective to run a flawless SaaS demo. They have to understand that you’re not just on the call to sell to them but to help them make a significant decision that leads to a positive change. 

That way, the buying decision is significantly easier because the buyer is more inclined to select you as their vendor of choice. 

👉 Master the art of running flawless SaaS product demos with expert guidance. Align objectives, summarize pain points, engage prospects, tailor explanations, handle pricing, and conclude with confidence. Learn from Chris Orlob's proven playbook.

Handling objections

When a customer hesitates about the cost of a product, a typical salesperson will likely respond by offering discounts or highlighting product features, focusing solely on closing the sale quickly. 

With this type of approach, the customer can feel pressured and undervalue the product. This could lead to the loss of the sale. 

On the other hand, an emotionally intelligent salesperson is a master of handling pricing objections. They might first isolate price objection by breaking it down into three possible reasons and then asking the buyer the options that apply to them. 

That way, they are 

  • Acknowledging the customer’s pain points and any negative emotions 
  • Showing understanding and empathy
  • Helping the buyer highlight their needs better
  • Establishing a dialogue based on trust and understanding

This approach increases the likelihood of not just a sale but also future sales and referrals.

Prospecting and lead generation

High EQ is important for prospecting and lead generation. You have to learn the best way to connect with your target buyer so you don’t come off as being annoying or pushy.

Whether you’re sending cold emails, following up on your sales proposal, or connecting on a social media platform like Linkedin, consider the timing, your tone, your messaging, and the best way to nudge the prospect to take action. 

Learn how to nail your next cold call and distribute a winner to your sales reps.

Team collaboration 

B2B organizations are becoming increasingly cross-functional. With sales enablement programs taking center stage, companies rely on strong collaboration across departments to attract and engage modern buyers. 

Achieving such collaboration requires sales reps to be trained on to develop the right set of skills that facilitate effective collaboration.  

How to build an emotionally intelligent sales team?

Integrate EQ into the training curriculum 

The first step is to ensure that EQ is a fundamental part of the sales training and sales coaching curriculum. 

This can be achieved by developing modules that specifically focus on key EQ competencies such as self-awareness, empathy, self-regulation, and social skills. 

These modules can include theoretical knowledge about what emotional Intelligence is and why it's important in sales, but should primarily focus on practical, actionable strategies.

Role-playing real-life scenarios is an effective method for teaching EQ. These exercises can demonstrate:

  • how to read a client's emotional cues, 
  • how to respond to different types of emotional reactions, 
  • how to handle challenging scenarios like objections or complaints. 

Feedback during these role-plays can help participants understand and improve their emotional responses and interactions.

Encourage self-reflection exercises

Sales leaders can also encourage reps to practice self-awareness and reflection exercises. These exercises help reps to understand emotional triggers and responses. 

Examples of self-reflection exercises:

  • Completing self-assessment questionnaires. 
  • Engaging in guided meditation practices. 

Continuous learning and development 

EQ training shouldn't be a one-time event but an ongoing process. Salespeople often forget 80% of what they learn after a short time. 

Sales managers should encourage ongoing learning and development of specific emotional intelligence skills. That way, the sales team internalizes the ability to improve close rate by influencing the client’s emotions. 

  • Include follow-up sessions
  • Encourage refresher courses 
  • Cover advanced training for more experienced sales staff

Lead with high emotional Intelligence

Sales leaders with strong interpersonal skills make better coaches/leaders because they lead by example. During training, they demonstrate how to interact with customers and team members in a way that encourages trust and openness. This could include the following:

  • Building rapport
  • Observing non verbal cues
  • Recognizing their own feelings
  • Acknowledging other people’s emotions
  • Practicing self control 

By modeling this behavior, they set a standard for the team and create a culture where EQ is valued and emulated. 

Initiate a review and feedback system

Regular feedback on EQ skills helps salespeople understand their progress and areas needing improvement. That’s why it is important to implement methods for measuring the impact of training on sales performance. This could include 

  • customer satisfaction surveys
  • sales performance metrics
  • or peer and manager feedback

You want your feedback and review to answer critical questions. 

  • Are some of your sales representatives finding it difficult to handle price objections? 
  • Do they struggle with initiating ice-breakers before launching into product demos? 
  • Do they struggle to actively listen to customers and ask open-ended questions? 
  • Are they unable to maintain balance and composure in virtual calls? 

This approach allows you to provide tailored EQ training techniques that directly address identified areas. This personalized tactic will enhance the individual’s sales skills and improve the effectiveness and adaptability of your sales team. 

Related: How to find and hire winning sales reps (the “A players”)

FAQs for Emotional Intelligence in Sales

Can salespeople be successful with low emotional Intelligence? 

With the right training and coaching programs, sales reps with low emotional intelligence can learn to develop the skill. Most people assume that emotional Intelligence is fixed and they cannot improve it. That’s a wrong assumption. Research has proven that salespeople who undergo emotional intelligence training can significantly improve performance and overall become more stable individuals. 

Can poor emotional Intelligence affect sales? 

Without the capacity to empathize with clients or understand emotional cues, sales interactions can become transactional and impersonal, leading to missed opportunities for deeper engagement and long-term loyalty.

Sales reps with poor emotional Intelligence often do the following:

  • Dominating conversations by talking over customers, interrupting them, and failing to listen to their needs and concerns actively. 
  • Demonstrating a lack of empathy by failing to understand or acknowledge the customer's emotional state.
  • Overwhelm customers with complex language they don't understand, making them feel uninformed and unimportant.
  • Over-promising the benefits of the product or service and setting unrealistic expectations that lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction later.
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