EI for Salespeople
In a sales setting, emotional intelligence, EI or EQ, is the ability to recognize and adjust to client emotions. It can make the difference between a good and a great salesperson.
In a sales setting, emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) is the capability to recognize and acknowledge emotions – both of self and others’ – and to adjust communication to build trust with the leads. It is commonly associated with empathy, the ability to relate to other people’s experiences from their perspective. Instead of treating them as numbers to be won, emotionally intelligent salespeople visualize the leads’ problems from their position, and offer solutions accordingly. EI for salespeople is not an art and an involved sales manager can help the team adapt and develop the skills.
Contrary to the popular belief that purchasing decisions are solely based on logic, they in fact rely on sales triggers that appeal to emotions. This means that EI can make the difference between a good salesperson and a great salesperson.
Low EI versus high EI
The key to sales is the ability to build rapport with the clients. And this requires active listening and being able to step into the leads’ shoes. Without emotional intelligence, chances are slim that salespeople recognize clients’ goals, priorities, and pain points. And minus that, it’s difficult to develop solutions tailored to their needs and expectations.
The effects of low EI
Besides the obvious negative effect on building a relationship of trust with the customers, low emotional intelligence affects salespeople’s daily performance as well:
- With an impaired ability to recognize own emotions and to adapt their thinking, salespeople can have a hard time with handling rejection
- The accumulated negative feelings can chip away self-motivation and drive, and
- The resulting irritability can surface as impatient, pushy behavior in client calls.
The effects of high EI for salespeople
Given that choice and loyalty to a brand are emotional constructs, it is imperative to be able to influence clients’ emotions. Thus, salespeople need to both perceive their customers’ emotional state and be able to adjust their offer to it. Having high emotional intelligence helps salespeople to:
- Discern clients’ emotional states and adapt to it
- Better understand what clients need and expect
- Fine-tune their sales pitch to meet client needs and expectations
- Develop emotional bonds with customers, and thus improve client satisfaction, customer success, and retention rates.
On a personal level, salespeople with high EI don’t take rejections personally, they remain positive, and have more patience towards the customers.
Developing emotional intelligence
Whether you identify with people with low EI or high EI, the good news is that emotional intelligence can be developed. Consider the following steps as you embark on your personal or team journey towards higher EI.
Increase your self-awareness
Start your journey with a deep look inside to discern, recognize, and understand how you feel. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) suggests the following actions towards this goal:
- Meditate. More simply put, find a few minutes daily to take a deep breath and ask yourself questions like, What am I trying to achieve? What works and doesn’t in my (professional) life? What can I do to change?
- Take notes. Of your thoughts and emotions, that is. Write down your key insights, plans, and priorities. This helps with articulating your goals and with tracking your progress towards achieving them.
- Test yourself. The HBR article highlights taking psychometric tests, but you can opt for recreational ones in your favorite magazine as well. The point is not to look for right or wrong answers but to consider your traits or characteristics relative to other peoples’. And thus, better understand yourself.
- Ask your friends. Balance your self-assessment with feedback from your peers, friends, and mentors. Sometimes it’s quite surprising how we come across to others.
- Get feedback from your sales manager. If your company has annual 360-feedback, great, if not, request your manager’s opinion regarding your competencies and work style.
What works best for self-motivation varies by person, so use your self-awareness notes to guide you. Once you know who you are and what you want to achieve, it will be easier to find the means to fuel drive, enthusiasm, and positivity into your workday.
Fear of not closing enough deals or the pain from repeated rejections can disrupt your performance, and hinder your success. While you have all the right to feel upset during difficult situations, strive to move on from negative emotions. You have no control over sales being a stressful job, but you can develop habits that will help you deal with it. Whether it’s a deep breath, a personal mantra, or a look at the picture of your loved ones on your desk, find the action that snaps you out from a negative spiral. This will prevent you from involuntarily sending negative signals to your leads, peers, and customers.
Improve your stress management skills
Stress management involves techniques and remedies to help you effectively assess and manage your stress levels. Aware of its importance in salespeople’s lives, we dedicated a series of 3 articles to help you in the process: Say OM? Stress Reduction for Salespeople.
Develop your resilience
Resilience goes hand-in-hand with positive thinking, and it follows the above steps of self-awareness through stress management naturally. It has to do with being in tune with reality, and confronting it heads on. Your workday may throw punches at you, but if you know why you work, what difference you make, and who cares, you’ll be able to press on. Keep developing your ability to assess, improvise, and adapt, and success will follow.
Increase your intellectual curiosity
Understanding how things work, why people do things the way they do, and why people want certain things will help you ask the right questions from your clients. Do they use industry specific terms or internal lingo when you talk? Ask them what they mean. Do they ask about a specific feature of your software product or request certain contract terms? Find out why. Once you understand what they really need, it will be easier to suggest trade-offs or to go along with requests.
Practice active listening
Make a conscious effort to hear your clients’ answers to your questions. Not only the words, but the entire message that is being conveyed. If instead of listening, you are “thinking three steps ahead”, your call can go wrong in various ways, like:
- You hearing your own thoughts instead of what is being said, and inadvertently interrupting
- …Or worse, making an irrelevant comment or offer, or
- Your clients sensing your disengagement and refusing to communicate further.
To avoid such pitfalls, commit to paying attention, show with small verbal comments that you are listening (I see, uh huh), paraphrase what they said, and ask clarifying questions, when needed.
Grow your empathy
Having empathy is a business essential that teaches you to ask the right questions, allows you to understand your clients, and boosts teamwork. Be curious about your clients, and actively listen to them to learn about their challenges, needs, and desires. Yes, that means even those clients who sound rude or reject your offer. Once you understand them, you’ll be able to see them through more empathetic eyes. And maybe come up with improved ways to pitch to them.
Build relationship management skills
Mainly relating to existing customers, relationship management skills lead to increased customer loyalty and to increased customer spend. While selling a software subscription, you will likely interact with several decision makers from a company. So you will need to build relationships with individuals and groups as well. Whether in a one-to-one or one-to-many sales setting, listen carefully to the clients’ concerns and problems.
Hear more than what is said. In order to be able to relate to your clients, learn as much as you can about them before you call. Research on trends for your customer type, click through their website, and look at their social media accounts to see what they post or talk about. Your company’s CRM system may also have surveys, browsing history, and other valuable insights to learn from.
Keep key facts and stories handy. Relationship-building involves a give-and-take conversation. We warned against thinking about your answer while your client is talking to you, so prepare to answer potential questions in advance. Have such information as key features of your product or service, main problems it solves, the value it brings, etc. at hand. Price ranges and other money-related information, as well as how your company services clients, should also be easy for you to address.
Be friendly. Far from being a sign of lacking assertiveness, friendliness suggests that you respect your client and that you want to help.
Master socialization and networking
Socializing and networking both offline and online contributes to increasing your emotional intelligence. If you work in SaaS sales, you will likely do most of it online, so here are a few tips to follow:
- Choose some of the major platforms that best fit your industry, geographical location, and target audience: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. (You’ll likely find the younger clients on Snapchat or TikTok.)
- Familiarize yourself with the type of content common on each network: written newsfeed-style posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter; video-based on YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok. Note that while on LinkedIn people usually share professional wisdom, Facebook and Twitter calls for shorter, more conversational posts.
- Keep track of your leads in your company’s CRM system. Thus, you will be able to access all their information and notes in one place, for easy reference and analysis.
The more you interact with your leads and customers, the more you will understand their experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Build on your enhanced EI skills to see their problems and needs from their perspectives and to adjust your sales offer accordingly. Your ability to build rapport with the clients will help you sign more deals, and it will help you make the leap from good to great sales.