We know that emotional intelligence (EQ) is critical in leadership at all levels. In fact, Harvard Business Review claims that emotional intelligence is “one of the most sought after interpersonal skills in the workplace.”
But what about EQ in sales? How much of a role does EQ play when it comes to cold calling prospects, booking meetings, and closing deals? Turns out… It plays a massive role.
Last week I wrote about the emotional triggers in sales. Today I want to discuss emotional agility and how to develop your emotional intelligence in the pursuit of mastering B2B sales.
Before we dive in, let’s quickly define the term.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
“The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”
IQ vs. EQ
IQ is important. Give me someone with a high IQ and I’ll employ them. But give me someone with a high EQ and I’ll put them on my biggest accounts. Remember, this is sales. We’re not trying to split atoms here. So I’ll take a high EQ over a high IQ any day in sales. And it turns out I’m not alone. HBS found that 71% of employers value emotional intelligence rather than technical skill.
Sure, entrepreneurs with off-the-charts tech skills and IQs have built some of the largest companies (think Elon Musk and Steve Jobs). But they are notorious for working their talent to the bone in hostile working conditions. Neither Elon Musk nor Steve Jobs are/were good at controlling their emotions. They let their emotions run wild, and often at the expense of others. This low-EQ behavior is to be avoided. After all, remember the second half of the definition, “…and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”
The EQ Arsenal
The key components of EQ for salespeople include:
Self-awareness – Ask yourself, are you conscious of your emotions? Do you feel your blood boiling when the boss asks you to do something? Are you quick to retaliate if you feel slighted? Do you always want the last word? You must learn to tune in to your emotions and become self-aware. This is required for managing your nerves during high-pressure situations.
Empathy – Did your prospect just lose their family dog? I don’t have to tell you to empathize here — it’s second nature for most people to give their condolences. But what about when your prospect says, “I’ve tried solutions like yours, and they haven’t worked for me.” Do you automatically go to empathy before overcoming the objection? If not, you must! You have to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes.
Listening – Having a high EQ requires active and empathic listening skills. When your prospect talks, you listen to understand. You really hear them. This helps to build rapport, but it also gives you critical intel into your prospect’s needs, challenges, desires, etc. When I’m on a sales call and my prospect is talking, I literally bite my tongue softly to remind myself it’s their turn to speak. Use a similar tactile/grounding method if it works for you. Whatever you do, you have to listen.
Tailoring Communication Style – You will use a different style of communication when talking to a Director than you do with the C-suite. Same goes for industry — hard sciences might require data and charts/graphs, while startup founders want to talk scalable growth. Even within the industry — and the same company! — you must tailor your approach to the individual. I recommend a tactic called mirroring, where you create a reflection of your prospect’s communication style. Because you are like them, they will trust you more at the subconscious level.
Emotional Resilience – The final component to emotional intelligence is emotional resilience. There are few professions that require emotional resilience as much as sales (I think doctors, nurses, police officers). You are constantly dealing with rejection and uncertainty in sales. So you have to foster this skill/characteristic. The top salespeople in my company — and at most companies — are able to compartmentalize losses and frame rejection as a positive. This is emotional resilience.
Tip: You have to regulate your emotions and your prospect’s emotions. So techniques like mirroring and matching work… but only to a point. If your prospect is getting worked up, you wouldn’t want to match their emotions. Instead, take a deep breath, pause, and bring the emotional levels down.
Developing EQ in Sales
Take a self-assessment – There are loads of online assessments that will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses around emotional intelligence.
Seek feedback from others – Ask a trusted colleague or your mentor if they see any blind spots you might have regarding your communication style or leadership style.
Read, Read, Read – Always be learning! Commit to reading at least one book on sales each month, and one book on personal development.
Journal – Journal your conversations with prospects and clients. You’ll start to see patterns emerge, for better or worse. The practice of journaling has an outsized impact on success. If you do it consistently, you will improve immensely.
Practice mindfulness / meditate – I prefer to pray to God, but there are times where I just sit in silent meditation, focusing on my breath. Highly recommended!
Learn your triggers – Everyone has something that sets them off. And most people have multiple triggers. Figure out what these are so that you can regulate your emotions when you need to most.
RELATED: 6 Ways to Avoid Burnout in Sales
Remember that emotional intelligence (EQ) is the glue that holds a deal together. Actually, EQ is the glue that holds a relationship together, allowing the deal to happen.
And speaking of relationships, you better believe that your friendships, family ties, and even intimate relationships will improve as you develop your EQ. These things are not out of reach.
In the end, when you develop your EQ, you will improve many facets of your life. In the business world, you’ll book more meetings and/or close more deals. The sky’s the limit when you learn how to effectively and empathetically communicate with others. So go out there and make it happen. You’ve got this.
Until next time…