Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success: Connect with Customers and Get Results

Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success: Connect with Customers and Get Results

by Colleen Stanley

ISBN: 9780814430293

Publisher AMACOM

Published in Business & Investing/Marketing & Sales

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Book Description

Even skilled salespeople buckle in tough selling situations - getting defensive with prospects who challenge them on price or too quickly caving to discount pressure. Those are examples the fight-or-flight response - something salespeople learn to avoid when they build their emotional intelligence.

Studies have shown that emotional intelligence (EI) is a strong indicator of success. In Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success, sales trainer and expert Colleen Stanley shows how closely EI is tied to sales performance and how salespeople can sharpen their skills to maximize results. Listeners will discover:

How to increase impulse control for better questioning and listeningThe EI skills related to likability and trustHow empathy leads to bigger sales conversations and more effective solutionsHow emotional intelligence can improve prospecting effortsThe EI skills shared by top sales producersAnd much more

Emotional intelligence plays a vital role at every stage of the sales process, from business development to closing the deal. When customers can get product information and price comparisons online, the true differentiator is the ability to deftly solve problems and build relationships - EI territory!


Sample Chapter

Chapter One

Closing the Knowing-and-Doing Gap

When You Know Better, You Do Better

THE PROFESSION OF SALES has changed dramatically in the last few years. The Internet has made product knowledge a commodity, and the old sales approach of feature-advantage-benefit selling doesn't work with today's savvy, well-educated prospects.

Today's prospects research their potential purchase or vendor, gather the information they need, and start self-diagnosing problems before showing up to a sales meeting with you. Today's prospects don't need more details on features and functions because that information is available on the Internet. They ask salespeople more questions, better questions, and harder questions.

In some cases, the selling opportunity turns into a product knowledge contest between the prospect and the salesperson, with each person focused on showing the other person how smart he is, rather than working collaboratively toward a solution. If you show up armed with only pretty brochures, a list of open-ended questions, and a canned PowerPoint, it will become a quick race to selling on price rather than selling value, or it is the start of free consulting.

Innovation used to be a key competitive edge. But that advantage is shrinking as technology allows competitors to quickly uncover best practices and incorporate them into their businesses. Differentiators disappear and many salespeople look and sound alike. In order to win business, they resort to discounting, which is a quick race to zero and establishes a vendor relationship, not a partner relationship.

So what's a salesperson to do? How do you win business in this new buying environment?

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Top sales professionals recognize today's changing business environment and are equipping themselves with emotional intelligence skills. The use of emotional intelligence is relatively new in the sales training world, so when salespeople hear the term, they often ask:

* What is emotional intelligence? (Should I know or care?)

* How does emotional intelligence affect sales results? (Remember, I'm paid for performance.)

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

In simple terms, emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize your emotions, and to correctly identify the emotion you're feeling and know why you're feeling it. It's the skill of understanding what trigger or event is causing the emotion and the impact of that emotion on yourself and others; and then adjusting your emotional response to the trigger or event in order to achieve the best outcomes.

Emotionally intelligent salespeople are strong in both self-management and people management. When a well-informed buyer starts showing off his know-how by firing questions and product knowledge, the emotionally intelligent salesperson doesn't react to the interrogation and turn into a high-paid answering machine. Instead, she's able to manage her emotions and apply interpersonal and critical thinking skills that move the sales interrogation to a sales dialogue rather than a monologue.

EI has been incorporated into leadership and executive training for over a decade. The Center for Creative Leadership, located in Greensboro, North Carolina, has a long history of researching great leaders. When they conducted a study of 302 leaders and senior managers using the Reuven Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i), an instrument developed to assess emotional intelligence, their research showed that the most successful leaders score high in self-control, remain grounded when things get tough, and have the ability to take action and be decisive. They are also great communicators. Successful leaders are empathic and listen carefully to understand what a person is saying and feeling.

Top sales professionals know these same qualities that The Center for Creative Leadership found in successful leaders are also important for success in sales. Global Private Banking and Trust salespeople handle the accounts of wealthy clients whose investments go beyond national boundaries.

Their sales team must effectively execute selling skills and also be able to handle the complexities of Canadian and international tax law. This team completed the EQ-i assessment and the results showed that top sales performers scored high in empathy, stress tolerance, and flexibility, similar to top leaders. Leaders buy from leaders, so it makes sense that top performers integrate emotional intelligence skills into their sales process.

In order to understand the power of emotional intelligence, there are two areas to learn about that are rarely covered in sales training programs: the neuroscience of the brain (which we'll discuss in Chapter 2) and the management of emotions, or psychology.

You may think you need to go to graduate school to understand emotional intelligence, but we can translate it into layman's terms by going back to high school biology. In that class you studied anatomy (which deals with the structure and organization of living things) and physiology (the study of the mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions) of the human body (and you thought you were just learning about lungs, kidneys, and the digestive tract!). So take this basic knowledge and apply it to the great Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who earned eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Like many athletes, Phelps is gifted with good anatomy and physiology: big hands, abnormally long torso, and good aerobic uptake. Many people attribute his success solely to his athleticism. However, a fair question is whether he won due to his athletic prowess (anatomy and physiology) or because he was able to manage his emotions during a highly stressful athletic event? Case in point: During the 200-meter butterfly race, his goggles malfunctioned and filled up with water. In fact, he couldn't see the wall when he touched it with his final stroke. It's reasonable to assume that most people would have panicked and lost momentum. But Phelps managed his emotions, swam his race, set a world record, and collected the first of eight gold medals.

Did he win because of his physical prowess or because of his ability to manage emotions? The answer is yes to both. His success is a combination of biology and psychology. Now, let's look at neuroscience and psychology from a non-Olympic point of view.

The anatomy and physiology of the brain together produce what is referred to as IQ, a number used to express the apparent relative intelligence of a person. It is the ability to concentrate, organize material, and assimilate and interpret facts. IQ is important in life and business. It's often the reason you get a degree and your first job.

A growing body of research indicates that EQ, the ability to manage your emotions, is equally important or more important. EQ is an array of noncognitive abilities. It's the ability to understand what others need, to handle stress, and to basically be the person that others like to hang around with. IQ will get you in the corporate door; EQ will take you up the corporate ladder. Let's face it, a good sales competitor in your industry is going to have a decent IQ, just as a good Olympic competitor is going to possess decent athletic ability. The differentiator is EQ. (How many of you have met the smartest guy in the room and didn't like him, and as a result you didn't do business with him?)

Emotional Intelligence and Sales Results

So let's move on to our second question and explain how improving emotional intelligence can affect sales results.

Millions of dollars are invested in sales training every year but it often doesn't produce the desired revenue or changes. Many well-intentioned salespeople and sales organizations study the art and science of sales. You are one of those salespeople because you picked up this book. You listen to audio tapes, attend selling seminars, and read the latest and greatest literature on sales and influence. You're part of a dedicated group of salespeople that have learned the basic hard skills of selling: ask questions to uncover the prospect's pain, meet with all the buying influences, and get a range of budget before presenting solutions.

You know what to do. So why are so many of you running meetings where the prospect forces you to "show up and throw up"? Why are you talking with non–decision makers and writing proposals without uncovering the prospect's budget? This behavior is often referred to as the "knowing-and-doing gap." You know what to do; however, during tough selling situations you often just don't do it. You walk out to your car or hang up the phone and ask yourself, "What just happened here? Did my long-lost twin sister take over my body during that meeting? Why didn't I say this or that?"

Many salespeople review a less-than-stellar sales meeting and blame their poor performance on inadequate selling skills when it may not be about sales technique at all. It's similar to the practice of medicine. If a doctor misdiagnoses the patient's problem, the prescribed solution simply won't work. For example, if a patient has seasonal allergies and the doctor keeps prescribing medication and treatment for a sinus infection, the patient isn't going to get better. The doctor is working on the wrong problem.

Diagnosing Sales Performance Challenges

Many salespeople misdiagnose their sales challenges and work on the wrong problem. They attempt to improve their sales results by focusing on selling skills alone. The root cause for poor sales performance is not just about hard skills; it's often linked to the inability to manage your emotions so that you think clearly and react effectively.

Let's be clear. We don't discount the importance of selling skills. We teach and coach them every day in our business. In fact, teaching selling skills is where we discovered the knowing-and-doing gap. We've worked with thousands of salespeople and watched them execute sales role plays flawlessly during a sales training workshop. But then these same participants land in front of a tough prospect and don't execute the skills they've learned. They buckled, babbled, and sounded like a character out of a bad sales movie. They knew what to do, but didn't do it. This puzzling behavior led us to explore emotional intelligence in order to discover the missing link between sales training and sales results, the gap between knowing and doing.

Sales can be a tough profession with lots of no's and setbacks. If a salesperson scores low on self-control and handling stress, there's a good possibility that when adversity hits, it'll be followed by days of inaction, self-doubt, and roller-coaster emotions. Too many salespeople live exhausting and unfulfilling professional lives because of their inability to handle their emotions and the stress of professional sales.

Emotion Management and Sales Results

A common hot button for salespeople is when a prospect begins to question them about the value of their product or service. "Why are you so high? Your competitor is half your price." If you don't recognize this hot button, your emotional response can be to quickly concede and offer a discount. (This occurs even after you've been taught negotiation skills and concession strategies.)

The emotionally intelligent salesperson recognizes the potential hot button, manages his emotion, and changes his reaction. The response is calm and smart: "The reason our services are on the high end of the investment is because many clients, prior to working with us, had purchased on price. As a result, the purchase ended up costing more because they could never get a live body on the phone for problems. This led to missed deadlines, which affected their reputation and repeat business from clients."

This redirect is a professional way to introduce the company's value proposition and move the conversation from price to value. You executed an effective selling skill because you didn't allow a tough prospect to trigger your emotions.

Let's take Jolene, who's a sales manager's dream, as an example. She has a good attitude, works hard, and consistently hits quota. She's been selling for about five years and really knows her stuff.

Jolene sells a complex service, and her sales position requires a certain level of intelligence to even understand how the service works. IQ isn't a problem; Jolene earned straight A's in her undergraduate and graduate studies.

But when she schedules a first meeting with the chief technology office (CTO) of a large firm, he turns out to be a difficult prospect. He's not very warm, seems hesitant to engage in conversation, and throws rapid-fire questions at Jolene, like "I'm not sure if I see the value in your service. We might be able to develop this in-house. Why should I consider using your firm?"

Although Jolene knows the answers based on the extensive product knowledge training she received from the company, she caves under pressure from this not-so-friendly prospect. She freezes and can't think of the right response. (Her only thoughts are how to end this meeting quickly and how much she'd like to put this difficult prospect in a choke hold.) She doesn't recall one single selling technique and her meeting turns into a product-dump meeting that ends with the prospect saying, "I'll need to think it over."

Did lack of IQ, product knowledge, or selling skills cause Jolene's poor sales performance, or was it her inability to manage her emotions during a stressful sales meeting? We contend it's the latter. Jolene just experienced the knowing-and-doing gap, the gap between knowing what to do and being able to do it. She knows what she should say and do, but under stress the "shoulds and do's" went right out the door (which is where Jolene wanted to go during the entire sales meeting) and she was unable to respond. Jolene's emotions got the best of her. She got frustrated and a little intimidated, and neither emotion leads to a good sales outcome.

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be changed and improved with focus and commitment. We challenge you to become a better sales doctor and properly diagnose selling challenges by looking at both soft skills (emotional intelligence) and hard skills (sales ability).

The Business Case for "Return on Emotions"

Not convinced about the bottom-line impact of emotional intelligence? Then take a look at what the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations says about organizations using emotional intelligence as part of their sales training and recruitment programs:

* In a 1996 U.S. Air Force study, 1,500 recruiters were tested to discover common EI traits among recruiters who achieved 100 percent of their quota. By duplicating those EI traits, retention rate increased 92 percent, saving in excess of $2.7 million.

* In a pioneering EQ project, American Express put a group of Financial Advisors through a three-day emotional awareness training. In the following year, the trainees' sales exceeded untrained colleagues by 2 percent, resulting in millions of extra earnings.

* At L'Oreal, twenty-eight sales agents selected on the basis of certain emotional competencies sold on average $91,370 more than salespeople not tested, for a net revenue increase of $2,558,360.

So what do they know that other organizations don't know? They've figured out that a combination of IQ and EQ is essential for sales and business results. They understand that there's a business case for "return on emotions."

Discover Your Sales Strengths (Warner Business Books, 2003), written by Gallup consultants Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano, conducted research that shows that customer satisfaction and future recommendations are based on an emotional connection with the salesperson. Customers who like their salesperson are twelve times more likely to continue to repurchase.

Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind (Riverhead Hardcover, 2005), writes in his book about the need for soft skills in order to conduct and win business in the Conceptual Age—the age of the knowledge worker. His work shows that the new worker will need to possess both high-concept and high-touch skills.

High-concept skills are the ability to synthesize data, recognize trends and patterns, and transfer them to a novel invention or solution. This aptitude is really important, because salespeople regularly meet with information-overloaded prospects who don't have the time to figure out what information is important, what information is largely irrelevant, and how to quickly distill the most valuable information into the best outcome.

As Steven Stein and Howard Book state in their book, The EQ Edge (Stoddart, 2000), "A competitive economy demands that we be problem solvers, not problem reporters or collectors." Good salespeople demonstrate their value by being good problem solvers and creative thinkers.

High-touch skills have to do with understanding the subtleties of human nature, finding joy in yourself, eliciting it in others, and pursuing purpose and meaning. These attributes certainly don't sound like hard-core selling or business tactics, do they? This set of abilities is absolutely connected to emotional intelligence skills—the understanding of self and others. And the reality is that high-tech skills and other hard skills are increasingly outsourced to emerging world economies.

Soft skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and relationship building, are much harder to outsource or duplicate in a software program.

Hired for Hard Skills—Fired for Soft Skills

Many sales managers make a common mistake of hiring new salespeople based primarily on the number of years in sales or industry experience. This isn't necessarily bad. However, there's a lack of focus on integrating soft skills into their selection process.

When we teach sales hiring and selection workshops, we conduct a simple opening exercise with sales managers to raise awareness on the value of soft skills. We ask the participants to tell us about their worst sales hire. The stories run from downright funny to "you've got to be kidding!" One of the best ones we've heard was the potential sales candidate who reached across the table and grabbed an olive off the sales manager's salad. Do you think he was hired?


Excerpted from "Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success: Connect with Customers and Get Results" by Colleen Stanley. Copyright © 0 by Colleen Stanley. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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