Closing the Knowing-and-Doing
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
So what's a salesperson to do? How do you win business in this
new buying environment?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
* 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
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
Soft skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and relationship
building, are much harder to outsource or duplicate in a
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.