Emotional Intelligence Boosts Sales Training Success
Georgia was a 30-something sales success. She had one of the highest revenue territories at her company – always exceeding her quota. She was also the office darling. Georgia hobnobbed with corporate executives visiting from the home office and her inside sales staff would do anything for her. She mentored others on the sales team and always secured key meetings with prospects and clients. Interestingly, Georgia never graduated from college in an environment where some of the sales staff actually had MBAs. She was technically savvy – but certainly not a guru by any standards. Year after year, however, the company could always count on her stellar performance.
Throughout my decades of selling and sales coaching I’ve come across many people like Georgie, whose achievements couldn’t be easily explained by others on the team. They couldn’t quite put their finger on the secret to success. There were sales reps that were more technically competent, those who adhered to the established sales process with life or death precision and those who scored off the charts on the likeability scale. Most fell back on the reasoning that the sales star had “the best accounts” or “a better territory” – even attributing success to pure luck. Truth is, none of these explained the overriding reason for Georgia’s success.
Sales success depends to a significant degree on emotional intelligence (“EQ” or “EI”). In fact, studies show it’s a better predictor than IQ for success in general. As a result, it’s the sales professional who situationally understands what to say, and when and how to say it who connects with others to get things done. They are aware and harness their emotions for successful social relationships and results. Sales training departments are finally coming around to the realization that EI needs to be a critical area of development. Sales reps with emotional intelligence:
- Are confident and aware
- Communicate constructively
- Appreciate others in a way that creates mutually satisfying relationships
- See things as they are in order to pro-actively problem solve
- Adapt their thoughts, attitudes and behaviors to the situation at hand
Companies are only now beginning to include emotional intelligence competencies in their sales training – alongside technical expertise and sales process learning. Because EI, like IQ, is specific to individuals, development needs vary. Validated and reliable individual assessments based on personality psychology are available. The results may be debriefed for individual development plans and as a group. Below are some of the skill gaps to focus on.
- Assertiveness to ask questions and “challenge” the customer’s assumptions
- Empathy for the customer and your organization’s back office needs to create better timed strategies
- Reality testing to regroup when the tide shifts
- Independence to foster more self-starting behaviors
- Social responsibility to better understand the impact the solution has for the customer
- Impulse control to be more proactive than reactive
- Flexibility to adapt to changes and stress in the sales process
- Optimism for maintaining a positive outlook in the face of setbacks
Others emotional intelligence areas ripe for development might involve self-improvement, self-awareness, emotional expression, relationship building, problem solving and stress tolerance.
Right now emotional intelligence development is in the very earliest stages for most sales departments. However, integrating this training with consultative selling skill and product training yields enormous gains competitively. You’ll have sales people who are resourceful (you don’t always need to have the answer, but know where to find it!), able to self-manage, engage prospects more successfully and be more engaged employees with higher rates of job satisfaction.