Of the many sales techniques and buzzwords that get thrown around these days, few have garnered more attention than emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence has been defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others," which naturally would seem to have plenty of application for getting through the ups and downs of each day.
However, what many people overlook is how emotional intelligence plays a role in the sales world. After all, it's one thing for a salesperson to seek out expert sales advice and know what they should do during a tough sales negotiation. It's quite another to keep their emotions in check and use those skills when stressful situations arise.
Your ability to stay cool under pressure and to form stronger emotional connections with sales leads could very well determine whether you're able to help them in their decision-making process and whether you close the sale. As such, focusing on these so-called soft skills shouldn't be considered optional – it should be an essential part of improving your sales ability.
Here are seven ways you can improve your emotional intelligence and take your sales skills to the next level.
1. Learn to pause.
The first step to improving your emotional intelligence is learning to regulate your emotions. We'll all experience bad moods and negative feelings, often as a result of things that are beyond our control.
However, when you let these emotions take over and cause you to react instinctively, you're more likely to make mistakes. All too often, impulsive responses result in lost sales and damaged reputations. As such, give yourself a moment to reflect before you let your emotions take over. Pausing so you can carefully think through a response rather than letting your emotions drive the conversation will keep things from getting off track.
2. Develop empathy.
Taking a pause to keep your emotions under control is valuable for your own well-being, but true emotional intelligence requires that you learn to recognize and consider others' feelings as well. Active listening allows you to understand how a situation may be affecting another person, which, in turn, makes you more likely to be able to resolve their problems.
A key part of improving your empathetic abilities is to ask "Why?" Why does a person feel a particular way? Why do you have a difference in opinion? As you take a deep dive into trying to understand where someone else is coming from, you become far better equipped to form meaningful emotional connections and close sales.
3. Practice patience.
In your journey to improve your sales abilities, you shouldn't expect perfection right away. Creating unrealistic expectations for yourself could cause you to become extremely stressed, or it could make you give up altogether.
Set meaningful goals that you can work toward every day. Understand that it may take time to reach these goals. Use milestones to measure your progress. A patient, long-term outlook will make it much easier to not get overwhelmed and see how far you've come.
4. Learn from failure.
How you react to failure is a key factor that drives success, whether you're a salesperson or a first-time entrepreneur. While not every setback will be as big as losing a major sales lead or seeing your business go under, even minor problems can cause you to feel overwhelmed if you're not careful.
The thing is, failure is an inevitable part of life. You should look at any setback (big or small) as an opportunity to learn for the future. Could you do better in planning and preparation? Does your execution need improvement? Do you still need to work on controlling your emotions? While you can't control every outcome, viewing failures as learning opportunities will keep you from making the same mistakes twice.
5. Get outside perspectives.
We often fail to recognize our own weaknesses. Several studies have found that mediocre employees often mistakenly believe they are doing a good job.
While ideally you should be aware of your weaknesses and work to improve them, getting perspectives from a close co-worker or your boss can reveal how others perceive your efforts. As you learn to listen, you can gain crucial insights that help you adapt and improve. Just remember to not let anger or feelings that you're not good enough get in the way of applying what you can learn from these opportunities.
6. Be assertive, not aggressive.
Emotional intelligence is sometimes confused for weakness because we're tempted to believe that becoming more empathetic allows others to walk all over us. This isn't the case. Mastering your emotions and seeing things from someone else's perspective allows you to become more assertive, not less.
This starts by recognizing the value you bring to your sales team, as well as what your rights and boundaries are in the workplace. Learning to state what you need clearly and directly will help you avoid being overly aggressive or developing a victim mentality.
7. Leave time for downtime.
There's always room for improvement. But if you're constantly glued to your smartphone, how are you going to have time to reflect and identify ways you can keep growing?
One of the most important things you can do to improve your emotional intelligence is to set aside some time each day when you can get away from technology and to-do lists and reflect on how you've been doing. In addition to de-stressing, this lets you evaluate what you've done well in recent sales calls and how you can improve so that tomorrow you can do even better.
Improving your emotional intelligence takes practice, but it can make all the difference for your long-term sales success. As you learn to master your emotions and identify and validate the emotional experiences of others, you will put yourself in a better position to generate real results.