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Updated Mar 23, 2023

5 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence Matters in Sales

Emotional intelligence is a valuable skill in any career, but even more so in sales.

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Written By: Jennifer DublinoSenior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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Successful salespeople possess many skills. They need the confidence to present sales pitches, the motivation to increase sales for their organization, and the passion and knowledge to promote your product or service. However, their most essential skill may be emotional intelligence. 

High-level sales involve emotionally connecting with customers. Creating genuine connections means understanding and harnessing your own emotions as well as your prospects’ and customers’ emotions. These skills embody emotional intelligence. 

We’ll explain more about emotional intelligence, why it matters in sales, and how to cultivate it in yourself or your sales team.  

Did You Know?Did you know
Emotional intelligence may predict your success as a business owner. Emotionally intelligent business owners understand their employees, customers and partners, fostering success in multiple areas.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to express and control one’s emotions, read others’ emotions, and respond empathetically. Emotional intelligence has five components: 

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Social skills
  • Empathy
  • Motivation

People with a high level of emotional intelligence are often referred to as having a high emotional quotient (EQ). People with high EQs are increasingly valuable in the workplace as managers and business owners become better educated about the importance of managing workplace stress and creating an environment that supports employee mental health at work.

Why does emotional intelligence matter in sales?

Emotional intelligence is a valuable soft skill in any career, but especially in the sales industry. In a job that requires breaking down barriers with total strangers, overcoming objections, building relationships and making connections, the ability to control emotions and respond appropriately is essential.

Here are a few ways emotional intelligence matters in the sales industry. 

1. Emotional intelligence helps you overcome objections.

Emotional intelligence can be a true asset when handling objections. Each potential customer has a unique set of needs and concerns in the early stages of the sales funnel. Empathizing with customers about their concerns and understanding their points of view can make it easier to address their issues. 

People with poor self-regulation may see sales objections as negative and get frustrated, discouraged or disappointed. A person with a strong ability to self-regulate understands that sales objections are opportunities. A question or objection provides crystal-clear insight into a pain point you can solve. 

Smart, positive salespeople can turn objections into sales by preparing a proactive plan to overcome the most common sales objections.

TipBottom line
Naming and understanding customers' emotions increases interpersonal trust. However, be careful not to mislabel their emotions.

2. Emotional intelligence helps you handle rejection.

Rejection is an inevitable part of working in sales, but that doesn’t make it easy. Salespeople with a high EQ understand that a “no” isn’t a rejection of them personally. They’re less likely to become stressed or upset by repeated rejections. Instead, they’ll see rejection as an opportunity to improve their technique. 

Additionally, since emotionally intelligent people are highly motivated, they have the persistence to hang in there and keep trying to make sales instead of giving up. If they struggle with something, they’ll be proactive and seek employee training or mentorship to improve.

Did You Know?Did you know
Consider making an EQ assessment part of your hiring process, especially for sales professionals.

3. Emotional intelligence helps you build a rapport with leads. 

In sales, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building rapport with potential new leads and customers. Salespeople with strong social skills are better at prompting prospects to discuss their needs and growing customer relationships based on trust and caring. 

Self-aware salespeople know when they’re coming on too strong and can adjust their approach if necessary. Someone with empathy is better at reading a prospect’s signals and can adapt their pitch accordingly. For example, if the lead seems open and chatty, the salesperson can go with a more informal approach. If the customer prefers to be addressed by their title, the salesperson can adopt a more respectful and formal tone. 

4. Emotionally intelligent salespeople come across as professional.

A self-aware and self-regulating salesperson can identify and control feelings of fear, anxiety and irritation while talking or presenting to prospects and customers. The high-EQ salesperson can remain calm, confident and competent, able to project a professional demeanor no matter what. 

Excellent social skills help high-EQ salespeople defuse tense situations with empathy or humor and put prospects at ease.

5. Emotionally intelligent salespeople understand delayed gratification.

Most people working in sales chase the buzz that comes from closing a sale. Sales reps sometimes focus most of their energy on closing deals in pursuit of the instant gratification that comes with it. This approach can be detrimental to your sales funnel, as it means you’re not generating sales leads at an appropriate pace. 

Emotionally intelligent people are more willing to do the work that leads to the reward. This is known as delayed gratification, and it’s a crucial element of self-regulation and motivation. 

Bottom LineBottom line
Use role-playing with your sales force to help get them comfortable with uncomfortable questions about the prospect's budget or who else is involved with decision-making.

Do people with high EQs make better managers?

Emotionally intelligent people often make excellent leaders who can help carry their teams through rough times. Working in sales can take a toll mentally and emotionally. While there are adrenaline-pumping highs when your team feels like celebrating, there are also low points where every path leads to a dead end.

An emotionally intelligent team leader can keep reps feeling positive during tough times by boosting the morale of the entire sales team. Their natural ability to read emotions means they’re supportive and empathetic when team members are stressed or under pressure. Additionally, they know how to help people struggling with stress, workplace burnout or mental health issues. 

A high-EQ manager can also identify their own feelings of overwhelm and seek help, take time off, or proactively address the issue. 

FYIDid you know
To build a sales team that can scale as your business grows, recruit the right sales personnel for your strategy, design a robust sales process, and track KPIs to measure everyone's success.

Can you develop emotional intelligence skills?

Emotional intelligence is a popular skill in the business world that allows you to control and understand your emotions. While some people are naturally inclined toward emotional intelligence, everyone can improve their EQ. 

Here are a few easy and effective tips for becoming more emotionally intelligent:

  • Respond instead of reacting. It’s common for feelings of anger and emotional outbursts to occur during conflict situations. Individuals with a higher EQ remain calm during stressful situations; they don’t make impulsive decisions that may lead to even bigger issues. In times of conflict, developing emotional intelligence means you respond instead of reacting; in other words, make good decisions and ensure that your words and actions are aligned with those good decisions.
  • Actively listen. There’s a difference between hearing and listening. An individual with a high EQ listens for clarity instead of waiting for their turn to talk. In other words, they understand what’s being said before they respond and take notice of nonverbal cues during a conversation. This helps to prevent misunderstandings, shows respect for the person talking, and allows the listener to respond appropriately.
  • Be sociable and approachable. Smile and positively acknowledge your employees and co-workers. Radiate a positive presence. Use appropriate social skills based on your relationships with people around you. As an emotionally intelligent person, you must have excellent interpersonal skills and know how to communicate clearly with others.
author image
Written By: Jennifer DublinoSenior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
Jennifer Dublino is an experienced entrepreneur and astute marketing strategist. With over three decades of industry experience, she has been a guiding force for many businesses, offering invaluable expertise in market research, strategic planning, budget allocation, lead generation and beyond. Earlier in her career, Dublino established, nurtured and successfully sold her own marketing firm. Dublino, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration and an MBA in marketing and finance, also served as the chief operating officer of the Scent Marketing Institute, showcasing her ability to navigate diverse sectors within the marketing landscape. Over the years, Dublino has amassed a comprehensive understanding of business operations across a wide array of areas, ranging from credit card processing to compensation management. Her insights and expertise have earned her recognition, with her contributions quoted in reputable publications such as Reuters, Adweek, AdAge and others.
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