Could Emotional Intelligence training be the critical element that unlocks your sales team’s performance and enables previously unachievable targets to be reached with ease?
Neuroscience and clinical psychology have long since provided hard evidence to support the claim that “people buy on emotion and justify with logic”.
It naturally follows that being emotionally intelligent is an essential requirement for any successful or ambitious sales team. But too many organisations are still either hesitant or ignorant -- and they pay for it with lower sales figures, poor retention rates and troublesome financial performance.
Here’s why Emotional Intelligence could be a game-changer for your sales team: in simple terms, positive emotions make it easier for a prospect to understand what you are saying, make decisions and feel optimistic. In turn, this means they are more likely to listen to your pitch and see your offer in a positive light.
Sales teams with high Emotional Intelligence are able to guide people to action by engaging the prime movers of behaviour: emotions. So if you have high levels of self-confidence, optimism, empathy, self-awareness and self-control, you are much more likely to create the strong relationships needed between you and your customers.
You are likely to be able to engage a higher number of qualified and unqualified prospects. You will close a higher proportion of deals. And you will be consistently able to hire and retain your industry’s best sales staff -- which in itself will only reinforce your high-performing sales environment.
“People will buy from you, work well for you and enter into business with you in direct proportion to how much they like you. And they will like you in direct proportion to how you make them feel.”
Dr Martyn Newman
What impact can Emotional Intelligence training have on sales teams?
When you combine the effects of strong Emotional Intelligence capabilities with the everyday work of sales teams, there is a direct impact on a company’s financial performance.
Improved financial performance is a natural by-product of increased Emotional Intelligence. That’s why we have coined the term ‘Emotional Capital’ for the practice of recognising and regulating emotions in sales professionals and their customers to achieve a sales outcome.
“Emotional Capital is a new psychology of sales leadership that describes a set of emotional and social skills that are most effective at influencing others. Sales professionals who possess high levels of emotional capital are known as Emotional Capitalists.”
Dr Martyn Newman
Emotional Capital is built on the 10 emotional and social competencies identified by hundreds of peer-reviewed research projects. It forms the crux of our Emotional Intelligence approach with sales teams. Those competencies are:
- Self-knowing, self-control, self-confidence and self-reliance (our ‘Inner Focus’ cluster that helps you communicate authentically and openly)
- Empathy, relationship skills and straightforwardness (our ‘Other Focus’ cluster that enhances your capacity to influence others to achieve productive outcomes)
- Adaptability, optimism and self-actualisation (our ‘Outer Focus’ cluster that enables you to respond creatively and effectively to new opportunities)
What proof is there to validate the need for Emotional Intelligence training in sales teams?
Rigorous academic research has supported the suggestion that Emotional Intelligence is a critical trait in successful sales teams. Deeter and Smeltz (2003) reported that empathy, perceiving others’ emotions, self-awareness, self-control and self-motivation are important factors in enabling sales performance.
Eleven years later, Brown (2014) found that both the social competencies and empathy linked to transformational leadership empower salespeople to perform beyond expectations.
For example, here’s what happens when you increase optimism in even the toughest of professional sales environments:
- In the 1980s, life insurance giant Metropolitan Life (MetLife) faced the same problem as every other insurance company: how to retain sales staff despite the demoralising reality of 90 per cent of pitches being rejected.
- More than 50 per cent of MetLife’s sales staff left within one year of appointment. By Year Four, only one in five remained in post. This churn cost MetLife $75 million in recruitment.
- Asked for his advice, Professor Martin Seligman -- the head of the American Psychological Association -- recommended hiring sales staff with high scores on the emotional competency of optimism.
- Those with high levels of optimism sold 37 per cent more life insurance policies in their first two years. Highly-optimistic sales professionals (the top 10 per cent) sold 88 per cent more than those ranking in the top 10 per cent for pessimism.
- Candidates identified as having strong optimism skills, but who did not meet MetLife’s other standard recruitment criteria, were still hired. They outsold pessimistic colleagues by 21 per cent in Year One and 57 per cent in Year Two.
- Within a few years, MetLife’s retention rate had massively increased. Its share market value rocketed by almost 50 per cent.
Global enterprise software company Oracle has also benefited from the power of Emotional Intelligence. It launched its Emotional Capital programme in 2019, with more than 1,200 salespeople undertaking six interactive Emotional Intelligence workshops across Europe and the Middle East.
During the workshop, each attendee was offered practical, actionable tips and practices for managing their performance, developing emotional self-control, and negotiating with customers. As a result, 92 per cent of Oracle’s salespeople now have a more positive attitude to their job and 89 per cent feel more confident in their abilities. One attendee even hailed it as “the best training I’ve received in 20 years in the technology industry.”
How can Emotional Intelligence training be harnessed during a typical sales process?
A typical sales process includes many familiar stages.
During the initial engagement, sales teams with high Emotional Intelligence are able to draw on their key competencies to build trust, curiosity and empathy with their prospects.
Self-confidence and self-assurance allows high-performing sales teams to accurately qualify prospects and eliminate those who are unlikely to convert.
As the conversation develops and the prospect presents their questions and doubts, an emotionally intelligent sales professional can use their listening skills and empathy to deepen their knowledge of the prospect’s situation and needs.
Emotionally intelligent sales teams also call on their optimism to keep going and maintain a winning mindset while simultaneously building rapport that positively influences the emotions felt by the prospect. A powerful combination of self-confidence and optimism sends persuasive nonverbal messages to potential customers.
As the sales cycle moves into the nurture stage, with contact happening for a second, third or fourth time, an emotionally intelligent salesperson will use their abilities to build relationships and show that they are a trustworthy person. Identifying common values is a key part of this non-negotiable and critical element of all sales conversations.
Empathetic sales professionals frequently demonstrate that they can see the world from the other person’s point of view. They show that they can understand both the task and the emotional experience their prospect is facing.
When it comes to closing deals, when last-minute curveballs can potentially disrupt weeks or months of patient deal-building, an emotionally intelligent salesperson can put their adaptability to good use to help navigate any unforeseen challenges.
They can learn to calibrate their close, overcome pricing objections and maintain solid relationships when deals are not able to be agreed.
What is the best way to equip sales teams with strong Emotional Intelligence skills?
Emotional Intelligence is not a set-and-forget process. Like a manicured lawn, it requires constant care and attention. That is why those companies who invest in ongoing Emotional Intelligence programmes are the ones who consistently outperform their competitors -- regardless of their industry.
During an initial foundation stage, sales teams are introduced to the concept of Emotional Intelligence and its 10 core competencies. They are given details about the science behind teachings and they develop an understanding of the potential benefits of being truly emotionally intelligent.
Next, each salesperson would undergo an Emotional Intelligence assessment using tools such as our Emotional Capital Report (ECR) 360 Multi-Rater Report. The feedback from these findings is used to guide the sales teams on the areas in which they should focus their efforts. This assessment and feedback stage acts as a benchmark for future assessments.
Next, sales teams consolidate and build their Emotional Intelligence, making conscious pushes to improve their relative weaknesses through practical exercises and advice.
Measuring outcomes is the final stage of the process, with results likely to be seen in three core areas: the percentage of deals being closed, the company’s financial performance, and the retention rate of sales personnel across the business.