Are you Freak-out Freddy or Cool Hand Luke when the pressure is on? Can step outside your body when a conflict with a customer or coworker arises and view a situation objectively or are you typically combative? Are you able to catch your own short-comings before they ruin a conversation or escalate a problem or is it always me, me, me? Do you ever meltdown of traffic and have bouts of road-rage or do you keep your hands on the wheel, off the horn, react to avoid the crash and keep on driving?
The answers to these questions can hold the truth to whether you possess the high-value skill of emotional intelligence.
Why is emotional intelligence so pivotal? According to a recent study by the NIH, EI is 4x more important than IQ in determining professional success. Specifically in sales, having a high degree of EI is the most powerful skill in the toolset of a 5 tool sales consultant.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage emotions effectively in yourself and others. To empathize, communicate clearly and problem-solve for big-picture, positive outcomes. Emotional intelligence in sales is put to use through 4 fundamental pillars. A skill set: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social management.
What I See + Personal Competence = Self-Awareness
Self-aware sales consultants are introspective. They put themselves under the microscope to see where they excel and where they need to improve. They try seeing themselves as the world sees them allowing them to pick apart the good, the bad and the ugly in their own personalities.
Strong self-awareness helps savvy sales consultants prepare for obstacles and objections potential customers can raise before they happen because they are looking at themselves and what they have presented to the customer from the customer’s perspective. Think of the trial attorney asking another lawyer to role play opposing council. Self-awareness allows them to analyze their own performance and processes at the highest level, making them infinite learners and self-improvement experts. It is the secret sauce that allows emotionally intelligent sales consultants to always seem prepared to handle the tough times. Because they in fat are prepared.
What I Do + Personal Competence = Self-Management
The classic behavior of well self-managed sales consults is the pause. They take a few seconds to themselves in the high-tension moments. A few breaths to think, process, assimilate and reflect before opening their mouths or acting out.
This skill plays a key role in those critical situations when it’s all on the line. Whether it’s handling an objection from a prospect, over-coming a rough patch with a client or selling an idea internally to the boss, sales consultants who think first, act second are able to get the job done. They work through the daily challenges different sales throw at them with minimal stress, maximum success.
What I See + Social Competence = Social Awareness
How empathetic are you? I recommend taking the Mindtools Empathy Quiz to find out. Empathy is the key attribute most closely related to high social awareness. Of the 4 pillars of EI, it is the skill most sales reps have the easiest time practicing and improving on.
Socially aware sales consultants ask great questions because they are naturally curious. They practice active listening because they really care about understanding the people they speak with and want to remember and collaborate. The best practitioners of this craft are able to connect at a comfortable level with almost anyone. They work hard to see the world from the perspective of others which frequently earns them the coveted status of trusted advisor.
What I Do + Social Competence = Social Management
Knowing their own strengths and weakness and managing them accordingly, then practicing empathy and concern for the people they speak with before they engage outwardly with someone positions emotionally intelligent sales consultants for strong social management. They know themselves. They know the people they are interacting with at a high level. And then they combine the two to maximize positive outcomes.
High social management drives clear, calm communication in high-stress situations. It’s what allows emotionally intelligent sales consultants to act like trauma surgeons. Move swiftly but not franticly. Make decisive, but not rash decisions. And most of all they maintain authority when times get tough as they do not panic. The keep their composure and throw ice water on volatile situations with an eye on big picture wins.
How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is a skill not a talent. If you are not naturally skilled at high EI you can sharpen this tool through mindful practice. The first is understanding what drives EI and how you can control it.
Let’s look closer at the human brain. As it turns out, we are all slaves to our senses. When information is collected through our eyes and ears it passes first through our Limbic System or Emotional Brain, before making its way to our Cerebral Cortex or Rational Brain. Our brains respond emotionally to new information before we can rationally process it.
Knowing this about your brain’s operating system, you can now begin working on powering-up your EI. Understand that you will feel before you think and manage it. One simple remedy is counting to 3. Giving yourself a few seconds not only allows you time to process what you have just heard or seen, but the function of counting is rational. It forces your Cerebral Cortex to get involved in the conversation. It pulls rational you in to keep an eye on emotional you.
Emotionally intelligent sales consultants know that EI is a skill, not a gift. Their powers of self-analysis allow them to look closely at these 4 key elements of EI, know what they are good at and what needs work and they put in the effort to improve. This makes practicing EI a virtuous cycle. The process of working on improving the 4 pillars inherently makes high-performance salespeople practice EI more, which makes them more emotionally intelligent, which makes them practice more and so on. The first step today can start the flywheel.