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Emotional intelligence coaching is a key aspect of sales coaching. What skills should a sales team focus on, and how can sales leaders coach for EI?
January 23, 2023

Do you feel that each cold call or pitch meeting is a boring episode you just want to skip through at 10x speed?

If you or your sales team often get this feeling, the chances are that even if you are recording high sales numbers, you may suffer from burnout due to a lack of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence coaching is a key aspect of sales coaching, especially as your salespeople are the ones developing your company's first impression with your customers.

Here are some quick stats on the importance of emotional intelligence:

- McKinsey notes that by 2030, the demand for emotional skills will grow across all industries by 26% in the USA.  - The World Economic Forum considers emotional quotient (EQ) as one of the top ten vital skills the modern workforce needs to have.

These statistics point toward a couple of things.

1) Your own mental makeup is important. If you don't bring enough energy into your sales conversations, it hurts your quota. It also hurts you and leads to burnout.

2) A prospect doesn't necessarily just want to be sold to within a sales setting. That's a rational need, but there's more to it. Your prospect wants to feel heard too.

Rattling off a script that doesn't organically mesh with the conversation will not fulfill the client's emotional needs and will not lead to a sale.

The benefits of tapping into the emotional needs of prospects by improving your sales team's emotional quotient (EQ) are not just part of a recent trend:

  • A control group trained in EQ outperformed the other control group by 12% in Sanofi, the French pharma company. The firm pegged a $6 return on every dollar spent on EQ training.
  • L'Oreal's sales agents who had received EQ training out-sold regular agents by over 90,000 dollars.

The crux of any cold call, sales pitch, or engaging product demonstration is to understand the prospect’s pain points, establish if there’s a fit, and then close. The components of emotional intelligence, as defined in the '90s, help with precisely that:

  • Recognition of emotions in others to connect with them and understand their perspective;
  • Ability to understand and express emotions to persuade your buyer;
  • Regulation of emotion and the ability to avoid distress so that you don't project it on the other person;
  • Use emotion to facilitate performance and close each sale!

Which particular emotional intelligence skills should a sales team focus on?

All these skills, along with other components of EQ, will complement your technical and operational skills.

Dave Lennick, the Executive VP of American Express Financial Advisers, astutely noted, "Only through managing our emotions can we access our intellect and our technical competence. An emotionally competent person performs better." Let’s now see which skills are critical for sales professionals.

Skill 1 - Build empathy

Understanding a customer's pain point is sales 101. But, actually putting yourself in their shoes through the entire journey of resolving this pain point will transform the way you pitch your product or solution.

Empathy building involves understanding how they currently solve this pain, who is responsible for solving it, and how much are they willing to pay for it. Understanding the org hierarchy, buying processes, and goals for the quarter all play into it.

When you look at the world through your buyer's eyes, you can craft better deals for both of you.  At the most micro-level, understanding their verbal and non-verbal communication on each sales call plays a critical role in building empathy.

Skill 2 - Be self-aware

On a particularly challenging day, you may not be as patient during the onslaught of questions as part of a demo call. The customer will mirror this, so it can lead to an aggressive conversation. Replace frustration with boredom, and your prospect will be yawning in no time. Rein in residual feelings during sales calls to channel happiness, excitement, enthusiasm, or any other emotion required to ace the call.

Skill 3 - Act on Feedback

The first instinct will be to react. It can be disorienting. But, reflection before the reaction is a sign of high emotional intelligence. Espousing this skill as a sales representative will make you a resourceful part of your team.

Go through a recent sales recording, and check how your mood and vibe translate in your speech and gestures during the call. Then, use that as feedback and act on it.

How can I improve my sales team's EQ?

  • Teach your sales team how to get into the consumer's shoes, minds, and hearts
  • Conduct EQ training that prioritizes visual and nonverbal cues
  • Give your sales team autonomy and let their natural EQ guide them

Let’s dive into the details -

Teach your sales team how to get into the customer's shoes, minds, and hearts

It's not just about the immediate benefits; it's also about long-term concerns or peripheral problems that might crop up while solving a customer pain point. Being able to identify these pain points and weaving a narrative that puts the customer at the center will ensure two things:

  • It makes the customer feel that you are here to help them solve their issues rather than push your products;
  • It gives them a chance to be involved in the sales call rather than just be at the receiving end of statistics, quotes and testimonials.
Be empathetic and let the buyer tell you what the world looks like from their end.

Conduct EQ training that prioritizes visual and nonverbal cues

Your sales team must learn to read between the lines when pitching a product. Is the prospect looking to cut off the conversation ASAP, and is it better to redirect or just move on? Nonverbal signals will often give you more insight than verbal communication, whether it's a virtual call or physical interaction.

When you interact with someone, you control your words, but do you always control your hand gestures, eye movements, and expressions? It’s hard, and to some extent, not possible. But being aware of how you come across - open or closed, assertive or meek, confident or doubtful - plays a big part in sales.

Are they looking for more information and data, or reassurances and promises? A well-trained sales team with high emotional intelligence will leverage these cues and recognize these needs to reorient their pitch.

Studying human behavior is the core of sales, and investing in assistive technology to keep track of every emotive gesture during a sales call will lead to a well-oiled sales strategy. Remember the $6 Sanofi generated for every $1 expenditure on EQ training!

Give your sales team autonomy and let their natural EQ guide them

According to Gartner, it takes around 18 rounds of interaction to connect with a customer. Allow your sales team to have control over this lifecycle of interaction. They may mess up, but that's where sales review notes come in, where they can identify if something went wrong.

Giving them this autonomy will further enhance emotional intelligence. Use 1:1 coaching to help them identify areas of improvement, especially in observing human emotions rather than sticking to the script during a call.

Armor your sales team with Sybill

Now, you no longer need to take full responsibility for EQ training yourself. AI-based tools like Sybill can help your sales team with the emotional intelligence training and feedback that they need to nurture their prospects.

Help your team channel their EQ to bond with each prospect with empathy, self-awareness, and positive feedback mechanisms.

Conclusion: Emotional Intelligence is a Key Ingredient in Sales

Emotional intelligence can make or break your sales org. Salespeople with strong EQ consistently outperform those without, and this becomes even more important in a remote-first world as most sales happen online. The less in-person time makes those with strong EQ on virtual media even more valuable.

You can train yourself and your sales team to get better at emotional intelligence. It takes time but is a highly coachable trait. Investments in improving the emotional quotient of individuals pay off not just in sales, but also in maintaining inner harmony and teamwork.

Follow the tips in this post, and more detailed posts on the specific tips themselves, to set your sales team on the right path.

Towards a high emotional quotient, and higher quota attainment!

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