Sales and emotional intelligence

We all would be mistaken to assume gender is a distinguishing factor in anything except pregnancy and childbirth. But in sales, there is always something to learn. The “gender” discussion highlighted by my Sell like a Woman project, articles and other research leads people to believe that women are doing things men cannot because of gender. And this is causing sighing and forelock tugging in some male circles. “Not another feminist on her soap box” or “all men are useless” I hear some say.


As stated previously, my approach is not to denigrate men or idolise women, but to bring you information and findings that give you food for thought to help you make decisions so that you can be more successful at what you choose to do (as long as you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else in the process, as my mother would say).


So let’s put this gender issue into perspective. We all would be mistaken to assume gender is the single distinguishing factor in anything except pregnancy and childbirth. What we are finding is the research is highlighting that women are bringing certain qualities and skills they use in other aspects of their lives to the world of business and, in particular, sales.


And what we are finding is whatever they are doing is working better than previous initiatives, especially now the landscape of sales is changing so markedly. The qualities these women exhibit are not the exclusive domain of women; they can be and are modeled by men as well. It’s just that this has been done at an unconscious level to date, with little if any recognition by management.


What these women and others like them are showing is that they are using higher levels of “emotional Intelligence” (EI).


Research into competencies of highly effective salespeople have generally identified three or four broad categories; Selling skills, General management or Business skills, Technical skills and Interpersonal skills, and more recently, EI.


Interpersonal skills were historically identified as an important category of competencies needed by highly effective salespeople. Their importance reflects the significant contribution of the salesperson’s ability to form and develop a relationship with their client to creating a profitable and productive relationship for both parties. Emotional intelligence is a psychologically more complex process than Interpersonal skills, involving a deeper process of analysing, reasoning and responding.


Our own research, involving over 300 interviews coupled with research findings from Australia and overseas, has found that superior performing salespeople and managers demonstrate greater use of competencies related to the use of EI. They display well developed self-awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.


A recent Australian study conducted by Genos also found that sales performance and EI are positively related. What was even more exciting was that they showed that EI can be learned and developed in people. (An 18% increase in EI for the managers and sales representatives that participated in the learning and development program).


And furthermore, developing the EI of sales professionals and managers results in greater sales returns. The Australian pharmaceutical company who put their sales managers and sales representatives through an EI sales development program found that the program has so far returned $6 for every $1 invested over a six month period.


These EI qualities are being used by high performers despite current management practices in most cases, however if raised to a conscious level and recognised for the value they bring to people, business, customers etc, then they can be selected in and/or trained and developed in people (men and women alike) to use effectively and purposefully in the workplace (and beyond).


If you are still not convinced consider this:


  • “Buyers do not buy products, services, or ideas; they buy states. Buyers buy emotion.” – George Ludwig, former National Sales Director for Johnson & Johnson (USA)
  • “Emotions are part of the total communications experience, and they must be acknowledged.” – Janelle Barlow & Dianna Maul, Emotional Value: Creating strong bonds with your customers
  • “Partnerships will never work if they are forced. It is important to provide ‘friendly’ service; however, organisations pull the legs out from under ‘friendliness’ by too tightly scripting the experience.” – Janelle Barlow & Dianna Maul, Emotional Value: Creating strong bonds with your customers


If you want further information on EI and sales let me know.

Author: Sue Barrett is Founder & Managing Director of BARRETT Pty Ltd, an Australian based Sales Fitness Firm that helps businesses Build High Performing Sales Teams and is Author of soon to be released book ‘Sell Like a Woman’.

For more Sell Like a Woman blogs, click here.


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