CEOs and sales managers always are looking for the one or two things that will set them apart from the competition. They invest in innovation and new products; they meet and talk about branding and marketing.
Maybe it’s time for your sales organization to look at the best predictor of success: hiring and retaining salespeople with a high degree of emotional intelligence.
Dr. Reuven Baron, an expert in emotional intelligence, defines EQ as an “array of non-cognitive capabilities and competencies that influence one’s ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures.”
And let’s face it: Sales is competitive and demanding. That’s why the most effective salespeople possess a high degree of Sales IQ (knowledge and expertise) and Sales EQ, the ability to handle pressure in an ever-changing environment.
There are three emotional intelligence skills to interview for and seek in your next sales candidate.
#1. Assertiveness. This is defined as the ability to state what you need nicely. Salespeople lacking assertiveness tend to go along to get along, and that often shows up in the budget and decision stage of the sales cycle.
For example, a salesperson asks the prospect what they’ve set aside in their budget for their product or service. A common answer is, “I have no idea. Just put something together.” The non-assertive salesperson goes along to get along, and invests hours writing a proposal for a prospect that may not be willing or able to invest in his services.
They present the proposal to the prospect — only to hear, “Hmmm. This is more than I want to invest.” Chalk up another practice proposal lost because of lack of assertiveness. The salesperson was unable to state what she needed in order to invest her valuable time in writing a proposal. What she needed was to figure out if this prospect was willing to write a check to solve his problem or achieve his goal.
Sales managers emphasize meeting with all the buying influencers, but a salesperson that isn’t assertive enough to ask for that meeting winds up writing another practice proposal. The salesperson knows what to do, but lack of assertiveness prevents them from stating what they need. “Ms. Prospect, we’ve had our best results when we meet with this title, this title and this title. Can you help me get those meetings set up?”
Lack of assertiveness dramatically affects sales cultures. Non-assertive people tend to be “sales victims.” Everyone is taking advantage of them. They always have a bad territory, bad boss, bad friends and bad life. No one is taking advantage of these folks. Their lack of assertiveness turns them into business doormats and whiners.
#2: Impulse control. This is the ability to delay a response or reaction, and to put in the work to get the reward. It’s the antithesis of instant gratification.
Poor impulse control creates poor time management. The instant-gratification salesperson shows up to the office without a plan. And they waste time: It’s easy to waste at least one hour a day due to lack of calendar blocking and action item lists. That’s five wasted hours per week, 20 hours in a month. Gee, is there a possibility that more sales could be achieved with 20 additional hours in a month?
Effective salespeople possess the EI Skill of delayed gratification and plan their weeks. Open up their calendars and you will see to-do lists, calendar blocking for account management and proactive business development.
Instant gratification affects pre-call planning because there isn’t any. The low impulse control salesperson chooses to apply the “wing-it” sales methodology. He shows up at the meeting not knowing who the incumbent is, and has not created compelling questions or customized value propositions. The sales call goes downhill quickly. No preparation, no sale.
#3: Self-regard. Good sales managers invest the time to teach their team ways to identify and access the elusive decision maker. Then at the next win-loss analysis review, the sales manager discovers that the salesperson still is defaulting to meetings with non-decision makers. The reason: The salesperson lacks the confidence to reach out to the real decision maker.
The low-self-regard person has mastered negative self-talk. “This prospect will never see me. I won’t know the answer to a question — the prospect will think I’m stupid.”
This salesperson has the sales knowledge, so lack of results is not because of hard selling skills. The root cause for poor sales results is lack of self-regard, which prevents him from executing the hard selling skills.
Lack of self-confidence also creates status-quo sales cultures. People with low self-regard don’t like receiving feedback on their performance and generally get defensive when hearing ways to change or improve. As a result, no one gives them feedback because of their emotional response. So, no one gets better and “good enough” becomes the sales organization’s theme song.
Hire for Sales IQ and Sales EQ. Soft skills do produce hard sales results.