Why Emotional Intelligence Is the Sales Prospecting Secret Weapon

By mastering Emotional Intelligence, you can improve your sales approach and outcomes. This post explains how.

May 22, 2017

  • Heart and Brain Balanced

Strong relationships have always been the linchpin to successful sales strategies. Yet somehow emotion has long been left out of the B2B sales equation. No more.

We hear calls for both B2B marketers and sales professionals to replace “business to business” with “human to human.” At the heart of this request is the desire to recognize that emotions affect everyone’s decision making. It applies whether we’re at home or at work, or whether we’re a sales prospect or a seller. It’s one reason why the concept of “emotional intelligence” has gotten more run in recent years.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) is a term coined by researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, and popularized by Dan Goleman in his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Essentially, EI is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, and recognize, understand, and influence the emotions of others.

Harnessing your EI can dramatically change your sales approach and even your prospecting outcomes. Rather than experience prospecting as an emotionally draining exercise, you can transform it into a sales activity that inspires you to be your best.

Don’t Let Your Emotions Get the Best of You

It’s easy for our emotions to get the best of us. Picture yourself in a stressful selling situation, perhaps a meeting with a prospect that is not going as planned. For some reason, your presentation seems to have fallen flat. Your heart starts beating rapidly and you want to evaporate into thin air. Panicked, you start doing and saying things – like offering a discount or offering to write a proposal without knowing the prospects’ budget – that are not in your best interests.

Or maybe you haven’t even met with a prospect and are simply trying to make that first connection. But the prospect is slow to respond. In frustration, you give up on someone you had thought was a promising buyer.

Get the Most from Emotions

If you can better recognize and manage your emotions – and what is going on with your prospects emotionally – situations like the two just described will become a thing of the past.

In the first scenario, you would be able to step back and realize that the presentation didn’t resonate with the prospect. Rather than panic at the thought of losing the opportunity, you could engage the prospect in a frank discussion to pinpoint your presentation’s shortcomings. More importantly, you could use that conversation to establish a connection that shows the prospective buyer you care about addressing their needs and concerns.

When it comes to prospecting, putting on the brakes for self-reflection allows you to appreciate that although your frustration is a natural response, it is an unhelpful response. Instead of walking away from the opportunity, you can regroup and redirect your energy into a new strategy for engaging that prospect over time.

Boost Your Emotional Intelligence Quotient

In her interview with Colleen Stanley, author of Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success, Jill Konrath unearthed many nuggets of wisdom and tips for upping your emotional intelligence quotient.

  • Know yourself. Identify your hot buttons and the situations that trigger you to react in a way that doesn’t serve you well. Then make a plan for acting professionally and productively once those arise. 
  • Schedule downtime. You’re not going to be able to get to know yourself unless you make the time. Regularly unplug so can clear your head and get in touch with yourself. 
  • Cultivate empathy. Understand that buying is an emotionally charged process and call upon patience to get you through frustrating parts of prospecting and selling. Stanley also says by cultivating more empathy for your buyers, you can better prepare for conversations and interactions that are more likely to resonate with them. Simply put, better understanding your prospects’ emotions will make you better at working with them.
  • Maintain assertiveness. Being assertive doesn’t mean being aggressive or intimidating. In the sales context, it means you stick your ground rather than buckle. You can see how this is a necessary skill when your emotions might otherwise get the best of you.
  • Earn the reward. Stanley refers to an emotional intelligence skill she calls Delayed Gratification. And she says the reps that score high in this area are willing to put in effort before expecting a result. This is critical when prospecting and working an opportunity over an extended time because the reality is that you likely aren’t going to instantly get what you want. According to Stanley, Delayed Gratification also makes you better at managing your time because you understand you need a formal plan for being productive and achieving your desired outcomes.
  • Do a reality check. To make sure you’re on the right track, Stanley advises you periodically ask the following of yourself:

        -Am I giving in to instant gratification or am I being consistent in my business development approach?

        -Have I put in the time to naturally engage prospects in relevant conversations or do I sound stilted and rehearsed?

        -Are my value propositions truly unique and personalized for each prospect or do I sound like every other B2B sales rep?

        -Am I reaching out to the right people on the buying committee, or am I avoiding rejection by sticking with the low-hanging fruit?

Emotional intelligence is essential to the consultative approach that modern sales professionals must embrace. When you better manage your own emotions, work through challenges, and tune into prospective buyers, it’s only natural to see better sales results.

To better understand what motivates B2B buyers and influences their purchase decisions, download our eBook, Influencing B2B Buyers