With artificial intelligence and account-based marketing becoming the current selling norm, it’s no surprise there is a belief that “relationship sales” have died. However, a study by research firm Gartner found 56% of buyers who didn’t engage with a ‘person’ later regretted their buying decision.
So, the question is, how do we stay ahead and stop caving into price pressure and wasting time on low-level prospects? I believe relationship selling is more important than ever, especially in a world where buyers may sometimes be better-informed than the ‘expert’.
As someone who has spent decades coaching and mentoring salespeople, I am frequently faced with the challenge from sales leaders to “make my team better”. Specifically, “I require better closers… I need additional appointments to build my pipeline”, with the focus being on the hard sales process expertise.
This often means soft skills get neglected. In sales, developing emotional intelligence (EI or more often called EQ) matters and impacts performance and numbers.
EQ is the ability to be aware of one’s emotions and the emotions of others and to manage them in a productive and empathic manner. And let’s be honest, how can that not be useful in sales?
Daniel Goldman introduced the idea of EQ to the world in his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, using the following five categories:
- Social skills
Their use in sales is beneficial in several ways, but here’s how I interpret and apply them:
If we can understand our emotions and their impact on others, then we could manage time and energy around our emotional selves. By way of example, hands up who’s told to do prospecting first thing in the morning? This may work for some, but others are more energetic in the afternoon.
Bouncing back from rejection is part of the job, but we are much less likely to pass on negative emotions on a subsequent call if we are mindful of those feelings. The conscious state is about controlling emotions to reach the end goals. For example, how many of us have stopped prospecting when we landed a key appointment and celebrated the success rather than keeping our reaction under control?
This is known as impulse control. In the field of commerce, this could be when talking to a customer after a difficult meeting, not allowing any negative responses to infiltrate the next one. A great self-regulated person will avoid letting fear, anxiety and gloom cross into a conversation and is capable of keeping their enthusiasm for customers and sales over the long term to improve their job performance.
3. Social skills
Whenever I am in training sessions, people often nod and refer to successful colleagues. Salespeople with great social skills will be successful at prospecting due to the ability to develop and maintain a good network of contacts. They are capable of reading a room and adapting their behaviour to the needs of the group. What’s important is they know when it is premature to start asking for the business.
The counterpoint to self-awareness. Good salespeople can judge feelings and steer the conversation in the most appropriate way. They see the customer experience through the buyer’s eyes and identify the pain points by way of good discovery. Empathy must represent a middle ground – too much and the salesperson stops asking searching, direct questions, but too little and discovery becomes lost in their eagerness to get to the presentation.
Motivated salespeople get more done in the day! Sounds obvious, right? But I’ve had sales leaders inform me that motivation doesn’t matter. Time is the biggest commodity in sales – if it is utilised effectively, success inevitably follows.
Motivated people respond better to rejection, seek out training and focus on their ultimate objectives. They have a higher propensity to follow up, keep tracking down a prospect and stay on course with achieving targets.
To all the wonderful salespeople, think about this honestly – have you considered EQ and how it could aid in the sales process? Ask yourself which of the five EQ categories are you naturally adept at and which can be worked on. Each aspect has a valuable part to play. We all know the saying ‘people buy from people’, so just sticking to one hour a day of prospecting and controlling your emotional response – good or bad – will see the pipeline increase.
It’s worthwhile engaging in some research into EQ and its application in the sales process, and there are countless books, podcasts and studies on the subject. Be the best you can be, and happy selling!
Michelle Naphtali is Learning and Development Director at EVO