A growing body of research shows that top performers outdo the rest of us because they’ve mastered “soft skills,” also called “emotional intelligence.”

In this context emotional intelligence doesn’t mean getting in touch with your inner child. It’s the ability to understand why you are feeling a certain way in a sales setting and adjust “on the fly” to achieve the results you seek.

Here’s some of the research that helps make the case:

  • Data analyzed from a pool of 40 corporations indicated the level of emotional intelligence made the difference between stars and average performers – not expertise or brain power.
  • Sales increased 18% at American Express Financial Advisors for reps who participated in an Emotional Competence Program.
  • When the U.S. Air Force started choosing recruiters based on emotional intelligence, improved hiring practices saved $3 million per fiscal year.
  • People with high emotional intelligence average $29,000 more income per year, say Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves in their book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Traits that make a difference

There are three foundational “soft skills” every sales professional can work on to improve sales results:

1. Become more self-aware emotionally.

It’s easy to let emotions run wild when faced with a tough-as-nails prospect, for example. The brain can freeze up, turning the meeting into a back-and-forth transaction, rather than one that focuses on value.

It can help to think back over sales calls that went south that way. Were you intimidated? Did you end up more concerned with yourself than the prospect? Next time try to slow down, stay “in the moment” and recognize when your emotions are taking over.

Top performers excel at managing their emotions. After all, it is the ability to manage the dynamics and interpersonal issues that wins the big deals, not product knowledge or expertise.

2. Work on assertiveness.

Salespeople who are not assertive often end up chasing deals, because they are not comfortable asking for agreement on next steps. Or they don’t have the assertiveness to insist on a meeting with all the decision makers.

Top performers know how to be assertive without being pushy, and get good at disqualifying prospects early in the sales cycle.

There’s a big difference between knowing what do to and actually doing it, especially when facing a difficult situation or a prospect that pushes back.

Sales training can take care of the “what,” but it may be worth more in the long run to get some assertiveness training.

3. Give empathy a try.

Former president Clinton was fond of saying, “I feel your pain.” That is the essence of empathy – the ability to see things from the prospect or customer’s perspective.

Empathy calls for being engaged, staying “in the moment,” focused and present.

How often have you been in meetings where people were checking their smartphones or thinking about what they were planning to say next? We all know when someone is not fully engaged – including prospects.

For best results, work on staying “in the moment,” rather than fretting about what just happened (or your reaction to it), or thinking about what will happen next.

It will pay off in terms of sales results.

Source: Colleen Stanley, www.salesleadershipdevelopment.com

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