When it comes to sales, most organizations focus heavily on the hard skills, or the “sales IQ.” This includes selling skills, negotiation tactics, and knowing how to close and deal with objections. But what sales teams often overlook are the soft skills — the “sales EQ” — like empathy, optimism, impulse control, self-awareness, and emotion management.
While the hard skills are certainly crucial for your sales pitch, you need a balance of both to reach peak sales performance. Colleen Stanley, the president of sales development firm SalesLeadership, explains the importance of developing your sales EQ and offers tips to improve yours. Watch her Prezi video here, or read on for more tips:
The physiology of effective sales
To understand why you need both sales EQ and IQ, Colleen starts by looking at the physiology of the brain, and in particular the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. At its core, the prefrontal cortex is essentially the “executive center” where logical, rational thinking occurs. Meanwhile, the amygdala’s job is to keep you safe from danger.
So, in the context of a sales conversation, you may enter the talks with your selling points at the ready, but without good control over your emotions, your amygdala will kick in as soon as a customer has a difficult demand. This leads to what Colleen dubs the trigger-response-regret loop — your emotions will take over the meeting, and you’ll respond in ways that go against your hard skills training, such as overselling, defending, product dumping, or deeply discounting.
Simple ways to develop sales EQ
To help you improve your sales EQ, Colleen shares three easy tips to follow:
- Set aside quiet time. Barreling from one meeting to another will only result in you repeating the same mistakes. By carving out some time each day to reflect on your meetings, you can identify any emotional triggers that caused you to react in ways you regret, and learn how to avoid them in the future.
- Breathe. It’s difficult to anticipate every curveball a customer will throw at you, but you can recognize when your emotions are starting to take over. When this happens, Colleen suggests taking a couple deep breaths to pause and center yourself, which will help you move the conversation away from the amygdala and back to the prefrontal cortex.
- Reflect on the stories you tell yourself. We all have stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and they’re not always positive — stories like “I’m not good enough to call the executives” or “I’m going to lose this deal” will affect your mindset, your behavior, and your results.
It’s time to make sales EQ a priority in your sales training and development. Even though these soft skills won’t help you close deals by themselves, they’ll help you execute the hard skills of sales more effectively and consistently.