Emotional Intelligence In Sales (Best Books And Resources)

We’ve all lost our cool before.

Maybe it’s because of that jerk cutting you off on the way to the office this morning. Or an uncle blurting out conspiracy nonsense over a thanksgiving meal (we’ve all been there).

To lose control over your emotions every once in a while is to be human.

But when it becomes so frequent that your work starts to suffer, you’ve got a problem. And that’s where cultivating your emotional intelligence comes in.

This guide takes a look at emotional intelligence for B2B sales reps. We’ll cover what this quality is, whether it’s actually real, some great books on emotional intelligence, and a 3-step framework for implementing it daily in sales.

Ready to get emotional? Let’s go.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

You’ve probably heard the term tossed around a lot these days. Or maybe you’ve even read one of the many books on emotional intelligence making the rounds today. But what exactly is it?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is our ability to identify, manage, and regulate emotions. This applies to our own emotions as well as the emotions of others

Sounds simple enough, right?

Emotional intelligence is all about (duh) emotions. Your emotions. The emotions of other people. And how skilled you are at recognizing and controlling them day to day.

As you can guess, emotional intelligence plays heavily into sales success. Logic plays a huge role in B2B sales, of course. Much more so than B2C. But even still, emotion still factors into your buyer’s decisions.

As Founder and CEO of Whetstone Adrian Davis told me in our interview:

“Fundamentally, we make decisions emotionally, and if all we’re doing is spouting features and benefits, we’re really engaging the logical part of the brain. The logical part of the brain does not make decisions. But analyses and captures information to weigh pros and cons, but decisions are made emotionally.”

It’s clear, then, that if you can better recognize the emotions of buyers and regulate your own (think not losing your cool during price negotiations), you’re going to close more deals successfully.

What’s the Science Behind This—Is There Any? 

Okay, okay.

But is there any truth to this emotional intelligence and social awareness stuff? Does it actually work? Or is it just one more wave of self-help bullshit invented to make authors money?

As it turns out, there have been quite a few studies on emotional intelligence skills and its effects in the workplace.

  • 9 out of 10 top performers in the workplace have a higher than average emotional intelligence (Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0).
  • Emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, impacting a full 58% of performance success (TalentSmartEQ).
  • People with high emotional intelligence scores make an average of $29,000 per year more than people with low scores. On average, every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an annual salary (Dr. Travis Bradberry & Nick Tasler, M.S.).
  • A 40-year study of PhDs at UC Berkeley found that emotional intelligence was 400% more powerful than IQ when predicting who would have success in their field (Norwich University).

The science is clear—emotional intelligence is real. And if you can develop yours, you stand to perform better and earn more regardless of your profession.

Best Books on Emotional Intelligence for a Deeper Dive

If you’re looking for a deep dive into the topic, there are plenty of emotional intelligence books out there. Below are some of my favorites that are sure to give you a better understanding of the topic.

  • Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman – This emotional intelligence book is often credited with bringing the term “emotional intelligence” into the common vernacular. Written in 1995, this Daniel Goleman emotional intelligence investigation is seen through a business lens, focusing both on benefits for employees and leaders alike.
  • Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves – Perhaps one of the most famous books on the subject, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 uses data from more than 500 thousand individuals to answer some of the most common questions on the subject. It points out cultural, generational, and gender-relation EI patterns (to name a few) while also offering strategies for developing your emotional intelligence.
  • Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence – Penned by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee, this dive into EI is focused on leadership development. It’s a great read for those who want to foster an emotionally intelligent organization, as well as anyone who’s interested in learning more about the theory behind EI. It covers self management, the four key emotional skills and the emotional intelligence concept in full.

The B2B Sales Emotional Intelligence Framework

The three books above are fantastic reads on a topic that’s becoming more professionally important with each passing day.

But if you want to learn more about emotional intelligence now (and how you can use it to boost your proficiency as a sales rep), you can use this simple system I like to call The B2B Sales Emotional Intelligence Framework.

This simple framework is made up of just three steps for better EI:

  1. Awareness of Who You Are
  2. Awareness of What You Do
  3. Awareness of Others

The rest of this guide is dedicated to explaining each of these three steps in detail. We’re also going to look at exercises for cultivating awareness and examples of what that looks like in your sales position.

Step 1: Awareness of Who You Are

The first step of growing your emotional awareness begins with looking inward. You had a certain upbringing, you were given specific beliefs, you’ve had a unique pathway in life. So nobody can understand your own emotions better than you can.

If you’re the only person that can really understand your own emotions, then you’re the best person to learn how to control them too.

How do you react to tense conversations? What do negative emotions do to your productivity throughout the day? Which strengths and weaknesses do you have when it comes to emotional awareness, both in yourself and others?

Answering these questions and more is key to understanding your own feelings and growing your own emotional intelligence.

Cultivating Awareness

There are three ways in particular to cultivate this type of self-awareness:

  1. Discovering your interpersonal style
  2. Engaging in mentorship
  3. Conducting a 360° review
1) Your Interpersonal Style

We each have a unique ability to deal with the world around us and the emotions within us.

For instance, some people may be ambitious and analytical while others may be careful and more social. Self-awareness of your interpersonal style is an incredible asset in the quest to increase your levels of self-awareness.

And once you’ve discovered what your interpersonal style is, you can leverage its strengths and play to its weaknesses.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • Educate yourself about the different interpersonal styles and think about which one you fall into. 
  • Take the SalesDNA assessment in the Selling Made Simple Academy to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
2) Mentorship

When it comes to the topic of ourselves, we’re always going to be biased. That’s why it’s so helpful to get the opinion of others.

Mentorship is a fantastic way to get an outside view of your strengths as well as your flaws.

When you trust in your mentor, it can open up your worldview and give you alternative ideas and insights that show where your thoughts and beliefs have been wrong in the past. And that means you can change or update them when appropriate.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • Ask an impartial superior or higher-up colleague for professional advice when you can. Eventually, this relationship might turn into more official mentoring.
  • Find a trustworthy mentoring or coaching program and sign up. 
3) The 360° Review

This final tactic is typically reserved for high-level executives.

These formal reviews typically bring in an official team to quiz, engage, and ask about the client’s strengths and weaknesses from all sides. This type of review also includes asking their wives or husbands, their secretary, their investors—all the way down to the people at the bottom of the company. They will very literally go 360° around their social network in search of insights.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • Start with friends and family members and then expand out to colleagues. Those close to you will be more willing to help. But be careful, they may also be less forthcoming about your flaws.
  • You don’t need an official review service here. You can also conduct your own 360° review by asking your sales manager, a good customer, and perhaps your partner in-depth questions about your strengths and weaknesses too.

“Not everyone has that self-awareness. So being able to hold a mirror up to a salesperson, and show them what they’re good at and what they’re not good at or how they need to improve is probably one of the most valuable things you can do.” – Interview with Tom Lavery, CEO & Founder of Jiminny.com

Step 2: Awareness of What You Do

Now that you have a better awareness of yourself, it’s time to dive deeper into your actions.

It’s important to learn how to pick up on the rumblings of an emotional outburst before it blows up. Self-awareness is the start here. But you also need to know how to recognize when your emotions swell up and, just as importantly, understand how to deal with those emotions when they do.

Cultivating Awareness

Four methods for cultivating awareness of what you do are:

  1. Judging emotion vs. reason
  2. Counting to 10
  3. Sleeping on it
  4. Recognizing the physical signs
1) Emotion vs. Reason

You may not always realize it, but your emotions do impact your ability to make decisions. More often than not, those emotions are pulling you one way while logic is pulling you another.

When you feel the heat of the moment rising inside you, it’s important that you have the ability to separate the two.

The more effectively you can isolate your emotional reasons from your logical reasons, the better you’ll be at keeping deals on track to closing.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s):

  • When you find yourself getting emotional before a decision, take 30 seconds to jot down what your emotions are telling you to do versus what your rational brain is telling you to do.
  • When you find others acting emotionally, you can use the same technique to bring you both back to a more rational mindset.
2) Count to 10

I know—sounds a bit childish, right? But the truth is, this technique is still surprisingly effective, even after you’ve hit middle age.

In this exercise, all you have to do when you feel yourself getting frustrated or angry is stop, take a deep breath, and count to 10 in your mind. This counting and breathing will relax you and stop you from making any rash decisions long enough for your brain to pass the emotional charge over to the logical side of its processing.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • Next time someone, say, rudely interrupts you, really remember to engage in this exercise. In most cases, you’ll only have to count to two or three before the frustration leaves, and you can start making rational decisions again.
  • Remember that a snappy comeback may feel good in the moment. But it’s not usually the best way to assert yourself in most business scenarios. So try to keep that professional persona intact when you can.
3) Sleep on It

Sometimes in situations that are stressful, the thought of being patient can be so dissatisfying that you’ll jump to action just to alleviate some of the turmoil.

More often than not though, giving yourself a little bit of time away from the issue lets your conscious and subconscious brain digest the situation. And later, you can return to it with a fresh, more analyzed perspective.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s):

  • Take this one literally when you can. Neuroscience research shows that our brain processes and organizes tons of information overnight. So if possible, returning to a tough issue in the morning may be your best option. 
  • Next time you run into an emotional instance at work, excuse yourself from the conversation if you can. Sometimes all you need is a quick five-minute break to start seeing the situation with clearer eyes. 
4) Recognize the Signs

Whether we know it or not, our bodies are incredibly telling about our emotional state. We go through all sorts of physical and psychological symptoms when we’re angry, sad, and even overjoyed. The thing is, we’re usually too busy feeling those emotions to pick up on those symptoms.

But if you can teach yourself to recognize the physical symptoms of a heightened emotion, you can employ strategies to even out those emotions much quicker.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • Next time you feel yourself getting emotional, take note of the physical symptoms you’re feeling. Flushed face, sweaty palms, unclear thinking—the more readily you can spot these symptoms, the sooner you can use the strategies above to deal with them.
  • Remember to breathe. When you focus on your breathing, you can more accurately assess your situation and spot the signs of heightened emotions more quickly.

“Is your heart racing more often, are your palms more sweaty. Do you wake up at night with that heavy breathing? So there are different ways that you can evaluate how stress is affecting you. And when you notice it, then you can use certain tips and tools to help mitigate it.” – Interview with Nina Purewal, Bestselling Author & Founder of Pure Minds

Understand Your Cognitive Biases

Cognitive biases are mental shortcuts we use for quick and efficient decision-making. But the issue with cognitive bias is that because they happen unconsciously, they may manipulate the emotions you’re experiencing without you knowing it.

Until you understand these basic cognitive biases, you may feel in control. But the reality is that you are less likely to be objective in your decision-making. This may cause you to:

  • Ignore opportunities and helpful information when it is right in front of your face
  • Over or underestimate your chances of winning a deal
  • Become blind to the empathetic motivations of your buyers
  • Seek out information that supports your point of view and discount everything else that does not

See how this can be a problem?

That’s why it pays to understand these biases. So you can learn to spot them in yourself before you let them impact your judgment.

Let’s look at the six most common cognitive biases.

1) The Fundamental Attribution Error

This bias causes you to attribute the actions of others to their flaws rather than the situation they’re in. For instance, you may see someone who steals bread as immoral. But if you were in that exact same situation (haven’t eaten for days, starving family, etc.), you would have done the same exact thing.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • Next time you find yourself criticizing someone or assuming they’re trying to pull one over on you, try to force yourself to assume positive intent instead.
2) The Self-Serving Bias

The self-serving bias is the tendency to attribute positive events to your own character while attributing anything negative to external factors that you are not in control of. So if a good thing happens, you think it’s happened because you’re a good person. But if a bad thing happens, you assume it happened because the world is evil.

This disruptive emotion keeps you from owning your mistakes and holding yourself accountable.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • When you’re hit with bad news (didn’t get the raise, missed your quota, etc.), ask yourself, “Could I have done anything to affect this outcome?” This will force you to consider the possibility that yes, you may be at fault here. 
3) The Optimism Bias

The dark side of optimism is that it can cause you to believe that you are less likely to experience negative events like losing a deal to the competition.

This can in turn blind you to potential pitfalls that may otherwise be right in your face.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • With this one, you can still hope for the best. But make sure when you do, you’re still planning for the worst. Create systems and cadences that take luck off the table entirely. Remember, sales is a numbers game when it comes down to it. 
4) The Overconfidence Effect

Similar to the last bias, we humans tend to overestimate our abilities and our probability of success. It’s optimism, yes. But it’s also more calculated than blind optimism. Think along the lines of estimating how many cold calls you need to make to score a discovery call. Or how many demos you need to run to close a deal.

The more you overestimate your abilities, the bigger the consequences will be when you can’t live up to them.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • Make conservative estimates when planning out your processes. That way, you’ll still end up relatively ahead when things don’t end up working out.
5) The Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is where you believe that your views, values, opinions, and habits are normal and therefore are shared by everyone else. Therefore, if someone doesn’t have the same beliefs that you do, you label them as ineffective.

This can be extremely damaging in sales because it impedes having high levels of empathy for other people who may be different from you. It allows you to wrongly assume that you and potential partners are on the same page, and so you become less curious.

And buyers who don’t share the same views are considered flawed. So you tend to talk down at them and try to convert them to your point of view rather than accepting that theirs might be correct too.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • Next time you run up against an opposing opinion, don’t just try to convince them why they’re wrong. Instead, listen to them. Ask them why they think that. And try to understand where they’re coming from. They may even change your opinion entirely.
6) The Sunk Cost Fallacy

Once people invest time, money, or emotion into anything, they have the bad habit of throwing even more investment into it. Even if logically they know that they’re on a sinking ship. They tell themselves that they “can’t give up now, they’re too close” when the smart move would be to dump the investment and start over rather than ending up in the red.

This sunk cost fallacy can cause you to become attached to a low probability deal and invest time into it. But in reality, you should be cutting it loose and going after the high deal size, low hanging fruit which is right in front of you.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • Periodically re-evaluate every deal you’re handling with this fallacy in mind. Has the buyer shown all the right signs that they want to move forward? Or are you pushing the issue simply because you’ve spent so much time on the deal?

“Can you, in the middle of a conversation with a customer that’s heated, in the middle of an altercation with a relationship that you have, can you pause, stop, not let yourself get hijacked and shift and use one of those emotional intelligence pillars? Most people don’t. Most people do things under the major stress and adversity like we’re facing right now, that ultimately they regret.” – Interview with Adam McGraw, CRO at Positive Intelligence Inc.

Step 3: Awareness of Others

If you understand how to control your own emotions and how that leads you to being in control of your actions, then it’s clear that you can influence other people the same way too.

If you remain calm and suck the emotion out of the room, the buyer is going to become calm and logical too.

If you start panicking, stressing, and slurring your words, the buyer is going to feel their emotions rising, and they’ll become less logical too.

With great emotional intelligence comes great responsibility!

But there are a few ways you can manage your relationships through better emotional intelligence.

Cultivating Awareness

How do you cultivate more awareness of others? You can start with these three techniques:

  1. Be openly curious
  2. Avoid giving mixed signals
  3. Confront the inevitable
1) Be Openly Curious

The more you show interest in learning about other people, the better shot you have at identifying and meeting their emotional needs. So make a conscious effort each day to be curious in your new relationships. And importantly, curiously shake up older ones that you take for granted.

You should also be open to sharing information about yourself with others. This creates a free flow of information and allows people to get to know you better, quicker.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • Shut up and listen. The most successful sales reps do more listening than talking. So with your next client meeting, make a conscious effort to talk less and listen more.
  • When thrust into conflict, try to get to the bottom of why someone believes what they believe. You may have more in common than you think.
2) Avoid Giving Mixed Signals

Other people don’t know what’s going through your head or the shit day you’ve had. All they have to go off of is your actions. What is your body language communicating? Why is your tone not matching up with your words?

Be aware of how your actions and tones, however minor they might seem to you, are affecting others. Improving your awareness will improve your communication skills and also work towards boosting your rapport with buyers.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • Practice being in the moment. Everyone has bad days. But when you let that bad day leech over into your sales calls, it can spell disaster for your chances of success.
  • If you are having a bad day and feel it impacting your communication abilities, be upfront about it. Then give the other person a chance to see if they’d like to communicate with you in a certain emotional state or come back another time.
3) Confront the Inevitable

If you and your colleague are working in the same room and he’s starting to get under your skin, don’t put off the inevitable clash of blows that’s about to happen. Unaddressed emotions are the foundation for poor communication going forward. So instead, be assertive and deal with the situation before it gets worse.

This is when relationship management skills in the workplace are incredibly useful because although you don’t necessarily want to be friends, you might still have to work on the same project, sell to the same customer, or otherwise be around each other for the foreseeable future if you want to keep your job.

Emotional Intelligence Implementation Example(s): 

  • Next time you’re tempted to sweep a disagreement with a colleague under the rug, try taking the more assertive approach instead. Bring up the issue. Work through your differences. It might feel awkward at first, but the benefits of doing so early on are worth it.

“If you focus on building trust and relationships, the sales naturally come over time.” – Interview with Richard Newton, World-Leading Author, Consultant, & International Speaker

Wrapping Up

If you want to increase your chances of sales success, boost rapport with buyers, and build deeper connections with those around you at home and in the office, work on cultivating your emotional intelligence.

There are plenty of books on emotional intelligence that take a deep dive into the topic. But if you’re looking for on-the-ground techniques built specifically for B2B sales reps, The B2B Sales Emotional Intelligence Framework is for you.

All it takes is cultivating:

  1. Awareness of yourself
  2. Awareness of your actions
  3. Awareness of others

When you do that, you’ll have more control over your emotions and more control over your chances of sales success. And for you, that means greater earning potential and a brighter financial future.

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