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Emotional Quotient (EQ) in Sales & Customer Service

Emotional Quotient (EQ) in Sales & Customer Service

21 Oct, 2014
By TTI Success Insights

People working in customer-facing roles (sales and customer service), along with their direct managers, need to have the highest levels of emotional competence in an organisation.

Anyone who has been in a customer service job for more than a few seconds knows that it depends on quick responsiveness, excellent communication and empathy, and a good deal of emotional control. Right before a person speaks to a service agent, it's not uncommon for something in their brain to snap, where logic and common decency gets substituted for rudeness, anger, and a sense of entitlement.

customer phone

But sales in particular has the most difficult emotional demands of just about any job. From cold calling and handling rejection, to giving presentations, socialising and building rapport with new people everyday, to competing for commission and meeting quotas, to the occasionally desperate moment screaming ‘SHOW-ME-THE-MONEY!’ into the phone. (Or really wanting to anyway.)

Today’s sales and service roles can be punishing. With greater access to online information and the growing availability of competitors, customers have more options than ever, and are more difficult to please than ever.

Yet, in the face of all that’s changed about technology and the way we do business in the 21st century, people’s basic nature hasn’t changed — their fundamental emotions are still the same. And the fundamental skills for building relationships haven't changed either.

Individuals who have a way to understand and manage emotions (within themselves and others) will always have the greatest edge in service-based markets.

Most people would agree that having emotionally skilled service staff working in a positive emotional climate should mean that their moods rub off on customers and therefore improve the bottom line. But just how much?

There have been a number of studies that have investigated the link between emotional climate and performance. There is even one logarithm that predicts the relationship: For every 1% improvement in the service climate, there’s a 2% increase in revenue.*

The fact is that how well people manage their moods and the moods of others, has become not just a private matter, but a factor in how well a business will do.

*Improvement in service climate drives increase in revenue: Lyle Spencer, paper presented at the meeting of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organisation (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 19 April 2001).

Note: Below we have used ‘sales’; however, the same script can be used as a template for ‘customer service’ with a few minor tweaks.

How to Introduce EQ to Sales Managers & Salespeople

There is no single best way to coach, train or facilitate a program on emotional intelligence, so what follows is simply a scripted example to help illustrate one way that EQ might be introduced.

what is selling

Facilitator: "Welcome to [Sales 101]. Today’s training is about tapping into the power of emotional intelligence in order to make more sales and become more effective in your dealings with customers.

Let me start by asking: Who here has heard of emotional intelligence (EQ) and would like to have a go at defining it? [discussion]

If you said ‘people skills’ then you’re very close; having good people skills is a result of high emotional intelligence, but there’s also a lot more to it than that.

EQ is about your ability to manage the emotional states within yourself and within others.

And that sounds simple enough on the surface, right? How hard is it to manage how you’re feeling, right? To improve your mood at any given point in time... or to improve someone else’s mood? Well, as it turns out, it’s actually pretty difficult – and some people are a lot better than it than others.

It was in the mid-1990s that Daniel Goleman released the book 'Emotional Intelligence', which first introduced the idea of EQ to the public and provided a completely new language for describing a range of skills that are fundamental to superior performance in the workplace.

Goleman and dozens of other researchers have since gone on to investigate hundreds of corporations with both successful and unsuccessful sales professionals, and have found that the single greatest variable in sales performance — along with leadership and customer service — comes down to emotional intelligence.

In fact, during the last 15-20 years it has been proven that individuals who have developed their emotional intelligence are between 40-122% more effective in roles that require outcomes involving needs based sales, negotiation and service.

For you, that 40-122% could equate to thousands of dollars in commission every year, and millions of dollars in revenue for the company.

Let me give you an example… At L’Oreal, sales agents selected on the basis of certain emotional competencies significantly outsold salespeople selected using the company’s old selection procedure. On an annual basis, salespeople selected on the basis of emotional competence sold $91,370 more than other salespeople did, for a net revenue increase of $2,558,360. Salespeople selected on the basis of emotional competence also had 63% less turnover during the first year than those selected in the typical way (Spencer & Spencer, 1993; Spencer, McClelland, & Kelner, 1997).

Becoming more emotionally intelligent is one of the most important undertakings you can make as a sales professional.

This training will include the role that emotions play in buyer decision-making, the benefits of becoming more emotionally intelligent, your own emotional intelligence as measured by the TTI EQ Profile, and how simple adjustments that you can make in your interactions with people on a daily basis can lead to significant increases in sales; and also a host of other benefits for the organisation as well as you personally."

Following this introduction, some of the areas you may wish to cover include: the chemistry of emotions and the structure of the brain, the major contributors to the field of emotional intelligence, the difference between EQ and IQ, and major research findings on EQ as they relate to sales and business performance.

The choice of topics will ultimately depend on the learning objectives and the amount of time available.

In our experience, salespeople are usually less interested in a university-style course that covers the full history and background of EI, and more interested in how to use the tool from a practical workplace perspective.

With this in mind, participants should begin the next phase of the training with an overview of the 5 key emotional intelligence competencies and relevant sub factors. These core competencies help to provide a framework for understanding and assessing the different factors that lead to superior sales performance.

It's worthwhile to have the sales staff participate in activities and discussions that highlight each of the core competencies by illustrating what a high score could potentially look like, versus a low score. For fun, you might wish you use these famous characters.

At this point, it is a good idea to present the sales staff with their EQ profiles (or some specific parts of them) so that they can relate the principles to their own situation.

For those with low scores in any domain, it's important to communicate that it's not uncommon and that very few people score high in all 5 domains. What's more, emotional intelligence is a skill — not an innate talent. Like any other skill, people can get better at it with training and practice.

Once the salespeople have a grounded understanding of the emotional intelligence research, core competencies, and a peak at their profiles, you can then move on to what each individual can do to improve their emotional intelligence and interact with their customers more effectively. This might include training on the DISC profile, which is one of the most simple and practical frameworks for improving emotional intelligence and communicating with customers more effectively.

Key Benefits Summary of EQ Profiling and Training for Sales Managers/Salespeople:

  • Improve Sales Performance: With an emotional intelligence development plan, salespeople will learn how to improve their own performance by identifying and targeting the skills that have the most significant impact on performance within their role.
  • Better at Communicating, Managing Relationships and Building Trust: Emotionally intelligent teams are alert and responsive to emotional clues given by customers, which will help them show sensitivity and understand others' perspectives. They will therefore be better equipped to build rapport and trust, which is integral to any service-based organisation.
  • Better Resilience: Emotionally intelligent sales team are better able to deal with disappointments, challenges and obstacles by being supportive and encouraging of each other during tense or stressful situations that might otherwise diminish their performance.
  • More Energised and Engaged Team: Since a person's direct manager has the most direct impact on their productivity, health and well being, team members that work for emotionally intelligent managers are far more willing to pursue goals beyond what's required or expected of them.
  • Shared Language: The sales manager and sales staff will have a comprehensive framework for discussing the key competencies/skills that are vital to success.
  • Heightened Awareness: Training in EQ helps the sales managers and their team to become more aware of the best ways to communicate and interact with each other, and what steps the manager should to take in order to find the right 'equilibrium' with each team member.
  • Blind Spots: An accurate EQ profile helps reveal potential weaknesses that the individual was not aware of.
  • Faster Learning Cycle: When a work environment fosters emotional intelligence, people are able to be more open to receiving candid feedback and new perspectives so that they can become better.
  • Better at Critiquing Others: Sales managers with well developed EQ are able to give negative feedback (about a person or their work) in a way that the individual does not take offense and actually seeks to improve their performance. Managers are therefore better positioned to offer useful feedback and identify people's needs for further growth.
  • Reduce Conflict/Misunderstandings: Emotionally intelligent teams are more aware and sensitive to each others needs and wants, and can prevent problems before they arise within the group.
  • Coach with Impartial Feedback: Team members will more readily accept negative feedback from a computerised assessment than they would if they were to hear the same feedback from their manager or another individual, making the EQ profile an invaluable coaching tool.

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