In last week's post, we established what emotional intelligence means in relation to sales, and why it has become such a critical skill for successful sales professionals today. With that in mind, this post is aimed at providing some suggestions and guidelines to build on that foundation, and improve overall emotional intelligence.
1) Increase self-awareness and self-regulation
Though it might not seem like it initially, improving emotional intelligence is very much about establishing a sense of discipline in your work habits. Cultivating these habits will help increase overall self-awareness and self-regulation, and this will seep through in the rest of your work.
To start things off, make a daily commitment to yourself to be free of distractions and to-do lists for at least part of the day. If you are unable to invest any time in examining your behavior, you will likely end up repeating the same mistakes. The underlying principle is simple: No awareness, no change, same outcome.
You cannot change that of which you are not aware. However, it is only during downtime that you will really be able to tap into this, and be introspective by reflecting on your actions and inactions. Here are some examples of the type of questions you should ask yourself during this time:
- “What was the reason for my reaction to the customer and how could I have handled it better?”
- “What could I’ve done to prevent getting the deal stalled?”
- “Should I have included a technical expert in my demo?”
- “What went well, and how do I repeat that behavior?”
2) Learn how to empathize
A major hurdle for many sales professionals tends to be empathy, since it is often difficult to imagine yourself in unknown situations. In order to practice your empathy skills, try stepping into your customer's shoes and think about what he or she may be contemplating.
But displaying genuine empathy can be challenging, in particular when customers object to the solution you present for them. However, keep in mind that empathy is not about agreement. It simply demonstrates that you are ready and willing to hear your customer's objections, and are willing to consider their viewpoint.
Empathy is all about how you react during critical moments. Are you becoming defensive or understanding in light of overcoming a customer’s concern? Your reaction will guide the rest of the process, so demonstrating your ability to empathize with your customer, and use their objections to find a better solution is essential.
3) Master the art of assertiveness
Another challenge may be to strike a balance between being assertive, without being pushy or aggressive. To work on this, you may have to consider some tough situations and your subsequent behavior. Be honest with yourself and consider scenarios such as whether or not you feel intimidated by pricing questions - for example when someone wants a discount you can’t or don’t want to give.
How do you react in scenarios where you are encountering a negative situation? Are you able to balance your sense of empathy with assertiveness when necessary? Master the ability to disqualify a poor opportunity early in the sales process, and learn how to hold firm on pricing by knowing the value of your product or service.
Ultimately, practicing these principles is important...mainly because mastering emotional intelligence is not a process that happens overnight. It will likely require you to run through many different scenarios, both imaginary and concrete occurrences from the past, to really understand your own thought process and where these suggestions fit in. However, with consistent practice, these steps will allow you to begin harnessing the power of emotions--and use that power to work for you, instead of against you.