September 5th, 2018 | by

I’m David Sill, Head of Sales Enablement at ZoomInfo Powered by DiscoverOrg. Today we’re going to be discussing emotional intelligence – or, more specifically, four things that you can try to marshal your emotions towards greater sales success.

As sales leader Jeb Blout says about sales emotional intelligence: “Mastery of sales-specific emotional intelligence explains why one person becomes an ultra-high sales performer while another is just average – even though the intellectual ability, knowledge, and available sales tools and technology of the two people are equal.”

Sales emotional intelligence is helpful in understanding prospects’ problems, overcome their objections, and closing a deal that everyone is happy with.

So what is “emotional intelligence”?


For starters, let’s talk about what emotional intelligence actually is.

In his 1995 best-selling book of the same name, author Daniel Goleman says emotional intelligence is simply our ability to recognize, understand, and control our own emotions – as well as to recognize, understand, and influence the emotions of the people that we deal with. In Goleman’s rendering of emotional intelligence, you have both self-awareness and self-management, then you also have relational awareness and relational management.

Before we get started with some practical examples that you can apply in your selling efforts immediately, I want to talk about a tendency when emotions come up in a selling context.

For most of us, I think our minds gravitate towards the negative possibility. Which is to say, when I think about controlling emotions, I think, Hey, Dave, don’t let your emotions get the best of you or you’re going to lose the sale. Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment.

All these sort of negative connotations of emotions, in the context of selling.

It’s important to be mindful of the fact that there’s a positive side to the ledger as well.

For instance, if I as a sales person tell a really compelling story with terrific conviction, that is a conscious intention on my part to marshal my emotions. But it’s a very positive version of emotional intelligence, as opposed to knee-jerk negative thinking.

Always keep in mind that there’s two sides to that coin, positive and negative, and you should be conscientious about both.

As a good exercise, draw a simple four box quadrant. You could, at any point in your selling life, choose to focus on this or that discipline. If you read more of Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence (and there’s plenty out there to read), you’ll see that there are disciplines that fall in each one of these quadrants.

I’m going to give you four ideas that you can apply in your selling.

1. Sales emotional intelligence builds self-confidence

One discipline under self-awareness is self-confidence. A strategy that I find helpful in considering and intentionally marshaling your emotions as they relate to self-confidence is what I like to call, “Change your what-if.”

video sales emotional intelligence

Let me explain.

Sales professionals (including myself) will usually focus on the sales cycle, and the prospect that you’re trying to sell something to, in a negative way. As a salesperson, you’re always under pressure to hit your number and achieve your quota to help the team and to help your own paycheck. Thus, we harp on, What if I don’t get this sale? What if this one falls out of my pipeline?

Whereas there’s a much more positive way to harness self-confidence in a selling context, and that is to look at it from the opposite point of view.

Don’t think of it as “What if I, as a seller, don’t get this deal?” Instead, look at it as, “What if my prospect doesn’t get my product?” Or, “What if my prospect doesn’t get the benefit that my service provides?”

As soon as you start looking at it through that lens, it changes the negative of that emotion of self-confidence into something more positive and empathetic.

This is one example of how you could intend a better outcome by controlling your emotions.

2. Increase empathy

Another self-management tool is empathy. We know what empathy is: Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and trying to look at the world from that perspective.

There is a powerful idea that I’ve used, where I tried to cast the customer as the hero in the movie that I’m trying to show.

What do I mean? Let me use an example from ZoomInfo Powered by DiscoverOrg: We work with a particular client, and because of the quality and the accuracy of the data and the sales intelligence that we provided, the demand generation team at this particular client was able to take a very meaningful metric in their world and improve it 14x over.

If I am telling that story, it would be easy for me to stop after I said, “Well, we took the marketing qualified leads and improved them by 14x, the conversion of a marketing qualified lead, over to a existing active opportunity in our sales funnel.”

That’s good to tell the numerical part of the story, but to cast the customer as hero, what I should be talking about is how a life was changed by way of that 14x improvement, the human angle.

For example, I want to continue and talk about how this 14x improvement was the most successful, important, and impactful thing that they did as a team all year long. As a result, people got bonuses. And maybe the team was rewarded with a team building excursion together, and maybe that allowed them to get to know each other as people.

There’s this whole, wonderful narrative that unfolds, if you use empathy, and put yourself in the shoes of that hero. The story might start with numbers: “Well, okay, there was this business outcome, and there’s these numbers, these before and after statistics attached to that business outcome.”

But what about the narrative that also goes along with that? That’s an important piece, and that’s a great example of how you can really take your empathy in a selling situation to a higher level.

3. Find greater transparency

Okay, let’s move over to the other side of the equation.

If I think about social awareness, one of the disciplines there is the idea of transparency in sales. By transparency, I mean that as a seller you gain terrific credibility by just being just straight up and throwing your cards on the table. It’s a key advantage.

sales emotional intelligence Dave Sill

Under transparency, as a discipline, I like to tell the people that I coach to assert their rights.

This might seem counterintuitive, because in selling somebody something, it’s common to defer to the prospect’s wishes – “the customer is always right” – but it’s important to remember that you’re doing a job and your time is worth something, too.

It’s fair play to ask the prospect: “Hey, what budget has been set aside for this?” Or ask questions around what key stakeholders are going to be involved in the decision, and whether you can get them into the next meeting.

That might seem a bit pushy, but again, I think that everybody that I deal with has a lot of respect for that. As a seller, if you assert your rights and ask straight questions about the buying process, stakeholders involved, budget, and timeline – that’s an example of bringing transparency to the table in a way that is going to positively help your credibility.

4. Use emotional sales intelligence to be a change catalyst

Lastly, there is the notion in Goleman’s work of being a change catalyst.

sales emotional intelligence

Being a change catalyst is exactly as it sounds. One consideration that I like to encourage in my coaching is to offer new possibilities.

Once again, if I am taking into account how I might be able to marshal my emotions towards a more successful sales outcome, one of the things that I can do is cast new vision, cast new possibilities, for the person that I’m speaking to. Most people that you bump into in a sales cycle are obviously operating under whatever their status quo looks like today – and often the prize goes to the person that can offer a compelling new way.

Once again, let me use a DiscoverOrg example. In DiscoverOrg’s world, our buyers are used to the fact that third-party data is typically unreliable. It’s typically inaccurate. It’s outdated, and sometimes, it’s a complete waste of money: That’s the status-quo thinking that attends to most of our sales cycles. So it’s imperative as sellers that we cast a new possibility. We say to the people that we’re trying to sell to: “Hey, it doesn’t have to be that way. There is another possibility. Let me show you what that is.”

Instead of scrambling around all day trying to find a direct phone number or figure out who’s responsible for an area of the business, what if they simply had that at their fingertips? What if, instead of that taking an hour of their time – frustrating them and killing their morale – what if they had instant access to what they needed, so they could skip straight to the selling without spending so much time with the prospecting?

That’s another example of kind of the managing of the relational side of emotions.

There’s much more to say here, but in the end, the one emotion that is not your friend as a seller is worrying.

Worrying never buys you anything. Rather than spend time worrying, I suggest that you spend time controlling the things that you can control. By using a very simple four-quadrant grid and some of these findings on emotional intelligence, you too can harness this to a greater end for yourself.

This has been Whiteboard Wednesday. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel, and offer commentary, if you’d like. I hope you got some value out of this. Have a good day.

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About the author

David Sill

David Sill built an inside sales engine for PC Helps Support, Inc. (now known as Vitalyst) that posted 14 consecutive years of high-margin, YoY revenue growth from inside sales, including two private equity-sponsored liquidity events and one dividend recapitalization. After PC Helps, he went solo as a sales coach and consultant, helping both smaller start-ups and established inside sales teams leverage the power of effective storytelling. This led to David's affiliation with Redwood Shores-based Zyme Solutions, who brought him in to launch an inside sales function for the first time in that company's 10+ year history as a leader in the Channel Data Management (CDM) space. He resides in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and four daughters.