Emotional intelligence

‘Emotional intelligence’ as a concept has been around since the 1960s. Whilst people often speak about it, not everybody understands what it actually means.

This article takes a look at what emotional intelligence entails. It also looks at why emotional intelligence is important in sales.

World-renowned American psychologist, Daniel Goleman, made emotional intelligence popular in 1995. In his best-selling book ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ‘, Goleman breaks emotional intelligence into 5 key elements.

These elements are all soft skills that can be learnt. They are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Daniel Goleman’s findings come from the frontiers of psychology and neuroscience. He shines a light on our “two minds” – the rational mind and the emotional mind – and how they together shape our destiny.

“In a sense we have two brains, two minds – and two different kinds of intelligence: rational and emotional.” Daniel Goleman

Any good salesperson will tell you that sales is more about emotion than it is about logic. It goes to show, then, why emotional intelligence is important in sales.

The first skill – Self-awareness – is pretty self-explanatory. It encourages us to be aware of our feelings. For thousands of years, many cultures dissuaded us from showing our true feelings. This has lead to us feeling uncomfortable to do so. But, if we do not pay attention to our emotions, we will never be able to control them.

In sales, it is important that a salesperson is aware of his emotions before heading to meet a client. Ensuring he is in the right ‘mood’ could make the difference between a sale or no sale. Salespeople who are self-aware are also quicker to bounce back from rejection… a very useful skill in sales.

The second skill – Self-management – explains the need for us to control our emotions. The truth is – we can not avoid getting angry, frustrated, sad or feeling other emotions. What we can do is stop ourselves from staying angry, frustrated or sad for hours, days or longer. I explain to delegates never to give away the remote control for their feelings but to keep it in their own hands. Easier said than done but it gets easier with practice.

Imagine if a salesperson was heading to meet a client and their car broke down or they had a flat tyre. The situation is bound to cause frustration. But if the salesperson was able to manage his emotions and remain calm, the client meeting could go ahead as planned. It may happen a bit later but the incident with the car should not impact the outcome of the meeting.

Self-motivation is the third skill to master when developing your emotional intelligence. It’s one thing to manage your emotions so that you are no longer angry or frustrated. It is another thing all together to then feel positive and motivated.

It is this type of self-motivation that creates top salespeople. No matter what is going on around them, they will muster up the energy and motivation to make things happen. They will get creative and work all night to pull in the sales to reach their targets.

The first three skills relate to us as individuals. They involve self-reflection. They focus on our ability to identify what we are feeling, and why, and take action to improve how we feel.

The final two skills focus on the people we come into contact with. Friends, family, colleagues, clients. They refer to how we interact with these individuals and what we can do to improve relationships.

Let’s move on to the fourth skill – empathy. Empathy is all about understanding the other person. Like ‘putting yourself in their shoes’. It involves active listening… not only listening with our ears but truly paying attention to the other person. It’s about imagining how we would feel if we were in the other person’s situation. Some people are born with a lot of empathy. Others not at all. The good news is – it is a skill you can learn.

The right amount of empathy is super useful in sales. It enables the salesperson to understand the client’s needs. Not only that, they will be much more patient as not all clients are quick to make decisions.

The final element – social skills – is all about building relationships. Getting to know people and building strong networks.

The best salespeople find it easy to build rapport and build long-term relationships. They are also able to ‘read the room’ and adjust their own actions to get the best possible outcome.

It was stated in a December 2020 Forbes article, that emotional intelligence is needed now more than ever. 

An April 2020 article in Business.com states that salespeople with high emotional intelligence are better at:


  • Overcoming objections
  • Handling rejection
  • Building rapport
  • Delayed gratification
  • And may make better managers

While it is important in all areas of business, it is clear to see why emotional intelligence is important in sales.

Would you like to learn how to better leverage emotional intelligence as part of your sales activities? If yes, book a complimentary consultation with our Learning and Development Specialists today


Corrina Cross

Corrina is a People Skills Consultant & Facilitator who is passionate about developing people’s mindset and people skills (‘soft skills’) in order to increase productivity and, ultimately, the bottom line.

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