The Importance of Emotional Intelligence for Sales Reps


Imagine rolling into the office in the morning, ready for a full day of back-to-back client meetings only to look at your schedule and find 3 out of 5 of cancellations. How would you react? Perhaps you would be happy just to know that you’ve got a meeting with 2 great prospects… Perhaps you would be thrilled about having time to do some more prospecting… Perhaps you would simply feel great about having a day to take it easy. But sometimes your light-hearted disposition takes a different turn. Your mood derails, you get discouraged, and you forget that today is wonderful just the way it is and absolutely nothing can stand in your way.

In one form or another, we’ve all experienced days that get the best of us. But how do we counter these emotions? How do we overcome the forces that aren’t within our control knowing that no matter what happens, we will make the most out of any situation? Let’s examine how top performing sales reps exercise Emotional Intelligence (EI) to achieve success and contribute to revenue growth for their organizations.

What Makes for a Successful Sales Rep

There are many key factors that make for a successful sales rep, but there is one quality that stands above the rest; and that’s Emotional Intelligence. A study of over 40 Fortune 500 companies revealed that salespeople with high Emotional Intelligence outperformed those with medium to low EI by 50%. Emotional Intelligence applies to everyone, but it is the key trait of top performing sales reps. According to the Business Dictionary, Emotional Intelligence is defined as:

“The ability to identify, assess and influence one’s own feelings and those of others”

Emotional Intelligence is an aptitude that can be trained and developed. It has taken years for the most successful sales reps to achieve high EI in an effort to improve their sales processes. Below is a list of the 4 major components of Emotional Intelligence that characterize top performing sales reps.

1. Self Awareness

Having a clear perception of the kind of personality you demonstrate to your prospects and customers is a key element to self awareness. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows you to emphasize the positive aspects of your personality. It allows you to better understand how the customer perceives you and grants you the ability to respond according to their needs. Self awareness is the first step in interacting with prospects and customers, enabling the sales rep to build the relationship based on relatability and understanding.

2. Self management

Another key skill that Emotional Intelligence encompasses is self-management – keeping your impulses under control. Self awareness doesn’t have any value if you can’t control your emotions. Letting emotions get the best of you puts your ability to make connections with customers at risk. In an effort to adapt to any situation, you need to keep your emotions in check, because that’s what will translate into maintaining rock solid relationships with your prospects and customers.

3. Social Awareness

Having social awareness allows you to assess a situation objectively, and puts you in another person’s shoes; so when you get a couple of client cancellations, you don’t focus on how this has negatively impacted your day, but you focus on practicing empathy. You try to figure out why the cancellation took place and drive the relationship forward based on the circumstance. Sales reps that practice social awareness persevere through rejection, and are not only aware of their own actions, but try to understand the actions of others.

4. Relationship Management

Delivering an excellent customer experience is argely based on good relationship management. Nurturing relationships is an ongoing practice. It can take months and even years to build a strong relationship with a customer. The strengths and bonds between a client and a sales rep are based on how well you carry the relationship forward, and achieving this is largely dependent on EI.


The importance of enhancing emotional intelligence comes with the territory when dealing with customers. Sales reps in the beginning of their careers have very different attributes as compared to those in their later years after gained experience. What’s more is that companies who do a better job of communicating with their employees outperform those who do not, financially. On average a company with an exceptional communications program delivered a 47% greater return to shareholders than the least communicative firms. If you feel that you lack in emotional intelligence and things at times get the best of you, don’t fret – it’s just a key part of growing as a sales rep. How effective is your sales exec at managing emotional intelligence among your team members? Have you seen growth in your own EI over the span of your career?

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