Why Emotional Intelligence Matters to Sales Leaders

Sales leadership is challenging. Not only do you have to focus your team on their collective revenue goals, but also work on development and coaching for continual personal growth. Building a culture of emotional intelligence and stability helps you and your team thrive, both personally and professionally. Sales reps face many hurdles to overcome, and the more they’re equipped with a process to deal with the challenges of day-to-day sales, the better off they’ll be.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The ability of a salesperson to detect, understand, and successfully employ the power of their own emotions during interactions with buyers is what we mean when we talk about emotional intelligence (EI) in sales. EI is, in other words, your capacity to establish strong personal connections with customers.

According to some academics, emotional intelligence is more crucial to professional success than IQ. Even a salesperson with an IQ of 180—considered “profoundly gifted”—won’t succeed in closing a deal without effectively using their intuition and empathy skills. The most exciting news of all? EI, unlike IQ, is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and improved upon with time and effort.

Sales leadership should be focused on empowering your sales reps.
Sales leadership should be focused on empowering your sales reps.

Building Emotional Intelligence Skills

Your level of self-awareness has a significant impact on how a prospect regards you. You may exert more control over interactions with prospects and the results of these interactions if you can recognize your own emotions and how they affect your prospects’ responses.

When interacting with customers, a salesperson who possesses strong emotional intelligence is able to perceive, comprehend, and use their own emotions to their advantage.

Sales representatives who frequently become sidetracked by their emotions during the sales experience issues such as:

  • Presenting solutions that are off-target
  • Leaving value on the table
  • Asking insufficient or the wrong questions
  • Failing to establish themselves as a trusted advisor

How therefore can you use EI more effectively in your own sales calls to avoid these problems? Begin by dividing EI into its four parts:

  1. Managing stress
  2. Learning from failure
  3. Positive surroundings
  4. Self-management

By working through each of these fundamental elements of emotional intelligence with your sales team, you can improve your team’s working lives, and add revenue to the bottom line.

Managing Stress

Any sales manager knows that stress is inevitable throughout the daily work of a sales rep. Salespeople are tasked to deliver revenue quotas that may feel out of their control, prospecting for new business opportunities, becoming masters of their product, and dealing with clients—both good and bad. And that’s just a small portion of the work that goes into daily sales activities. Sure, a percentage of people enjoy fast-paced and arduous levels of work, but it’s safe to say they’re in the minority, and the rest of your team is going to get stressed out.

The best way to manage stress-inducers is to develop a culture of predictable conversations. That means having scheduled weekly 1:1 meetings with each rep on your team and allowing them to have to space to air their problems. Work on being a sounding board for your team and build a culture of advocacy for your reps to lean back on. Sales is a lot less stressful when you feel the manager is on your side, and as sales leaders, it’s important to provide honest feedback with actionable and predictable sales plans to follow.

Enabling your sales team can help reduce daily stress.
Enabling your sales team can help reduce daily stress.

Learning from Failure

Everyone fails. This is a saying that probably dates back to when you were a kid, yet somehow in the business world, it’s ignored. B2B leaders can easily be pulled into the “hyper-growth” mindset and preach a message of “flawless execution”, which is not only impossible to attain, but fairly harmful to the main goal of a sales team. If we know failure is inevitable, then why not create a space where it’s encouraged?

If salespeople feel like they can work outside of the box (within reason of course), then they feel enabled to try new things. These new approaches won’t always yield the best results, but it’s important to learn from those mistakes to create a more well-rounded salesperson. As sales managers, you should be okay with your team failing, because it creates more efficient salespeople, and in turn, more successful managers.

Positive Surroundings

What and who we choose to surround ourselves with is extremely important in our day-to-day lives. If we have friends or family that are regularly tearing us down, or a home that is disorganized, then life can feel chaotic. Business leadership is no different. Your team will always perform best in a realm of positivity than in a vacuum of pessimism.

This doesn’t mean you should ignore harsh truths, but instead, try to mitigate the negatives with more positives. In improv comedy, there’s a methodology that we should say “yes, and” instead of “yes, but,” and that approach works wonders in the business environment. Instead of shutting down conversation with a negative response, instead look to create a culture of positive feedback that turns into actionable results.


As mentioned already, there is a lot a salesperson needs to do in order to keep up with their work. Teaching time management is part of every sales leadership book or guide you might read. Mostly because there is a huge disconnect in how salespeople view what needs to be done, versus what is expected of them. Instead of managing down, you should try to manage alongside your sales team and help them create good self-management tools.

Self-management in sales can look different for each rep. You can get started by trying following:

  • Developing SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) plans to help assess what your team can work on each day.
  • Keep a daily sales journal that shows work completed, and work that needs to be done to provide visibility into what is being accomplished.
  • Perform regular “ride-alongs” with individual team members so they can show you their specific work process.

Essentially, you want to create methods for salespeople to improve their work, in turn enabling consistent work patterns. Self-management creates a more peaceful perspective in what can be a high-stress work environment.

What to Do Next

Emotional intelligence is a practice that can be learned and there are a ton of resources available to you help you.

As you grow your outbound sales team and work towards creating a more conversational work culture, there are additional ways to supplement your team’s activity. DemandScience offers scalable SDR-as-a-Service solutions that not only take the stress off your reps, but also provides qualified leads and appointments for them to work. Want to learn more? We offer a free consultation with a specialist to walk you through the details.