Emotional Intelligence plays a crucial role in sales as it enables sales professionals to better understand their clients’ needs, build stronger relationships, and achieve greater success.

Historically, sales organizations focus primarily on building hard sales skills in their sales teams.

A salesperson’s ability is directly tied to their skills in prospecting for new clients, creating sales opportunities, and closing deals.

However, a critical component of sales success that cannot be overlooked is sales reps’ ability to display high emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence in Sales?

Emotional intelligence, sometimes called emotional quotient (EQ), is the ability to be aware of one’s own emotional state and the emotions of other people and manage them productively.

The concept of emotional intelligence was first introduced in the mid-1900s by science writer Daniel Goleman.

He proposed that emotional control is measured on your own abilities in five areas. Let’s examine each of these to see how they relate to professional success.

First, though, let’s make sure we understand why emotional intelligence in sales is so important.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important for a Sales Team?

Emotionally intelligent sales professionals have an advantage over their non-emotionally intelligent peers.

Having high EQ skills means that a sales professional can sense and understand their own emotions while in the middle of the sales process.

This can let them improve their sales instead of knocking them off track. Sales is not a “logical” process.

A buyer and seller ultimately rely on emotional triggers and cues throughout the sale. In fact, behavioral economics is the study of how non-rational things like bias, emotion, psychology, and culture influence the economy.

The person in the sales conversation that is aware of their emotions and those of the other party is at an advantage because they won’t be distracted by their own emotional state.

A lack of emotional intelligence skills may show up in sales reps not pushing for the full value of a deal, presenting off-target solutions, not asking enough questions, or not creating meaningful connections with the buyer.

Since this is true, it makes sense that sales leadership will want to include developing emotional intelligence in sales training for their sales reps.

Types of Emotional Intelligence

Let’s review five pillars of a high emotional quotient. As we consider each, notice how they can affect job performance and get at the heart of what separates personal and professional success from lackluster performance.


Self-awareness is the ability to understand one’s own emotions. A person can identify what they are feeling and the impact it can have on their own actions and the other person.

A self-aware salesperson will likely experience greater sales performance because they have better time management surrounding their emotional state.

They actively work to control emotions so they do not anger or annoy potential customers with their own negative emotions.

The sales industry is notorious for potential customers saying “no”. Most sales professionals will have to face plenty of negative responses.

Sales professionals with high emotional intelligence can deal with rejection and not let negative emotions overtake them.

Emotional intelligence and self-awareness keep the sales rep on track even if they do sometimes experience the pain points of rejection or negative feelings.


Self-regulation is impulse control. It means that a person can control and adapt their own emotions to the situation and react appropriately.

A self-regulated salesperson doesn’t become overwhelmed by their own negative emotions.

Fear, anxiety, and irritation all have the potential to influence the approach a salesperson takes with a customer.

Being able to control these reactions and instead display enthusiasm can keep sales conversations positive.

Social Skills

Social skills refer to the critical trait of a person’s ability to “read the room”. They have social awareness and create strong emotional bonds with others.

Sales professionals work to build and maintain relationships. This is often at the very heart of what they do.

So, having well-developed social skills will let them create a large network of customers from which to draw sales opportunities.

And since social skills will become part of the salesperson’s personal brand, it will show up in all their interactions – even with co-workers.

They will excel at collaboration and improve the overall culture among the sales teams they join.


Empathy is the opposite of self-awareness. It is understanding other people’s emotions and wanting to respond productively to them.

An empathetic sales rep can discern customers’ emotional states and adapt their approach to maneuver the sales conversation in the right direction.

This is a high-performance differentiator because it means the sales professional is truly trying to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and visualize what they need.

The sales rep will engage in active listening, use follow-up questions, and intelligently recognize the client’s feelings.

This leads to outstanding customer loyalty because the client feels they are being understood.

However, a small word of caution. Too much empathy that is not balanced can cause a rep to falter.

If a salesperson is overly concerned with how they appear to the customer, it could negatively affect customer success by limiting the rep from broaching necessary subjects, like:

  • Seeking names of additional stakeholders or decision-makers
  • Asking about budgets
  • Asking for business because they are self-conscious about appearing pushy or rude


Self-motivation is the internal push to see a task through to the end or reach a goal. This is a valuable skill in one’s personal life and in the sales industry.

Sales reps who are motivated will find sales success because they:

  • Get more done each day
  • Respond well to rejection and are eager to learn from it
  • Look for ways to improve their skills
  • Are willing to try new things in order to reach their goals
  • Are coachable

How to Develop Emotional Intelligence Skills in a Sales Team

Since sales performance is tied to how well reps interact with customers, it makes sense for sales leadership to take an active interest in inspiring emotional intelligence.

Fortunately, emotional intelligence is a soft skill that can be taught and learned to improve your sales team’s performance.

And one of the best ways to teach emotional intelligence is to practice emotional intelligence.

Here are some tips on how to increase EQ across sales teams by displaying it as a sales manager.

Listen More Than You Speak

When you listen, you show that you value what another person has to say. This may mean letting a salesperson vent a little to get things off their chest.

If they are forced to bottle things up and do not have an outlet, grievances can begin to impact their sales ability.

Respond, Don’t React

Reacting means experiencing an emotional trigger and unconsciously expressing an emotional response.

Responding is more methodical. Responses are made when a person is conscious of their feelings and makes a decision about how they will respond.

Think before you speak.

Apologize When Necessary

Trust and friendship develop when a person owns up to their mistakes. Everyone has failings, don’t hide them.

Share your shortcomings and you will find that people respect you for it when you sincerely apologize for mistakes.

Walk in Their Shoes

Understanding another person’s perspective makes it easier to understand why they are resisting a particular course.

Managers who really get to know their sales team can foresee issues before they happen.

Don’t Interrupt

If a manager is too concerned with what they will say next or in controlling the conversation, other team members will not feel heard.

Practice active listening skills and do not let emotions control you and cause you to jump to conclusions, interrupt, or change the subject.

Sing Their Praises

When you see a teammate doing a good job, be ready to speak up. This makes it necessary to be in the moment and aware of what’s going on around you.

It also means knowing enough about a person to know what they need to feel fulfillment. Then praise can come in the right form and do the most good.


Does having a high emotional intelligence matter?

As we’ve seen, emotional intelligence helps sales reps in a variety of ways. Sales leaders should make an effort to encourage emotional intelligence across their teams.

This may take the form of emotional intelligence training that highlights ways each person can increase aspects of a high EQ:

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

Sales managers who put in the time and make the effort to cultivate emotional intelligence in their people will see improved sales conversations.

Reps will stay true to their own personal brand of focusing on customer success. They will display active listening skills and make the buying experience truly enjoyable.