Sales Tips

Leveraging Emotional Intelligence in B2B Sales

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April 18, 2024

3 mins read

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Leveraging Emotional Intelligence in B2B Sales

Emotional intelligence (EI) — or emotional quotient (EQ) — refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. It’s a critical aspect of human psychology that influences our behavior, decision-making, and interpersonal relationships.

EI has five key components:

  1. Self-awareness: the ability to recognize and understand one’s emotions.
  2. Self-regulation: managing one’s emotions in a healthy way
  3. Motivation: in this case, intrinsic motivation … being motivated by things beyond external rewards like fame, money, or recognition.
  4. Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
  5. Social skills: to help build relationships, lead teams, negotiate, and excel in social interactions.

A high level of emotional intelligence is often a quality of successful individuals — in life and the business world.

This article will explore the complexity of emotional intelligence and how a deeper understanding of it can lead to better communication in sales and marketing. We’ll discuss how to better one’s emotional intelligence (and why it’s so important) and tactics for utilizing a strong emotional awareness in sales and marketing.

The importance of emotional intelligence

As Steve Jobs once said, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”

Quotes like this and “Know thy customer” stress the importance of understanding your buyer.

Any sales and marketing person (and product and finance and HR and every department in an organization) will tell you this: the more you know about your customer, the better off you’ll be. 

Deep customer knowledge is as crucial as understanding your company’s products or services.

Emotional intelligence is your BFF.

It’s not just about what you are communicating but how you connect and resonate with your audience.

At the core of emotional intelligence is the interplay of our abilities to recognize, understand, manage, and use emotions effectively in ourselves and others.

So how does emotional intelligence impact sales and marketing?

Sales: understanding the emotional pulse of your potential customer can be the difference between closing a deal and missing an opportunity. Emotional intelligence allows sales professionals to read subtle cues, tweak their approach, and respond in ways that align with the emotional state and needs of the customer.

Emotional intelligence in sales is all about creating a connection that goes beyond the transactional nature of sales and fosters trust and loyalty.

Marketing: emotional intelligence is the foundation for creating campaigns that resonate with your audience.

Marketers with high EI can tap into the collective emotional current of their target audience, crafting messages that speak directly to their desires, fears, aspirations, and needs. This, in turn, helps to make your company relatable and the message impactful.

Emotional intelligence is not a “one-and-done” skill. Instead, it’s malleable and can be developed and refined over time.

For sales and marketing, this means engaging in continuous self-awareness practices, honing empathy through active listening and observation, and practicing emotional regulation in high-stakes situations. It also involves understanding the psychology of motivation, both in oneself and in the customer, to create messages and strategies that inspire action.

Example: A salesperson is on a video call with a buyer. There is nothing specific the buyer is saying that would lead the sales rep to doubt the deal moving forward. However, thanks to a high level of EI, the rep can sense the customer’s hesitation through tone and body language.

Example: A marketer does not dial up a campaign that is generic and broad. Instead, they create a campaign that taps into a shared emotional experience that elevates the brand’s relevance … and leads buyers to enter the sales funnel with strong, positive emotions.

How improving your emotional intelligence helps in sales and marketing

In How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, author and Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman argues that 95% of all cognition occurs in the subconscious mind.

It turns out emotion is what is really driving purchasing behaviors and decision-making in general.

Let’s examine a few examples of how emotional intelligence helps sales reps and marketing teams.

In sales, high emotional intelligence leads to …

Stronger relationships
Sales is fundamentally about building relationships. By improving your EI, you can better understand and respond to the emotions of your clients or customers, fostering deeper trust and loyalty. The net result? Long-term relationships and repeat business.

Improved persuasion skills
Understanding and aligning with the emotional states of potential buyers can significantly increase your ability to persuade. By tapping into the emotions that drive customers’ decisions, you can tailor your sales pitches to resonate more deeply and effectively.

Better conflict resolution and increased resilience
Sales often involve navigating objections and resolving issues. A high EI enables you to approach conflicts or objections with empathy, reducing the chances of escalation and finding solutions that satisfy all parties involved. Don’t take it personally!

High EI also helps you stay motivated and resilient in the face of challenges.

In marketing, high emotional intelligence leads to …

Campaigns that resonate with buyers
Emotional intelligence helps marketers create content that engages, inspires, and moves people to action (getting them into the sales funnel). By understanding the emotional triggers of your target market, you are more likely to be inspired towards action.

A better connection with your brand
Brands with high EI create strong emotional connections with their customers, transforming “casual customers” into brand advocates, fostering loyalty, and enhancing customer lifetime value.

Improved team collaboration
Top marketing teams excel in teamwork. High EI teams are better communicators and collaborators. Understanding and managing team dynamics can lead to more innovative and successful marketing strategies.

Ability to adapt to market changes quickly
Emotional intelligence involves awareness of one’s environment — a crucial marketing skill. Understanding and quickly adapting to the emotional pulse of the market will give your brand a competitive edge.

High emotional intelligence also has enormous cross-functional benefits — communication, decision-making, and leadership development, to name a few.

TL;DR: Spending time and money improving your emotional intelligence is a no-brainer.

But how? Is EI something that can be learned, or is it just intrinsic?

The answer: Both.

How to improve your emotional intelligence

It’s 100% true that some people are naturally inclined towards a high emotional intelligence. However, EI can also be a learned skill.
Let’s revisit the five components: Self-awareness. Self-regulation. Motivation. Empathy. Social skills.

  1. Cultivating self-awareness: Become more attuned to your own emotions by regularly reflecting on your feelings —journaling and mindfulness practices, for example. Both can provide invaluable insights into your emotional patterns and triggers.Self-awareness is the foundation for all other aspects of EI, as understanding yourself is key to understanding others.
  2. Mastering self-regulation: Once you’re aware of your emotions, it’s time to learn to manage them. Deep breathing, pausing before reacting, and positive self-talk can all be helpful.
  3. Becoming a pro at intrinsic motivation: The key is to focus on aligning your job with your inner beliefs and passions. This alignment helps with intrinsic motivation… which leads to more resiliency, focus, and energy. Enthusiasm is contagious!
  4. Expanding empathy: Empathy is the bridge that connects us to others. To develop it, practice active listening, genuinely focus on understanding people’s perspectives (as opposed to sharing your point of view immediately), and respond with compassion. Remember, empathy is not just about understanding other’s feelings but also about acknowledging and validating their emotions.
  5. Enhancing social skills: Finally, sharpen your social skills by practicing effective communication, conflict resolution, and teamwork. Being emotionally intelligent means not only understanding your emotions and those of others but also knowing how to navigate them in social settings to foster positive interactions and relationships.

Strong emotional intelligence skills will give your team a leg up, especially in sales and marketing

In sales, EI helps you to understand and connect with your customers on a deeper level — building trust and engagement along the way.

In marketing, EI can be the creative spark to help you craft messaging that resonates with your various personas and move them to action.

Striving to improve your EI helps you improve and grow as a person. However, as business leaders, investing in increasing your team’s emotional intelligence can be a strategic play.

But remember, like any skill, EI requires practice, patience, and persistence.

In the world of sales and marketing, where emotions drive decisions, the higher your EI, the better chance you will have for long-term success.

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B2B Go-To-Market Suite, Demandbase

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