Few would argue that selling is an emotional event. Emotions of both the buyer and the seller play a large role in the success of the salesperson. We believe that a foundation sales skill is emotional intelligence.
Over the last 30 years I have hired over 150 sales people. Some have been successful, others have not. In the beginning we hired people that we believed would be successful based on past experience and “gut” feeling. We were right a fair amount of the time but were inconsistent and believed we could do a better job of identifying those with superior sales potential. There were two things we felt had a greater impact on the hiring of successful salespeople than any others.
First, we felt that it was important to do a better job in the interview process, so we developed a tool to help us with that. Second, we believed there was a way to gain greater insight into what you could not readily see in a candidate and began using assessments to give us a better idea of what was “under the hood” of a candidate.
We tried many different assessments. We were entirely open to new insight and evaluated some that measured personality, motivators and even selling skills. There was value in all, but the greatest predictor of sales success was an assessment that measured emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence (EI) embodies and often drives personality, values and behavior as well as other critical selling skills, such as Assertiveness, Empathy, Optimism and Self-regard. Realizing that there may be a composite view that could be helpful, we spent considerable time evaluating a number of different instruments.
Possibly our most important discovery was that everyone had somewhat different selling styles, styles that appeared to be driven by different strengths, many of them emotional. Recognizing that different sales jobs required different selling styles (retail sales vs. technical sales, sales that depended upon what you knew rather that who you knew, etc) it seemed to make sense to first clearly understand the needs of the job, and match strengths of candidates to the needs of the job. Additionally, we discovered that candidates with higher levels of emotional intelligence (EI) were more likely to excel in a selling role than those who had lower levels of EI. With that in mind, we decided to do two things on a regular basis: Identify the selling style needed for each job and match the strengths of a selected sales candidate up with the needs of the sales job and to hire only candidates with high EI scores.
For the most part, we were able to identify five different types of sales jobs and their behavioral needs. Here are the five sales job categories:
The job that required a high level of cold-calling
The job that required a high level of communication
The job that required relationship building
The job that required technical knowledge and problem solving
The job that required exuberance and patience
We named the five different selling styles needed for each job. The name was determined by the emotional skill level needed to meet needs of the given job. These names, representing the emotional skills needed by a specific sales job, helped us to remember the skills that person could deliver. They are:
The Star-someone with strong self-esteem, self-regard , self-awareness and someone who had a clear picture of who they were (Self-Perception).
The Orator-a person with superior communication skills, driven by an ability to assertively express themselves and make decisions on their own (Emotional Expression).
The Networker-someone drawn to others, who works at understanding others and has a sense of responsibility to society (Interpersonal).
The Consultant-someone who is inspired by the need to solve a problem, has a good sense of reality and great emotional control (Decision Maker).
The Seer-someone who is optimistic, manages stress well and is flexible with the uses of their talents (Stress Management).
In final analysis, two important points need be made; One, sales candidates with higher levels of emotional skills, generally make better salespeople, and Two, not every sales job is alike and different sales jobs require different skills. Matching individual skills with specific job needs is a formula for sales success.