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How much EQ do you need to sell a carton of beer?


"How much emotional intelligence do you need to sell a packet of chips or a carton of beer?".

The words uttered by the new Chief Executive of an organisation; someone who is skeptical of training and coaching and people development in general.

So let's examine that statement. "How much emotional intelligence do you actually need to sell a packet of chips or a carton of beer?"

Well, it turns out maybe not a lot for that first packet. But if you want that customer coming back again and again for more beer and chips, what does it take?

I'd say you need a good dose of self awareness to start off with - understanding how your emotions affect your interactions with your customers. If you've been having a bad day, you don't want those emotions being projected on to the people walking into your store! An awareness of others' emotional states also helps a great deal. If a customer wants to start a conversation with you and all you care about is transacting the sale, chances are that customer might go someplace else next time. People need people! Especially in this new reality of lockdowns and isolation, people sometimes just want to get out and have a real conversation with someone, even if its with the person they're buying a carton of beer from! On the other hand, if all a person wants to do is get those chips in a hurry and get out the door, and all you want to do is talk about how your day went and how the Blues did in the game last night, you might end up with an annoyed, impatient and possibly agitated customer!

Having a degree of Empathy also helps to diffuse any potential conflicts! Last year, during out first COVID lockdown, literally thousands of people rushed out to liquor stores to stock up. The lines around a number of liquor stores in the West of my city grew long with impatient, agitated customers, some of whom had arrived at the stores from across town, where the rules stated that people needed to stay home and only make quick trips within a 10km radius. When told that customers who had arrived from outside of that zone couldn't be served, some become agitated, frustrated and angry. Store managers who demonstrated empathy to these customers helped defuse any potential conflict and violence. Putting themselves in the shoes of these frustrated customers, understanding where they were coming from was a significant catalyst for de-escalating any potential incidents.

I've highlighted just three elements of Emotional Intelligence that can significantly affect customer service and customer retention, however factors like Emotional Expression, Assertiveness, Self Regard, Optimism, Flexibility, Interpersonal Relationships and Stress Tolerance also play a big role in being a successful, happier, more fulfilled sales person.

What we know from the research is that increased emotional intelligence leads to higher sales and greater profits. There are specific, measurable and scientifically validated results to demonstrate this.

In one study, it was demonstrated that an individual's EQ test scores accounted for 32% of their booked sales and 71% of their pipeline sales. Higher EQ resulted in higher performance from sales representatives.

The very reason that sales fall is the human relationship gap in the sales process where salespeople who have only been told to "go out and sell' and who have not been taught the human skills needed to effectively engage customers at the emotional level.

Jeb Blount in his book, Sales EQ, says that Emotional Intelligence is "more essential to success than education, experience, industry awareness, product knowledge, skills or raw IQ" and that sales people who develop their EQ gain "a decisive competitive advantage in the global marketplace."

My friend Laurie Hillis posted an article today on LinkedIn on how leaders set the tone of communication by what they choose to focus on. If a Chief Executive chooses to believe that emotional intelligence isn't necessary for his people its one thing. But to communicate that to the people and the teams that make up that organisation - that creates the mindset and beliefs of everyone in that organisation, which then drives their behaviour which produces results. Ignoring the obvious benefits that EQ brings to sales can be a fatal flaw when competing in today's marketplace!


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