Emotional Intelligence and Sales

January 7, 2020
10 Minute Read

If you want to make more money in sales, you have to become more emotionally intelligent. We are going to explore emotional intelligence from a psychological perspective. This is for beginners all the way to those of you who are advanced at emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence in sales is the ability to not just accept, but to embrace any emotion that comes up within the sales process and use it to the benefit of all parties. For those of you who want to dive into the deep end of the pool and learn even more about emotional intelligence, we recommend the book, Making Contact: Uses of Language and Psychotherapy by Leston Havens. For those of you that just want to get started, we’re going to share with you some tips right now to immediately become more emotionally intelligent.



The first thing that you need to do to become more emotionally intelligent in your sales process is to anticipate the needs of the person that you're selling to. If you're used to showing up to meetings and just going through your normal process, keep in mind that your prospect isn't, and just because this is routine for you does not mean it's routine for them. You need to consistently ask yourself what they might be concerned, fearful, or wondering about as they jump onto this particular sales call.

They might be fearful that you're going to waste their time. They might already be busy, stressed, or concerned that this won’t work for them. There are all sorts of things going on within the brain of your modern buyer. So, keep in mind not to just anticipate the needs of your prospect before the first call, but throughout your entire sales process.

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Another thing that you're going to want to do is notice the pace that they're setting. When somebody shows up to a call or any sales appointment with you, often you can hear in their voice the amount of tension or urgency that they're feeling. Make sure that you appropriately calibrate yourself to that person.

If you notice that they are feeling tension, don’t slow it down too much. If they're stressed, make sure to let them know that you're excited to help them and you're going to help them efficiently. If they're relaxed, make sure that you don't jump out of the bushes and scare them with all your enthusiasm. Notice the pace that they're on and start to synchronize with their pace.


As you get into the sales conversation, there's going to be some topics that you’ll wonder if you can ask about. For example, a lot of salespeople are afraid to ask, “Is there budget for this?” or “How big is your budget?” Anything that you're afraid to ask, you can simply ask them if you can ask that question.

You might say, "Hey, I'm wondering, would it be appropriate for me to ask about budget? Could I ask that question?" That will help you feel more comfortable with asking that question. It will also make them more comfortable and give them permission to set up a boundary right there or allow them to share openly.


Another aspect of emotional intelligence is gauging how open the other person is to talk about each new topic that comes up. Somebody may be willing to talk about the technical and logistical challenges that they're facing, but less open to talking about their timeline or urgency with solving it. Just because somebody is open with you right off the bat doesn't mean you can immediately ask really difficult, tough, or confrontational questions throughout the entire process.

Every time you get to a new subject, make sure you're gauging if this person is truly comfortable enough with you on this particular topic for you to ask them direct questions or if you should ask them some more indirect questions to measure if they feel comfortable. Then start to ask those next layers of deeper questions.


Different topics in people's psychology have different levels of barriers protecting them. For some subjects, like the technical aspects of your product, it may feel like you're digging through sand, easily breaking through and making a great connection and making progress as you dig into the sales process with them.

But you may suddenly hit some rock, a hard point in the conversation that they're really sensitive about, or they seem to be kind of closed off. A way to know if they're closed off is if they are feeling a little bit evasive with you. You ask them a question and they quickly give you a very short answer, when earlier in the conversation they were elaborating more.

Or they may defensively make a joke about a subject, psychologically using humor as a way of processing emotion. When somebody is joking about something, that's a hot topic for them. You need to joke back and start to release the pressure around that topic and laugh your way through it then ask those next layers of questions.

Just because you're feeling some initial resistance with somebody who is not willing to talk about a topic that's important for you to know, make sure that you stay there, and use different tools. Use different techniques to be able to break through and get to that next layer of conversation. It just takes more trust, more empathy, and more emotional intelligence.

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A more advanced technique that top salespeople use is, they treat their prospects like friends early on in the sales process. It's a common myth that we need to be extra professional in every single meeting. People don't want to be treated so professionally, it's more impressive to be yourself and to be more relaxed and treat the people around you like friends.

That means you might be the first one to make a joke with them or the first one to bring up something personal or to talk about a feeling that maybe seems kind of weird to bring up in a business setting. The more real you are with them, like you are with your friends, the more real they're going to feel with you. And the more likely it is that they're going to be honest with you, enjoy the sales process, and continue that relationship for the long-term.

Now, for brand new salespeople, this is something you want to be careful with. If you start to build a friendship with them and you're trying to act more like you act with your friends, but your relationships with your friends are a little bit more immature, you definitely don't want to bring that to the table. This is for very nuanced top salespeople and people that really want to get to the next level. As long as you can bring a sense of professionalism and a hang loose friendship to the table, you'll be extremely effective.


This next advanced technique is something you're only going to be able to pull off as you get more experienced in your sales career and get more experienced in your sales conversations. This is something that you're going to do when you're truly connected to your prospect.

You're going to start to feel your body. The tension in your legs, your hands twitching, a shortness of breath. That will be your measurement stick to understand that your prospect is feeling tension on a certain topic. While this may sound extremely abstract, the best psychotherapists and therapists do this, because there's not a great way to get into the psychology of the people that you're working with. And the brain has a really great ability to do that for you.

As you start to truly synchronize with your prospect you’ll notice how your body is feeling as you're going through your conversation. You're going to have a really great meter of how people are feeling, how to work with those emotions, and set them at ease to make them feel comfortable throughout the entire selling process.

Now, just because you're feeling tension in the sales conversation does not mean that that tension is your enemy. In fact, tension is often your friend. But you want to know that the tension is there so you can work with it to help your prospect feel the pain and emotion that they're in and have that tension become a launch path for them to make a change.


When we're talking about guiding people through a very great process emotionally, that doesn't mean they're not feeling anything negative. You want to take people through a process with you that's a lot like a hero's journey in a movie.

If you're watching a movie and it's relaxing the whole time, you're just going to fall asleep. The movies that you remember are the movies that took you through an experience. Where you were excited then sad and then angry and then felt vindicated and you had feelings of revenge and all sorts of emotions.

Emotions are not bad, as we mentioned when we started, emotional intelligence in selling is about accepting, embracing, and utilizing every emotion in the human experience to benefit the sales process. So, don't be afraid of any emotions when you're selling. Make sure that you're aware of the emotions that your prospect is feeling and use all of those emotions to your benefit and to theirs.

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