What is EI?
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to be aware of the emotions of oneself and others, to manage one’s own emotions and their expression, and to manage others’ emotions (Goleman 1995). EI is believed to be a large component of the sales industry and consists of various dimensions like self-confidence, self-control, emotional awareness, and empathy (Rozell, Pettijohn, and Parker 2004). In this paper we are going to explore the role EI plays in sales selection, sales management, and negotiations based on published research studies on each topic.
EI in Sales Selection
Doug Russell and James Walker of Northwest Missouri State University conducted a small-scale, empirical study of Emotional Intelligence and its effects on sales performance (“An Empirical Assessment, and Exploratory Study, of Emotional Intelligence through Interviews with Sales Professionals and Sales Managers”). The main hypothesis of the study was that salespeople with higher EIs tend to be more successful than their counterparts. Their research technique consisted of performing in-depth interviews with 24 salespeople and sales managers; gathering gender, age, experience and achievement information about each salesperson; and obtaining self-reported and peer-reported measures of salesperson performance on a scale of -5 to 5.
Although the study was conducted on a very small scale with above average skill respondents, it supported the hypothesis and left the researchers with a few main takeaways about EI in the sales world. First and foremost, the older salespeople had a higher EI than the younger counterparts. It can be assumed from this that those with low EI scores possibly are weeded out of the field over time or that EI can be trained and taught. The latter assumption has been mentioned in other studies on the topic as well (Goleman 1998; Dulewicz and Higgs 2004). The researchers also found that in their small sample pool, there was no significant difference in EI between men and women. Another finding was that EI scores were considerably higher in salespeople in the service industry versus those in goods. This variation can indicate that a service purchase elicits more emotion from a customer therefore salespeople must be able to connect emotionally to lead customers to a sense of satisfaction.
EI in Sales Management
EI plays a key role in sales management. The tone set by a manager in a work environment can increase or decrease employee motivation. According to a study conducted by Huggins, White, and Stahl (“Antecedents to Sales Force Job Motivation and Performance: The Critical Role of Emotional Intelligence and Affect-Based Trust”), market share and profitability are greatly boosted by improvements to job motivation and sales performance. The researchers found that a manager’s emotional intelligence has a direct effect on sales performance and job motivation of his/her employees. Further analysis of their findings led them to the conclusion that the actual impact on employee performance and motivation is happening through affect-based trust. What this means is that when managers have a high level of EI, they are more able to create trusting relationships with their employees, which in turn leads to increased motivation and performance.
The researchers recommend that sales managers should be evaluated on EI levels during the hiring process, given continuous EI training, and required to conduct self-reflective observations on their own EI over a period of time.
EI in Negotiations
In a third empirical study “The Influence of Emotional Intelligence on Negotiation Outcomes and the Mediating Effect of Rapport: A Structural Equation Modeling Approach”, researchers Kim, Cundiff, and Choi explored the effect of EI on negotiations. They conducted a two-part experiment in which 200 junior and senior level business students at two major US universities had to evaluate their own EI on a 33 item scale then participate in a mock negotiation at a later date. They hypothesized that a negotiator’s EI positively affects a counterpart’s trust, a counterpart’s desire to work together again, and joint gain. Rapport was added in as a mediating variable to find out if perceived communication effectiveness altered the affect of EI.
Through a series of statistical analysis and hypothesis testing using the data collected from their study, the researches found that rapport is a critical medium through which EI influences positive outcomes in negotiations. The study also suggests that a greater rapport between the two parties involved in a negotiation nurtured trust and a desire to work together again. However, there was no statistically significant link between EI leading to joint gain. The researchers guess that because those who have high levels of EI care more about the desires of their counterparts, they concede more in the negotiation, often to their own detriment. This finding is in line a study conducted by Adam Galinsky and his colleagues (2008) that stated EI and rapport may have less of an influence on cooperative gain than analytical skills and perspective taking.
EI research is limited but growing as research leads signs of correlation between EI and performance. Researchers are learning that EI, unlike IQ, can be taught. This key information gives companies the power to harvest EI to the every extent. Use of tools to evaluate EI in potential new hires is highly recommended. Training employees to develop their EI can help boost performance of your current team. Managers should also learn to lead with EI to build trust among their team and improve results. EI also plays a part in negotiations. Building trust can increase the customers desire to work together again but high empathy may erode the negotiators position in the short term. Thus some companies limit the sales person’s authority in negotiations and use the team approach with a finance and/or legal representative.
For a copies of these research studies please contact Steve Young, email@example.com.