Actively listening is only one part of the equation when connecting with clients and building trust. Your sales reps need to exercise their emotional intelligence (EQ) so they can properly respond to their clients’ needs and objections.
This valuable skill also impacts how your team works together, motivates, and challenges each other. Because so much relies on your sales team gaining control over how they manage their emotions, it’s critical to their success that you focus on helping them increase their emotional IQ.
By the end of your training, they should be able to understand and regulate their emotions on a personal level and a group level. But they have to be willing to work through their awareness and emotional responses outside of the group. Here’s how to get started:
First, assess your leadership EQ
Leaders need to, well, lead by example. The most valuable step in helping your sales team increase their emotional IQ is knowing how you can improve right alongside them. Becoming a better leader by listening more effectively, problem-solving more attentively, and having emotional control shows your team you’re driven by a vision to grow together rather than carry out consequential EQ training.
Take a look at this checklist and determine how often you exhibit these vision-killers:
- Fail to show team members you value them by showing appreciation, respect, and trust
- Fail to set a good example: “Do I as I say, not as I do.”
- Fail to see the big picture; focus on or pick at small details
- Fail to give clear direction
- Fail to take responsibility for failure
- Fail to show grace for others’ shortcomings
Don’t be hard on yourself for checking any of these boxes. The good news is, it’s easy to practice better EQ — and your sales team will notice as you turn around bad habits. Not only will you inspire your team, but you’ll also make better connections.
These simple steps boost and demonstrate your leadership EQ:
- Say thank you often, show trust by offering additional (desired) responsibilities, and offer regular words of praise.
- Demonstrate positive workplace behaviors and take initiative (for example, fill the empty printer with fresh paper).
- Stop and ask questions. Rather than pick at small details, ask sales reps why they chose to X.
- Offer clear and consistent directions for all projects, tasks, and goals.
- Admit when you are wrong, show humility, and ask for help.
- Give second chances and offer constructive feedback rather than criticism.
Exercises for your team
1. Process and affirm
Prepare to have your team pair off for at least 15 minutes. They may want to flip a coin to determine who will share first. Have each team member take five minutes to briefly describe an experience where they felt like the victim. Perhaps they were criticized for not understanding directions, or they were reprimanded for being late and felt attacked.
The goal of this exercise is to focus on how they felt, rather than the details of the event. Names and specifics should be reserved while emotions should be front and center. When each team member finishes their example, have a short discussion. If you’re not sure where to lead the conversation, use these questions as prompts:
- How did you feel when you were asked to share this difficult experience?
- Did talking through your emotions help you feel heard and valued?
- Do you feel better having shared your emotions?
- How do you think you will process a similar situation in the future having resolved these emotions?
Why this matters in the sales field:
Sales reps are bound to run into even the best clients on a bad day. There is a chance their sales pitch could be criticized or they may be embarrassed for running late. They must acknowledge their emotions in those situations so they remain calm and confident.
They also should know that if they need to blow off steam or brainstorm ways to overcome objections, there is an appropriate place and time, and their peers have their back.
2. Practice self-awareness
Get your team together as a group and ask each team member individually how they are feeling. Most likely, the first time you do this exercise, everyone is going to say, “I’m feeling fine.”
There are several reasons we default to “feeling fine.” Some people do not want to burden others with their emotions. Others, when put on the spot, don’t process how they are feeling. And some do not allow themselves to feel a broad range of emotions.
To feel and show empathy, we have to be aware of our emotions. We not only have to acknowledge them but also understand how they drive our responses to various situations.
The very first time you try this exercise with your team, discuss why people resort to “feeling fine.” Have team members ask themselves:
- Do I find it easy to talk about my feelings?
- What makes it hard to acknowledge or discuss my feelings?
- Can I shift my emotions easily?
- Do I let my emotions impact my reactions to others?
The next time you start a team meeting (this may even be an exercise you start each team meeting with), ask your sales reps how they are feeling. Allow each team member to acknowledge their true feelings and feel heard.
“Today I’m feeling ____________________ because _____________________.”
Why this matters in the sales field:
Similar to clients having off-days that can impact a sales call, medical sales reps will have their share of mixed-emotion days as well. We don’t feel fine 100% of the time. And that’s OK! It’s how we work through and own our feelings that defines our emotional IQ and response to others. If we fail to acknowledge and control how we feel, we can falsely interpret other people’s intentions.
It’s important to be aware of days you feel tired or glum because, on those days, you may be less patient or more defensive. These are the days you can practice more self-care, take deep breaths and close your eyes between meetings, and pause before responding to comments or questions that seem unusually attacking or annoying.
3. Make eye contact
This activity should be done in three parts but all in one session, so you’ll want to reserve at least an hour when you can bring your whole sales team together.
At the start of this emotional IQ training exercise, distribute three index cards to everyone. Then, explain the first exercise will be to wander around (or look around if the room is too small) and avoid making eye contact with anyone. Set a timer for one minute. When the timer goes off, ask team members to take a moment to write down how they felt during that minute.
Without discussing, move on to the second stage. During this two-minute exercise, sales reps should wander or look around the room and try to make eye contact with someone, but immediately look away.
When the timer goes off, have your team write down how it made them feel to search for eye contact, how it felt to make eye contact, and how it felt to break away. They should consider if they broke eye contact first or if it was broken from them, how many times they made and broke eye contact, and if their emotions changed throughout the exercise.
Finally, for the last two minutes, your team should try to make eye contact with someone else. When they’ve locked eyes with one person, they should pair off and stand with their partner, but not make eye contact with anyone else. Once everyone has found a partner, have your sales team record on their final index card how it felt to make and hold eye contact, how they felt finding a partner, and if they experienced any emotions watching and waiting for others to find theirs.
Once everyone has filled out their cards, you can bring the whole group back together to discuss. Some of the questions you should consider asking include:
- How did each stage of the exercise make you feel?
- Was it more uncomfortable to avoid eye contact, make eye contact and break away, or hold eye contact?
- How easy was it to make initial eye contact and then hold it with your partner?
- If you were slow to make eye contact and pair up with someone, how did you feel?
- Did you make eye contact with someone you already feel comfortable with, or did you make eye contact with someone new on your team? Was this deliberate?
There are preconditioning factors that can influence our eye behavior surrounding making eye contact. Individual-level comfort can vary by age and gender, personality type, or even between cultures and societies. Open up the discussion for your team to consider the different reasons they feel comfortable making eye contact (or don’t) and how they overcome barriers in doing so.
Why this matters in the sales field:
People need to feel seen and heard. Clients especially want to know reps are engaged in sales meetings. They need evidence sales reps care about their concerns rather than made to feel as though they are being used as a means to hit sales goals. Making eye contact appropriately is a valuable skill that drives this message home.
Sales reps need to understand how to read people and determine the appropriate amount of eye contact different customers are comfortable with. Staring too intently can be intimidating for some people, whereas diverting your eyes when you speak can read as dishonest to others. Discussing and practicing eye contact as a means to communicate attention and understanding boosts your sales teams’ ability to build more authentic relationships with their clients.
These exercises are a great start to getting your team to reflect on their own emotions and asking for others’ perspectives. Set a goal to go over emotional IQ exercises at least once a quarter. Normalize exploring the “why” behind emotional responses and encourage your sales team to ask themselves “What can I learn?” from their experiences in and outside the sales floor.
Develop creative ways to help your team manage stress and make sure each voice is heard. By building these team norms, your reps will strengthen their connections with each other and with their clients. Little by little, your sales team’s EQ will drive their sales success by enabling them to respond (instead of react) to emotional situations with empathy, poise, and control.