4 Key Skills That Drive Emotional Intelligence In Sales

BY Jessica Helinski
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Having and nurturing emotional intelligence in sales can help reps connect with buyers and standout from competitors. And awareness of emotional intelligence’s impact on success is growing. Our research shows more than 30% of sellers believe that possessing emotional intelligence is a top characteristic needed to be successful in sales. 

Why is emotional intelligence important in sales?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and understand emotions — both your own and the emotions of others,” SalesFuel’s Tim Londergan explains. And possessing emotional intelligence also includes knowing how those emotions guide buying decisions, as well as your own behavior. 

Randall Leiker discusses how this soft skill directly impacts a seller’s success. “It helps you deal with your own responses in business interactions so you can be more effective not just in how you interact with others but also in how you manage your own day-​to-​day actions and activities,” he writes for Integrity Solutions. “As your emotional intelligence increases, you’ll make better decisions and you’ll be more likely to follow through on them.”

Four core elements of emotional intelligence

He believes that emotional intelligence in sales involves four specific skills that must be honed. 

The first he discusses is self-​awareness. A seller who has a high level of emotional intelligence is honest with themself regarding their behaviors, attitudes, strengths, and weaknesses. They have an understanding of their emotional responses and are able to navigate difficult situations because of their ability to control their response. Additionally, as Leiker points out, “they understand the consequences of those inner feelings and attitudes in terms of how they affect their productivity, relationships and performance.” For tips on how to nurture this skill and boost your own self awareness, check out SalesFuel’s professional tips


The ability to manage oneself is another necessity for high emotional intelligence in sales. Why? It’s one thing for sellers to understand their emotions; it’s another to be able to regulate them. Successfully managing emotions is beneficial to sellers in many ways, from preventing hasty decisions to breaking down over a rejection. They help sellers navigate difficult circumstances that, for less emotionally intelligent reps, could lead to regrettable actions. 

Social awareness

Being cognizant of your social setting and those around you is also a major factor in emotional intelligence. “Salespeople who are sensitive to the emotions of others are able to pick up on what might be going on under the surface — for example, the client’s fears, skepticism, inner conflicts and other emotions that could play a major role in their decision-​making,” Leiker writes. 

This understanding allows sellers to connect with buyers emotionally and offer empathy. This connection gives the opportunity to go even deeper when it comes to giving feedback or uncovering buyers’ pain points. It also helps the seller adapt their strategy to better align with the buyer’s feelings or needs at the time. Sales Hacker’s Michael Ferguson agrees, noting, “Empathy enables sellers to listen actively and step into their customers’ shoes … Only then can sales professionals develop tailored solutions that squarely match customers’ needs and meet their expectations.”

Relationship management

As the final skill Leiker discusses regarding emotional intelligence in sales, managing relationships builds on the foundation of the previous three. Sellers personalize their approach to each relationship with a client, prospect, team member, or leader. Based on their understanding of others, the understanding and management of their own actions, and their ability to respond to others’ emotions all lead to personalized interactions. In other words, as Lazier explains, they are able to meet “the other person where they are.”

Even if you feel like you are lacking in any of these core skills, the good news is that each one can be developed and mastered. Emotional intelligence can be achieved through persistence and  practice. Working on each skill will help you develop a well-​rounded emotional intelligence that benefits you, buyers, current clients, and your team. 
For more information on emotional intelligence and tips for honing it, check out SalesFuel’s collection of articles.

Photo by Gustavo Fring