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Emotional intelligence, or EI, is a person’s ability to identify and manage their own emotions effectively. It is made up of three main components:

  • Emotional awareness (the ability to identify one’s own or someone else’s emotions)
  • Use of emotions to help with thinking and problem-solving
  • Regulation of emotions and the ability to help others regulate theirs

In other words, EI keeps a person from being overwhelmed and dominated by feelings and helps ensure that emotions don’t get in the way of making intelligent decisions. If you’re ever in a crisis situation, you want to be surrounded by people with high emotional intelligence.

It’s also valuable in the workplace, and though it’s considered a “soft” skill, it can result in solid revenues and a better corporate reputation. Here’s what you should know about EI and pharma sales.

Emotional Intelligence and Sales

Emotional intelligence in a sales team member is what makes him or her go ahead and ask a prospect for their budget before making a proposal. These sales professionals have the tact and emotional control to ask what could be an awkward question without making a prospect feel uncomfortable. They may explain, for example, that putting together a solution is far more accurate when they know the budget the potential client is working with.

In pharmaceutical sales, it’s a bit different since the physician or other prescriber isn’t the one who will purchase the medications, but knowing general information about the provider’s clientele (like whether they serve low-income patients or more well-off ones) helps the sales professional make the right proposal based on the most accurate information, so nobody’s time is wasted.

Emotional Intelligence in the Training Manager

Training managers with high EI are more effective as well. These are the trainers who take time consider how they are perceived by their team. They aren’t afraid to identify their own strengths and weaknesses and work accordingly with them to lead their team better. The emotionally aware leader is perceptive enough to know when he or she does things that are off-putting to sales team members and to correct these behaviors.

For example, if the training manager is heavily occupied with multitasking during the time before or after a training session, trainees may hesitate to ask questions or seek help. And if sales team members ultimately stop asking for advice, their skills will languish. So might their sales. The emotionally intelligent training leader is not only available to the team, but he or she has the confidence and tact to hold team members accountable for their results without resulting to aggression or letting emotions get out of control.

How Sales Benefit from an Emotionally Intelligent Team

The most motivated, emotionally intelligent sales professionals are the ones who develop uncanny sales intuition. They become more skilled at predicting who will buy, who is less likely to, and why. The sales professional with strong EI is usually the one who has taken the time to understand the customer with more depth than the competition does. This helps him or her know when a prospect is ready to buy, and when it’s better to back off for the time being.

Moreover, emotionally intelligent sales professionals are more likely to take the time to follow up with clients. They know that buying decisions may only happen after several follow-up contacts, and they’re willing to put in the effort, politely, and courteously. Making these calls can feel like a drag at times, but the productive sales professionals realize that these calls have a measurable return on investment.

Skills Gaps when Team Members Aren’t Sufficiently Emotionally Intelligent

Emotional intelligence, of course, exists on a continuum. It’s not something you either have or you don’t. It’s made up of multiple components, some of which are stronger in some individuals than in others. When sales team members are working on developing their EI, it’s up to the training leader to recognize where skills gaps related to EI exist so they can be addressed. Some of the more common skills gaps associated with EI in sales professionals include:

  • The assertiveness to challenge customer assumptions diplomatically
  • Empathy for customers that informs strategy and timing
  • Ability to make a “reality check” when results or the sales environment change
  • Initiative
  • Impulse control
  • Flexibility to adapt and cope with stressful situations

Sale Training and Building Conditions for Success

Success in general depends more upon EI than it does on IQ. It makes particular sense in the world of sales, because the successful sales rep is the one who is able to make connections with all the people necessary to complete a sale. Research by the Carnegie Institute of Technology showed that the vast majority of a person’s financial success had to do with “human engineering” skills, personality, negotiation skills, and communication skills. Technical ability was less important.

It’s only logical that people would prefer to do business with someone they like and trust, and well-developed EI goes hand-in-glove with trustworthiness and likability. The rep with strong emotional intelligence is self-aware (without being self-absorbed), communicates well, appreciates others and expresses that appreciation, spots problems early and works proactively to solve them, and is able to adapt thoughts and behaviors to the existing situation.

The Emotionally Intelligent Know the Difference Between Busy-ness and Productivity

Finally, the emotionally intelligent professional, whether in sales or any other department, understands the difference between being busy and being productive. In today’s business world, we don’t like to be seen deep in thought, or enjoying a bit of downtime, even during our lunch break.

But the person with strong EI knows that constantly checking phones, email, and social media, and continually appearing to be busy doesn’t correlate with actual productivity. The most emotionally mature people realize that it is during quieter, less hectic moments that they gain clarity and are receptive to ideas. Your sales reps who keep things cool and collected often outshine those who operate in a perpetual state of frenetic activity when it comes to bottom line results.

As important as technical, scientific, and procedural knowledge are to your sales team, equally important is their emotional intelligence. The emotionally intelligent team members are the ones who are able to regulate their emotions, communicate honestly and tactfully, adapt to the situation at hand, and know when a prospect is ready to buy. We encourage you to browse our blog posts, which cover the range of technical and soft skills today’s successful pharma rep needs to succeed.