What emotional intelligence brings to your sales strategy

David LibinLast updated on May 30, 2024
6 min

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Hard sales skills are hugely important. They help us to understand the data we have, plus what it means for us and our customers. For me, understanding historical trends and the current climate of sales can really help position you and your company for success. It’s not just about data management either, but time management, forecasting, leadership, coaching, and more. Sales keeps us on our toes, for sure!

But what’s often overlooked is the importance of soft sales skills. There are plenty of misconceptions about our profession out there—for instance, I’m always hearing that sales reps only care about winning at all costs. But in my own experience, the most successful salespeople are consultants. They listen, understand a problem, identify a solution, and go on that journey with their customers.

It would be impossible to do this without many soft skills, but a particularly important one is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence empowers us to empathise with customers far more effectively and see things from their side.

Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others … [and] the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving.”

There’s not a sales leader around who wouldn’t say yes to having these qualities in their team, and it’s no wonder that emotional intelligence training and nurturing a high emotional quotient (EQ) can yield a 1484% return on investment for organizations. That’s because it improves not just customer experience and turnover, but employee engagement, performance, and retention.

What emotional intelligence brings to modern sales leadership

The need for EQ in sales is growing. And that’s because sales leadership—and their priorities—are changing. According to our Voice of SMBs report, 54% of organizations state that one of the biggest growth drivers this year will be increasing connections and relationships with customers. This won’t be done solely through data analysis, but through a combination of hard and soft sales skills. In other words, mindful selling where reps prioritize meaningful conversations.

Like most mindset shifts in sales, this is one that starts with leadership. Before you can start to think about helping your team build more emotional intelligence and soft skills, you need to check in with yourself. Ask yourself if you’re honestly able to identify and control your own emotions, and if not—why not?

Sales is a pressure-cooker environment and comes with some very high targets. And the first thing your team will do during uncertain or challenging times is look to you. And what you want them to see is someone in control of their emotions and leading by example.

With a high EQ, as a sales leader you can:

  • Communicate with empathy

  • Understand how to read the room

  • Help guide your team efficiently

  • Learn how to tailor communication to different cultures/regions

Further, being emotionally intelligent will set the scene for your team and help them stay in control. Not only that, but it will help them become more attuned to the behaviour of their colleagues and customers—a win-win for them and your business.

How to nurture emotional intelligence in your sales team

With this in mind, let’s look at the most important ways emotional intelligence can benefit your team and your customers. To dig into this more, I spoke to my fellow sales leaders and customer success gurus to uncover their take on soft skills and EQ in sales. 


For Senior Director of Global Business Development, Sean Hayes, listening is key. It might sound like an obvious skill to have when the majority of your day is spent on the phone, but too often salespeople stick to a (literal sales) script or fail to engage with the reps around them. But, as Sean explains, those failing to listen are missing out: 

“Understanding what the person you're listening to wants from you is an essential skill. For instance, do they want your advice? Do they want you to help them narrow down some ideas that they've already conceived? Or do they just want you to listen? To really listen, to understand people like this, you need to genuinely care about the person and that's something you can't fake.”


We’ve already explored how vital empathy is to meaningful conversations, and Global VP of Customer Success, Madelyn DePrey, is doubling down: 

“What I’ve seen prove successful in customer-facing teams is the ability to mirror. So, picking up on the room you're in and mirroring your customer, meeting them with their same energy. While internally in organizations, I have gone out of my way in my career to really befriend sales leaders in a visible way. So taking time to really understand their pain points, to build empathy, and then partner with them and show up together to demonstrate that we are aligned. What’s important is that we go out of our way to build empathy across teams.”


Head of UK Sales, James Mensforth likes to make a little time for self-reflection. Not just because it’s a welcome zen alternative to the pressure of the sales floor, but because it’s also an honest way of appraising performance and lighting the path to growth: 

“A little bit of additional introspection can be really helpful for people. For example, asking how you can try something else. Or what happened on that deal cycle that didn't go well? Do I need to think about how to engage with a customer’s persona in a different way? Stepping back and asking these questions can really help people become successful.”


It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t pitch in my two cents. And when it comes to what soft skill I believe in the most, it’s problem-solving. Successful sales leaders need to be dependable, adaptable, open-minded, and excellent problem solvers. And that goes for their teams as well. What’s super important is how well they’re able to juggle multiple tasks, while still keeping things moving. For me, something I look for in a sales rep is resourcefulness. Someone that's not going to wait for answers, but is going to go out and use the resources they have to get what they need.

Helping humans become more human

It’s all very well talking about human emotions, but isn’t AI about to replace humans? Well, no. It’s true that 48% of businesses expect AI-supported tools to help drive customer satisfaction in the year ahead. But AI is set to be a co-pilot to essential people power in the sales function.

One thing sales leaders can do to drive human-AI enablement is to empower teams to become more human, i.e. more emotionally intelligent. Despite the doom-mongering, AI is a business tool and we shouldn’t see it as a threat. There are ways to use it effectively and responsibly, but this can be said for the phone and the CRM. If we work with AI, This is how we can succeed and have the impact we want —by showing the value that AI can’t. 

It’s not about avoiding implementation. AI is unrivalled in how it can transcribe calls, streamline processes, and even quickly show sentiment analysis. So let’s not try to fight AI at its own game. Instead, we should strive for a perfect partnership—one that pairs artificial intelligence with the emotional kind.

To find out more about how Aircall can empower your team to deliver first-class customer experiences, get in touch with our team.

Published on May 30, 2024.

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