In his new book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, Dan Pink reports that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in nine Americans works in sales. Digging deeper, Pink states that the other eight also work in sales. Whether you're an entrepreneur courting venture capitalists, an employee pitching a new idea to your boss or a teacher trying to engage your students, we all spend a part of our day trying to influence others.In some way or other, we're all salespeople.
One tool that can help everyone be better at sales is emotional intelligence. What is emotional intelligence? Daniel Goleman defines it as "the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves and for managing emotions effectively in ourselves and in others." In short, it's being smart about emotions. And the smarter you are in this area, the better your sales. Does it work? Emotional intelligence training at American Express Financial Advisors resulted in an increase in sales revenue.
Individuals who have low emotional intelligence make mistakes that result in lower sales. Here are six common mistakes made, and how to avoid them:
Mistake 1: You don't make an emotional connection.
Rather than focusing on how to close a sale, think about how you can open a relationship with your potential client. This lies at the very heart of emotional intelligence—the ability to forge positive, long-term relationships. We all know the old adage: We buy from people we like. And we like people in direct proportion to how they make us feel. We make emotional connections when we approach prospective clients with the mindset of being of service. Service orientation is a key aspect of emotional intelligence: It means going out of our way to match a customer's needs, making ourselves available, monitoring satisfaction and taking personal responsibility for anything that happens, especially after the sale has been made. Remember that you are in the people business, and people require personal attention. Make them see that you genuinely care about them.
Mistake 2: You talk too much.
It's not uncommon for salespeople to dump on the client details of all the bells and whistles of their products. Unless you are pitching to an engineer, this tactic backfires. Increase your awareness of others by paying attention to the impact your pitch has on your prospect. Most of the time, they are not interested in hearing everything you have to say. Watch for body language cues that signal when they've had enough. Practice empathy by putting yourself in your prospect's shoes. Start by asking them what is the end result that they are seeking? How can you help them improve their life or their business? What problems are they trying to solve? What would success look like in what they are after? When you do this, you are armed with important information that will help you define what you need to say. Remember to take notes when the customer is talking. Too many of us rely on memory and we lose out.
Mistake 3: You lack self-awareness.
Self-awareness is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence. Know what your sales style is so you can understand what works and what doesn't. In the Harvard Business Review article "The Trouble with Sales People," researchers identified seven behaviors, of which only four were conducive to successful selling. Socializers are one of the worst sales performers because they tend to chit chat too much instead of focusing on closing the sale. Storytellers can also be ineffective if they dwell too long on stories about past customers at the expense of focusing on the present customer. Focusers stick to their pre-meeting preparation, insisting on covering all the technical aspects of their offering and miss hearing what their customers need. Aggressors can put off some customers with their combative approach. Are you in one of these categories?
Mistake 4: You can't adapt.
Adaptability is a part of self-management—a critical component of emotional intelligence. It involves having the flexibility to handle change and being open to new ideas. One way to do this is to develop your social media presence in order to increase your opportunities to sell. (It's astounding how many self-employed individuals don't fully embrace social media—some don't even have a profile on LinkedIn.)
Make the most of LinkedIn by adopting some of the recommendations in "Ten Tips for Using LinkedIn for Sales Prospecting." If you're an artist, for example, showcase your paintings for free on Pinterest. Then email the link to all your past clients every time you post a new art piece you created. If you're a dietician, a videographer, an interior designer or a writer for hire—it doesn't matter what industry you're in—start a Google + account to increase the visibility for your business, and set up a Google + Hangout on a topic that is of interest to your clients and invite them to join. (This video tutorial will show you how to set up a Google + account, and you can also watch Google + For Business: Tips In Plain English.)
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Mistake 5: You're not authentic.
When we use scripted sales pitches, we lose some of our authenticity. Authenticity is a foundational aspect of emotional intelligence. A Gallup Poll shows that small-business people are one of the most trusted groups in America. One of the reasons could be that a small-business owner is perceived as less likely to use spin. People smell a rehearsed sales pitch a mile away and it raises their distrust. Prepare for the meeting by researching your customer, and come armed with the information you need. But forget the script and speak from the heart about what you do and what you can offer. Be genuine in the way you express yourself in emails and phone calls. Faking intimacy puts people off.
Mistake 6: You lack humility.
No matter how much expertise you have in what you are selling, showing a little deference for the client's position, and for their own knowledge, is always a smart thing to do. Wanting to be the smartest person in the room rarely works. In Selling with Emotional Intelligence: 5 Skills for Building Strong Client Relationships, Mitch Anthony states that "humble people appreciate where they started and where they are today ... people connect with, and trust, those who have humility." When conflict arises, for example, being able to tell a customer "I made a mistake" or "I could be wrong here" is an attractive trait. Humility requires us to know our triggers—those things that make us lose our grace—and to know how to manage our emotions. A little humility opens us up to learn from others. As the saying goes: "It's what we learn after we know it all that counts."
We have to be good at sales because sales is where income comes from. If this is not an area in which you excel, consider picking up one or two good books on sales. You can use Geoffrey James' Top Ten "How to Sell" Books of All Time as a starting guide.
Read more articles on sales.
Bruna Martinuzzi is the founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd., and the author of two books: Presenting with Credibility: Practical Tools and Techniques for Effective Presentations and The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.