Typically, sales professionals are promoted to leadership roles because of how well they’ve sold or how long they’ve worked, rather than their skill in managing others or their level of emotional intelligence (EQ). The result? The misconception that sales leaders should have all the answers. In this dynamic, sales managers spend most of their time talking, telling, and directing rather than listening, understanding, and developing relationships. When leaders are not listening, understanding, and developing relationships, they surely are not practicing emotional intelligence.

It’s a challenge for sales leaders to practice EQ because they often work in a bubble. If you are the sales leader at a small or mid-size company, for example, you might not be working alongside other sales leaders. You might be the only manager. So, who is there to give you feedback when you’re not leveraging EQ? No one.

What Does Emotional Intelligence Have To Do With Sales Leadership?

High EQ gives rise to leaders who are approachable, empathetic, and trustworthy. It is the secret to building a high-performance sales team. In their book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, authors Bradberry and Greaves say EQ skills are more important to job performance than any other leadership skill. Remember: leadership is personal. Emotions are always high. The ability to understand and perceive your own emotions and how that’s impacting your behavior is key. That way, you can respond appropriately to the emotions of your team members, influence their behavior, and foster deep connections.

3 Ways to Boost Leadership EQ

  1. Understand needs. Your whole role as a sales leader is to make everyone around you better so you become obsolete. To do this, you must be in touch with the needs of your team members. In Carew sales training programs, we teach four buyer personas to help sales professionals shape the direction and flow of their sales calls. Sales leaders should have “salesperson personas” as well; understand your team members and their extrinsic needs. For example, maybe one of your reps likes you to call and check in with them a couple times a week. Maybe they enjoy actively reporting in with you. This could be a pain for you, but if it is what they need to stay motivated and crush their goals, it is what you need to do. You must have enough empathy to put yourself into the shoes of the people working for you and lead them based on who they are, not who you are.
  2. Carveout quiet time for self-reflection. Self-assessment and reflection can help you increase your self-awareness. If you know when you’re getting triggered, you are less likely to go through a trigger, response, regret loop. For example, if one of your sales reps is not doing something they should be doing(trigger), you may start to tell yourself a story about that seller and it creates emotion around the situation. Then, you may give a response you regret. So, each morning, incorporate quiet time into your routine. Ask yourself, "When do my emotions work against me?", “Where did I get triggered yesterday?” or “What would have been a better/different response to XYZ situation?”
  3. Get feedback from your employees. Ask what you could do to further assist them in the successes they seek. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, said, “We cannot change what we are not aware of.” Additionally, be open to critique and constructive criticism from your team. Rather than getting offended or defensive, ask appropriate follow-up questions. Increase your emotional intelligence by taking the time to understand where the critique is coming from, how your behaviors are impacting the performance of others, and what you can do to resolve any issues.

Today, teams need leaders with emotional intelligence more than ever. EQ is not a trend; it is crucial to the success of your team and to the performance of your organization. Begin to make emotions work for you, instead of against you, by implementing the three strategies above.