Emotional intelligence is defined as one’s ability to recognize, understand, and manage their own emotions and those of others. Although the term dates from the 1960s, it first gained widespread use after the publication of the 1995 book Emotional Intelligence by the science journalist Daniel Goleman. In it, Goleman describes five skills crucial to emotional intelligence that affect our relationships and well-being: self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy, and motivation. While much has been written about how salespeople can utilize these ideas in selling, less attention has been paid to the role of emotional intelligence in virtual selling. As many sales pros adjusted their skills to be effective in the virtual environment, emotional intelligence practically invites itself into aspects of virtual selling like video conferencing. Here are some ways sales professionals can leverage emotional intelligence to gain an advantage in remote selling:
Self-Awareness in the Digital Age
As video is central to virtual selling, many sales professionals took great effort to transform their living rooms and home offices into virtual workplaces. In so doing, salespeople found themselves surrounded by their favorite things, such as books, posters, and art, the décor that expresses ourselves in ways we don’t often reveal in our professional offices or cubicles. Just as this makes both buyers and sellers comfortable, like having a home-field advantage, it also makes us vulnerable. Self-aware salespeople should recognize this as an opportunity to share themselves and, at the same time, gain insight into their clients that help build the relationships that lead to trusted partnerships.
You’re in Control
In the now “old days” of selling, when sales pros would meet prospects and clients in conference rooms, they had to do so without the benefit of seeing themselves. These days, with video, salespeople can monitor and adjust their facial expressions and body language for maximum effect at the same time they can judge their client’s reactions. In this way, they can regulate their actions to boost the emotions, such as warmth, excitement, and enthusiasm, that surpass mere engagement and help us better connect and understand each other’s needs.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
The use of video can also enhance our social skills and ability to collaborate. In much the same way people make faces in family photos or play to a video camera, something about being on camera makes us more social, more fun even. There’s often a loosening of inhibitions that stems, at least in part, from seeing ourselves apart from ourselves like characters in a movie. As virtual bridges distance, in some ways, it increases our emotional availability. This can be a great way for introverted salespeople to interact socially, at least in their initial interactions with clients. As organizations transition into hybrid models of client engagement, virtual will no doubt continue to play a pivotal role.
An interesting aspect of video is how it lets salespeople focus on participants in ways that could be almost creepy if done during a face-to-face. Virtual gives us the opportunity to single out meeting participants who may chose not to speak and involve them in the conversation. At the same time, this extra focus is immensely valuable to gauge non-verbal cues and spot participants who have checked out or lost interest. This provides salespeople a last chance to uncover objections, address concerns, and reel them back in.
Virtual also allows sellers to check in more frequently than they might in face-to-face. Something as simple as asking if everyone can hear you or if anyone is having connectivity issues not only shows your attentiveness and concern for others, but it can also be a prompt to speak up. These check-in breaks let reps “read the virtual room” to see if your points are hitting their marks and your content is resonating with participants. Also, always be mindful of conferencing tools, such as raised hands, virtual handclaps, and thumbs up, as these are now as vital to communicating virtually as comments in the group or private chat.
Being Empathetic Online
Empathy is another important aspect of emotional intelligence. This is the ability to recognize and understand the emotions of other people. It is different from sympathy, which is to feel badly for someone and can come across as condescending. As virtual allows for a deeper focus on faces, sales reps should be conscious of how their body language conveys empathy, such as maintaining eye contact, nodding in agreement, or frowning when a client expresses a problem. In addition, a sales rep’s ability to convey empathy can guide clients to uncovering root causes of problems and hidden needs of which the client might not be aware.
The final aspect of emotional intelligence that can be leveraged virtually is motivation. Because of the increased use of video, many sales people have been motivated to try new things, such as create an attractive or interesting virtual home office, try out different backgrounds, or even research how to get the most from clothing choices on video. Also, in addition to how they appear on video, reps have become more cognizant of how they speak and move. In many ways, virtual selling has been a prime motivator for reps to experiment in ways they haven’t since they first started in sales and practiced presenting in front of a mirror.
While the idea of emotional intelligence has long been central to an effective sales approach, many sales reps are only now discovering how the environment of virtual selling opens new ways to utilize emotional intelligence to better connect with clients. In many ways, the use of video in remote selling is beneficial for sales professionals who struggled with some aspects of emotional intelligence in face-to-face interaction, and it even enhances capabilities for those that were already strong. As sales reps continue to adjust to virtual selling and even transition into hybrid sales models that reintroduce in-person interaction, they should explore news ways to leverage their emotional intelligence to form even stronger bonds with clients remotely than they did in person.