Copyright © 2011

Emotional Intelligence for sales people


Emotional Intelligence

In 1995 Daniel Goleman published a book that would go on to sell more than 5 million copies. It was called ‘Emotional Intelligence’.

Much of what Goleman wrote was not particularly new but shone light on the idea that Emotional Intelligence (or ‘EQ’ as it gets called, and which confuses dyslexic people like me) in a commercial environment may be significantly more important than information processing abilities and technical expertise combined.

So what is EQ? Basically, it’s people skills, and for those in leadership positions EQ skills are believed to account for close to 90% of what distinguishes outstanding leaders from those judged as average. IQ gets you hired, but EQ gets you promoted (or a lack of it gets you fired).

Having high EQ in sales is essential - if you are not in tune with yourself and your prospects then you won’t understand the needs of your prospects. These needs include the best way to communicate and responding to the unspoken (body) language of their physiology. Body language which tells you what they are really thinking and ultimately how you are doing in a deal.  A sales rep that has to ask the question “how am I doing?” after a presentation has low EQ whereas the sales rep with high EQ will know without having to ask and be able to pick up warning signs at an earlier stage.

But don’t go out and rush to buy a copy of Goleman’s book because it won’t do too much for you - unless you want to read hours’ worth of examples of people having personality problems because of the way the were bought up! No, the secret of how you can indentify your own personality, strengths, weaknesses, fears and emotions, let alone the personality traits of your prospects, won’t be found in the book. Unfortunately the how you do this has been totally missed out in favour of the what and the why.

The reason for this is that the how is very difficult to work out. But there is a way and it’s a combination of things: personality assessments, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and a genuine interest in people.


Personality Assessments
There are many personality tests out there: 16PF, DISC, and Myers-Briggs to name just a few. These are fine if you have the time to answer questions and compile answers but you can’t ask your prospects to fill in a questionnaire before you sell to them.

There is however a forgotten personality assessment called The Humm Wadsworth model of personality traits which was first developed back in 1935. In essence it’s based on 6 extreme types of behaviour plus a balancing trait that looks for order and conventions. Chris Golis (Australia’s expert on Practical EQ) used this concept in the early days of his selling career, and reclassified the 7 traits into plain English. He wrote a book in 1990 called “Empathy Selling” and back when I was Sales Director at JD Edwards we used his concept to classify people’s behaviours.

Empathy Selling
Empathy Selling offers a personality framework that breaks people down into 7 Humm Wadsworth core emotions, redefined by Chris as:

1.    Hustler: Hustlers desire money.

2.    Normal: Desire for social approval.

3.    Mover: Desire for communication.

4.    Double-Checker: Desire for security.

5.    Artist: Desire to be creative.

6.    Politician: Desire to win.

7.    Engineer: Desire to complete projects.


Now, most people typically have two or three dominant emotions, as well as a balancing emotion (the normal). You can work out what type of person someone is just by observing their behaviour: how they dress, the car they drive, the position they hold in a company, their office layout, how they talk, and whether they keep you waiting for an appointment.

Chris uses an acronym called TOPDOG (Talk, Office, Position, Dress, Organisation and Gambit) to build up a profile when you first meet someone. In under 10 minutes you should have a good idea of their personality type and what motivates them. Armed with this knowledge, you can adapt your behaviour and sell to them in the way they want to receive information and be communicated with.

People ‘like’ people who are similar to themselves, and people often buy from people they like. So, adapt your approach for your audience:

·         If you sell to someone with Engineer characteristics - give them detail!

·         Artists need technical and design features - ask them to imagine the benefits so they can dream.

·         Movers want the big picture, and they want it quickly!

·         Politicians don’t want to back down. You need to sell slowly and influence them indirectly so they come up with the idea.

·         Double Checkers need security; they need to be confident that they won’t lose their job if they buy from you.

·         Normals want references.

·         Hustlers want a discount and the names of prestigious companies that use your product or services.

It is also important to understand your own personality traits so you recognise potential clashes in the sales cycle. You might need to change the way you sell to individuals. Being a Mover I have to slow right down when I sell to an Engineer so that I don’t go off at a tangent and lose him on point B when I am already on Z.

There is an easy-to-answer 21 question document to work out your personality in more detail which you can find on:


Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Okay, we have worked out how you can uncover your personality and how you can determine your prospect’s personality but there is more. And this is where Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) comes in. But stop! Once again you won’t find books on NLP that get straight to the point for sales reps. Why not? Because NLP has been stitched together since the 1970s with different people taking up the mantle; as such it has developed in a fairly piecemeal way and no definitive sales rep focused resources exist.

The important thing is teasing out the information that is applicable to the sales rep. For example, a rep does not need to understand Milton Erickson’s language of hypnosis unless the plan is to place the prospect in a light trance and hypnotise them into buying. In turn, the copying of a prospect’s body movements (such as breathing and blinking) is unlikely to suddenly create a ‘simpatico’ state leading to a sale. If a sales rep is asking stupid questions and the prospect is starting to get uncomfortable then copying body motions won’t do much good.



A better way to create rapport is to ask interesting and relevant questions and “SPIN selling” by Neil Rackham is a good read. Good questions that engage a prospect will lead to connections and rapport will come naturally if you have mutual respect for each other.

There is one matching technique, however, that I would recommend and that is matching a prospect’s pace of speech, especially when doing telesales. If you phone a person who is talking slowly and deliberately then it’s no good going off at 100mph; slow down and match their pace and tone, this will help build rapport!

Back to NLP

NLP is a big topic, an interesting but sometimes misunderstood one, and that’s why there are as many sceptics as fans on the subject. Here is my take on what NLP can do:

·         It will help you present and communicate better by understanding how people are hardwired to receive and compute information.

·         It will help you look at sales situations from other people’s points of view.

·         It will help you concentrate on people’s faces when you talk to them which gives the impression that you are interested in what they are saying.

·         It will help your confidence, ahead of an important meeting or presentation.


NLP teaches you that 7% of communication is in the words, 38% is the tone of your voice, and 55% is body language.

Now don’t get too tied up on the accuracy of the above but it makes a point. You can see how the saying It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it is so true.



There will be many times, in meetings, when someone is winding you up. I bet that if you were able to ‘look at yourself’ (An NLP concept called the third position), your body language would disclose that you are becoming frustrated. NLP can help, through a concept called anchoring to relax you and make your body language less aggressive in these situations.

Anchoring is where you recall a mind state (such as a very positive experience) through a physical action, which then takes you back to the experience so that you feel it again, e.g. feeling confident ahead of a presentation or an important meeting.

When you create an NLP anchor you set up a stimulus response pattern in order to feel the way you want to, whenever you need to, in response to a particular stimulus.

This is how it is done.

1.    Identify the emotional state you want, e.g. confidence, calmness, enthusiasm.

2.    Select a desired state, i.e. specifically how you want to feel.

3.    Recall a particular time in your life when you felt the desired state. Pick a powerful example. Try to remember this situation and think how it was building up to the moment. If you can’t think of anything from your past, think of a film or some music that makes you feel the way you want. Eye of the Tiger, anyone?

4.    Now you need to anchor this feeling by putting it onto one of the knuckles on your hand. When you need it, just touch the knuckle, and replay the event/sound/memory in your head.

5.    Practise and rehearse until it becomes second nature.

Eye movements

Moving on - eye patterns are also very interesting. People can’t stop where their eyes move when they are engaged in conversation (not unless they are an experienced fraudster and have studied NLP).

Eyes move to certain spatial zones when asked questions that relate to pictures, sounds and feelings.  Ask someone you know the following questions and watch where their eyes go.

·         What does your best friend look like? Eyes will go up to the right to the visualizing remembered images zone.

·         Ask a question that they will not know the answer to, but which they feel they should. What colour is your next door neighbour’s front door? Eyes will go up to the left which shows visualizing, constructing an answer, or in other words - making it up.

·         Ask a question about a sound they know - like what does Kermit the Frog’s voice sound like? Eyes will go to the central right ‘remembering sounds’ zone.

·         Now a question about sound that they don’t know. What would Kermit’s voice sound like if he impersonated Miss Piggy? The respondent’s eyes should now go to the centre left (auditory constructing sounds).

·         Ask a question about feelings. What does it feel like when you dive into a cold swimming pool? Eyes will go to the kinaesthetic, checking out feelings zone, down to the left.

·         Ask them to recite the 12 times table in their mind. Eyes will go to kinaesthetic internal dialogue down to the right.


Below is an illustration of a normally organised person that maps out the zones discussed. About 20% of people are reversed organised and eye movements will go in the opposite direction. Note how one side is all about constructed perceptions, and the other is all about recall. If there is a lot of eye movement to the left then this could indicate to you that your prospect is making up things on the fly, which should make you suspicious.


© Ace the Sale!


A person who is constantly looking down and to the right means that they are in an internal dialog and would need great detail in a sales cycle. People who do this often have long pauses before answering a question; let them take their time, they don’t realise they are doing this as they are having an internal conversation with themselves before they speak to you. Also never finish off their sentences, let them empty out before you speak. You will need to give them lots of reports and communicate through email and letter.

In my book “Ace The Sale” – there is a chapter all about EQ for sales reps that goes into more detail on the above.

Wrapping up
In conclusion, the number one skill that any sells rep has to have is EQ. NLP and an Empathy Selling approach are also crucial. You can miss out the waffle of Emotional Intelligence books that tell you the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ - go straight for the how!

The sales rep that stops learning will stop selling so “pull your finger out and skill up today” - it’s not what you say it’s how you say it!