Emotional intelligence: why it matters and how to nurture it in employees
Marketing speaks with Daniele Lima, marketer, trainer, salesperson and corporate trainer about the role of emotional intelligence in business performance.
This article originally appeared in The Intelligence Issue, our April/May 2017 issue of Marketing magazine.
More than 90% of all sales scripts are static. In other words, the same scripts are being written over and over again to be applied to every kind of different person on the other end of the phone line or email inbox.
That leaves a small proportion of scripts that could be described as dynamic, that take into account how the caller and recipient are feeling at the time.
This fact alone explains why the vast majority of selling fails, says Daniele Lima, a marketer, sales person and corporate trainer turned author of A Practical Guide to Selling with Emotional Intelligence.
After almost 30 years in sales and marketing roles, Lima was most recently a training manager for major pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb. It was during that role he turned his attention to emotional intelligence and the role it plays in not just sales performance, but other business and relationship outcomes.
“Slowly I analysed the various components of sales processes and found that it was the fact they weren’t applying emotional intelligence principles that caused them to fail,” Lima says. “That’s what underpinned the motivation for the book.”
In this interview, Lima takes Marketing through his process of applying emotional intelligence (EI) to sales and relationship building.
Marketing: Emotional intelligence is one of those funny things, in that you have to know you need to work on it, but without self-awareness you wouldn’t… It’s kind of a Catch-22, isn’t it?
Daniele Lima: Yeah, absolutely. If you’ve got high EI then you’re aware of your own limitations. And if you don’t, you’re – how do they put it? – unconsciously incompetent. So it falls on the company or the business to do the right thing by its people and routinely provide EI training, which globally will improve the outcomes for people in any walk of life. Whether it’s marketing, sales or anything else.
M: You’ve written a whole book on this but, in a nutshell, how does emotional intelligence help drive sales performance? What is missing in poorly performing teams?
DL: What EI does is it allows – and I’ll talk individually as opposed to collectively – the individual to be more in tune with their own state of mind: self-awareness. How am I feeling going into this call? Am I rattled? Am I overwhelmed by the amount of information I need to present? It gives them a real insight into how they’re feeling about themselves.
But, as well, … it gives them an insight into how the other person’s going. That’s awareness of others external to yourself. Once you’ve got that focus both ways, it provides the opportunity to realise, for example, that I’m about to walk into a call and I’m a little bit edgy. From a self-control point of view, I know I should take a few deep breaths. Or review some facts on a card that are going to help me. That’s self-control. That’s the regulation that comes after self-awareness.
For the person you’re talking to, if you have a higher level of empathy and are seeing or hearing that the other person is frustrated about something, then rather than just mechanically move onto the next thing, you can look back and say, “Bill, I sense you’re not happy with what I’ve just said, can you tell me specifically what you are uncomfortable about?”
Then Bill gets a chance to say, “Well, look I’m really not satisfied with your approach here.” And you can mend that bridge before you move forward.
M: The model in your book shows quadrants where everything flows from self-awareness. So, if you don’t start from there, the suggestion is don’t bother trying to fake the other stuff?
DL: It’s the absolute bedrock. Your self-awareness is the cornerstone of this model. And it’s the thing we’ve all got to keep working on every day.
But the beauty of these skills is that, even though the book applies them professionally, they’re just as helpful socially, personally, academically. There’s no area of your life that won’t be impacted by having these skills up and running.
M: What does self-awareness training look like?
DL: You’re often working one-on-one the way people because it’s a fairly personal thing. The person might say, “Tell me, Bill, about the way you feel you’re being perceived in this situation.” If Bill’s perception is totally at odds with what’s actually happening, there’s a basis there to say, “Okay, it’s fair to say a lot of people around you, some of whom you know and trust, don’t agree with you. Can I share with you how they’re perceiving you?”It’s a matter of reconciling what’s out there with what you’re internalising. And the bigger the gap, the lower the EI.
M: It’s not as simple as saying someone has self- awareness, someone else doesn’t.
DL: No, it’s a sliding scale. And I have to say, the good news about all this is that, unlike IQ which you can’t really move the dial on, EI can be consistently improved through life. And that’s well documented in the literature.
M: Does it improve with age?
DL: It’s not correlated to age. That’s the amazing thing about it. You can be incredibly emotionally intelligent at the age of five. Or you could be very much unintelligent emotionally at the age of 60. But regardless of where you fall on the scale, the good news is that by exposing someone to this type of research and influence, if that person is open to learning – in the old parlance, if they’re ‘coachable’ – then this can be absorbed.
The research that I go through in the book takes children as young as four years of age and goes through to university students and various groups of professionals. Across the board, by increasing EI, it lifts the outcomes off the charts.
M: What kind of outcomes?
DL: For example, when we look at four-year-olds who can’t read and write yet, there’s what we call a delayed gratification game. You say to a child, “I’m going to put a Freddo Frog on the table and I’m going to leave the room for a few minutes. If you want, you can have it. But, if you wait until I come back and you haven’t touched it, I’ll give you two Freddo Frogs.”
It’s interesting; they followed kids in a study like that for 20 years and they found that the group who waited, who had that self-awareness and self-control, went on to have significantly better admission into university. Significantly better scores in school. Better relationships with their partners. The seeds of the EI were already in place at four years of age. Without any training.
M: Speaking of relationships, the structure that your book takes goes from the self to relationships with others. Why are relationship management skills so applicable across contexts?
DL: There’s a continuum that’s in play here. I’ll reverse engineer this. I’ll start with the end in mind. Regardless of what company we work for, the goal is profit. Market share, market leadership, call it whatever you want, but it’s essentially profit.
To get that profit, you need to build the relationship with the key people within that organisation. So the step before it is relationship. The precursor to relationship is comfort – a person’s got to be comfortable with you before they form a relationship with you. And if you want to make someone comfortable, the precursor is trust.
Now, when we transpose what we know to be true from a behavioural point of view, it’s exactly the same in business. If you’re a marketer, a business development person or salesperson, the goal is profit. Unashamedly, that’s what we’re about.
But to make that happen, as a destination, we’ve got to reach these other key points. Which are: make the person feel comfortable, which leads to trust, which leads to the formation of a relationship. Then over time that relationship underpins business activity and profit.
It’s interesting that I am here 30 years later [after my career started] and I’m in my 50s, and we’ve always been focused on the end, which is the profit. But we really should be focused on the front. Profit is the fourth storey in a building, but you’ve got to build a ground floor first. Then the second floor and the third floor. We’ve been teaching it in a way that’s not intuitive – we’re building the fourth storey, but it doesn’t just hang in the sky on its own.
M: For a manager, what are the tell-tale signs that someone needs to work on their EI, in sales or otherwise?
DL: The signs are different depending on where the person is at. If, for example, the person’s very reactive to any situation, anything that potentially annoys them, they react to it immediately, that is really a black-and-white sign that this person has poor impulse control. From an EI point of view, we call it self-control or self-regulation. That person’s perception is clearly not aligned to what’s actually happening around them. “My sales are going down, but clearly none of it’s got anything to do with me.”
Self-awareness is very low when there’s a disconnect between the reality of a situation and the way that situation’s being perceived internally by the individual.
Blaming other people and non-accountability is a classic sign. Again, you can see how this even applies to sporting teams. It’s not that the good teams don’t make mistakes, they do. But because there’s accountability, they back each other up and those mistakes don’t lead to goals. Whereas in a poor team, people start pointing fingers and the opposition sweep the ball away and score goals. Personal accountability is one of the key barometers of strong EI.
M: Is it possible to pick up those signals in a job interview situation?
DL: Yes, if the questions are asked the right way. These days we’ve moved away from hypothetical questions to behavioural based questions. It’s very much about explaining a recent time a certain scenario happened and describing how the candidate reacted and what they thought as they were doing it. You cannot only put a situation in play, but you want to gauge what the person did and how they were feeling through it.
Most people who are honest with you are not going to say the emotion’s not there. They may be very annoyed
at something, that’s natural. But EI is the ability to control that annoyance. EI is not about not feeling the emotion, EI is feeling it but not letting it dictate how you act.
M: Does this extend beyond one-on-one relationships?
DL: It does. Obviously as marketers, collectively we’re looking at the unmet needs of the market, the target audience. In terms of greater awareness of others, if empathy can be applied to one person it can be applied to a group. As marketers we’re looking for common pain points so that we can devise a good strategy and provide some value.
Empathy can certainly be applied one-on-one to someone, but it can be applied more globally to a group of people that still have some commonality in what aspects of their needs are unmet. That allows you to build a better USP and being able to position your brand a little bit more precisely for that need.
A sales person is just going to fragment that audience and go and see them one at a time and just personalise it a little bit more to the specific needs that person has.
M: You describe motivation as the thing that brings everything together. Can you explain how that works?
DL: Motivation is the real X factor here. Motivation is internal. You cannot give someone motivation, you can only set up an environment that stimulates motivation, that brings the best out of someone. And by all means, as trainers, as leaders, we’ve got to do that. It’s part of the job to set up environments that will allow people to thrive. But we can’t take it personally when there’s someone in this group who, despite every advantage, doesn’t engage. Their personal motivation is probably low.
They really need to question why they’re here? Are they here for the right reasons? Probably not. Again, it goes back to self-awareness of understanding what your real reason is for wanting to do something.
I was a big believer in IQ tests, and every time I looked at a CV, I looked at your qualifications and your experience, like everybody else. Then I found Daniel Goleman’s research that showed the value of emotional intelligence in terms of predicting successful outcomes in business is equivalent to IQ plus technical skill multiplied by two. It’s actually the most important predictive factor for any employee in any business.
M: Do you think recognition of that fact is growing?
DL: It’s certainly growing. But it’s growing off a low base. The shrewd companies do it, but of course they don’t want to talk about it because the last thing they want to do is let opposition firms know where they’re getting the real lift in their employee engagement and retention.
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