The Coaching Effect Blog

Emotional Intelligence on the Sales Team

Posted by Jaime Davis-Thomas

December 22, 2010

Emotional Intelligence on the Sales Team

Jaime Davis-Thomas, EcSELL Institute Director of Research & Publications

Emotional intelligence involves “the intelligent use of emotions: you intentionally make your emotions work for you by using them to help guide your behavior and thinking in ways that enhance your results” (Weisinger, 1998).

Research has documented that salespeople who understand emotional intelligence (EI) and how to use it are at an advantage during the sales process and are likely to perform better than salespeople lacking emotional intelligence.

The dimensions of EI involve relationships to other people, the "interpersonal" dimensions, and relationships to the self, the "intrapersonal" dimensions. 

Interpersonal Dimensions

Intrapersonal Dimensions


Detecting Others' Emotions



Each of the dimensions of EI can be directly related to the skills needed by salespeople who want to be successful in identifying, building, and maintaining customer relationships.

For example, empathy, defined as the ability to put oneself "in someone else’s shoes", has been documented to enhance selling relationships (identifying prospects, understand customer problems, develop them as customers, adapt to their needs, and keep them satisfied).

Research on the impact of each of these dimensions have yet to be explored. However, researchers at Ohio University suggest that the following hypotheses may be true: 

The more highly a salesperson scores on emotional intelligence: 

  • the greater that salesperson’s motivation; 
  • the greater that salesperson’s aptitude for sales; 
  • the more accurate that salesperson’s perceptions of the sales role (Sojka & Deeter-Schmelz, 2002). 

Also hypothesized, 

  • Through increases in motivation, aptitude, and accuracy of role perceptions, high levels of EI will result in improved salesperson performance & job satisfaction

Although no single EI assessment tool is the dominant favorite among organizations using them, there are several assessment scales available (e.g. Feldman 1999; Salovey et al. 1995; Schutte et al. 1998; Weisinger 1998). Each scale has benefits and drawbacks depending upon time factors, ease of use, and scoring simplicity.

Weisinger’s (1998) assessment tool is helpful because it separates each dimension (above) of the EI construct and allows for self-scoring. Respondents rate their ability along a continuum on 44 items relating to EI and then score themselves on each EI dimension. Through this, salespeople are able to observe patterns in their responses and identify the dimensions in which they may improve.

Implications of EI for Sales Managers & Coaches

For sales managers and coaches, EI enhancement as part of a professional development process should begin with a baseline assessment. This should illuminate the salesperson's current strengths/weaknesses on EI dimensions. From there, use of effective EI exercises should demonstrate improvement in sales performance and EI strengths in general. For example, a salesperson may be very strong in the intrapersonal dimensions of self-regulation and self-awareness, but may need to improve the interpersonal skill of perceiving others’ emotions. By using an individual assessment, salespeople can tailor the program of exercises to most accurately fit their needs.


JP Pawliw-Frym of the Institute of Health and Human Potential is an expert in the area of Emotional Intelligence. He will be a featured instructor at our Spring Sales Coaching SummitSales Coaching Summit on April 7-8, 2011 in Scottsdale, AZ at the Fairmont Princess Resort.    BTW 95% of the Fall Summit attendees said they would recommend it to a friend!  It is good stuff.

EcSELL Institute Sales Coaching Summits provide a unique opportunity for senior sales management executives to discuss a broad swath of issues regarding the often misunderstood yet crucially important skill of sales coaching.  This powerful think tank is a true forum where sales leaders, across traditional industry silos, gather to share insights and learn best practices to help advance and develop this critical management skill in themselves and their management teams.

The Sales Coaching Summit features a powerful  line up of industry leading instructors, and includes special learning tracks: One for Senior Sales Managers who coach other sales managers and the other for Sales Managers who coach sales reps.  To maintain an intimate setting and foster interaction, EcSELL Institute Summit attendance is limited.  The list of business relationships resulting from prior Summits is impressive.


Sources mentioned:

Weisinger, H. 1998. Emotional intelligence at work. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Feldman, D.A. 1999. The handbook of emotionally intelligent leadership: Inspiring others to achieve results. Falls Church, VA: Leadership Performance Solutions Press.

Salovey, P., J.D. Mayer, S.L. Goldman, C. Turvey, and T.P. Palfai. 1995. Emotional attention, clarity, and repair: Exploring emotional intelligence using the trait meta-mood scale. In J.W. Pennebaker. Ed. Emotion, disclosure and health. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Schutte, N.S., J.M. Malouff, L.E. Hall, D.J. Haggerty, J.T. Cooper, C.J. Golden, and L. Dornheim. 1998. Development and validation of a measure of emotional intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences 25:167-177.



Article based on Sojka, JZ & Deeter-Schmelz, DR. (2002). Enhancing the Emotional Intelligence of Salespeople. American Journal of Business, 17(1).

Topics: Career Development Plans, Emotional Intelligence, Professional Development Ideas, Assessment Tools

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