While it’s always been important to have a strong foundation of knowledge and real-world experience to be successful in your career, “soft skills” are becoming more and more vital. Soft skills are personal traits that make you a desirable employee and are transferable between jobs and industries, like communication, problem-solving, decision-making, relationship management, and emotional intelligence.
According to Deloitte, soft skill-intensive occupations will grow at 2.5 times the jobs in other fields and will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030. This is interesting considering that they have traditionally been viewed as inferior to “hard skills,” which are job-specific abilities or knowledge learned through education, hands-on experience, or training.
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence, also referred to as emotional quotient (EQ), is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of EQ know what they’re feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people.
Emotional intelligence is often confused with personality, but personality has very little to do with it, surprisingly. EQ is also different from IQ and shows no correlation to it in studies. IQ, your ability to learn, is highly genetic and stays fairly constant throughout your life. EI is a skill that you can learn and develop.
Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist and author of the book, Emotional Intelligence, suggested that EQ is twice as important as cognitive intelligence for predicting career success and that there was far too much emphasis on traditional tracking methods of employee performance. Goleman defines EQ as “the ability to identify, assess and control one’s own emotions, the emotion of others and that of groups” and divides it into five categories:
- Self-awareness is possessing a consciousness of your own emotions, motivations, and impulses. Individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence are comfortable with their own thoughts and emotions and understand how they may affect others. Being aware of your feelings and motivations is the first step in understanding and accepting them.
- Self-regulation is exercising self-control over your behavior, being able to adapt to circumstances that are out of your control, being trustworthy and conscientious, and managing your emotions in non-destructive ways. It is important to be able to control and manage your impulses and emotions in your professional and personal relationships. Acting impulsively can lead to errors or actions that may damage relationships with friends, family, clients, or colleagues.
- Social skills are communication skills required in specific situations, including conflict management, persuasion, collaboration, rapport-building, and leadership. Social skills are more than just being friendly. Goleman describes them as “friendliness with a purpose.”
- Empathy is having the ability to put yourself in someone else’s situation. You act fairly and challenge others who are not, give helpful feedback, and listen to those who need it. Empathy requires that you not only understand your own emotions but that you also react to the emotions of others with care. Identifying a certain mood or emotion from a colleague or client and reacting to it appropriately can go a long way in developing trust.
- Motivation means working consistently toward your goals because of an intrinsic drive and adhering to certain standards of quality. Being driven by only money or material rewards is not a beneficial characteristic, according to Goleman. A passion for what you do is more beneficial and leads to sustained motivation.
Together, these five emotional intelligence skills comprise the building blocks of a healthy, productive approach to life and work. You can take a quiz to assess your emotional intelligence here.
How Emotional Intelligence Impacts Job Performance
The World Economic Forum ranked emotional intelligence as one of the most important skills to have by 2025. It’s obvious that it is becoming a valuable asset. According to the article, Emotional Intelligence — What Do the Numbers Mean?, here’s the proof:
- EQ is responsible for 58% of professional success, regardless of job category — Of all the workplace skills a person can possess, none is more impactful than EQ. It is the single strongest predictor of performance, and it serves as the foundation for a variety of other critical skills like time management, communication, and customer service.
- 90% of top performers score high on emotional intelligence; just 20% of low performers score high on emotional intelligence — The more emotionally intelligent you are, the more likely you will be a top performer. Given this statistic, it is extremely unlikely that anyone with a low EQ score will become a top performer. Unless, of course, they work hard to develop their emotional intelligence.
- People with high emotional intelligence earn, on average, $29,000 more annually than those who score low on EQ — People who perform well get paid more, and there is a direct correlation between salary and emotional intelligence. For each percentage-point increase in EQ, a person can add $1300 to their annual salary. This is true across industries, regions, and levels.
- A 40-year study of PhDs at UC Berkeley found that EQ was 400% more powerful than IQ when predicting who would have success in their field — Even the smartest of the smart benefit significantly by high levels of emotional intelligence.
- PepsiCo performed an internal study revealing that managers with highly developed EQ skills outperformed yearly revenue targets by 15-20%; managers with low emotional intelligence underperformed at the same rate. Emotionally intelligent leaders possess qualities that drive their teams to exceed expectations on a consistent basis. Leaders who lack emotional intelligence, on the other hand, underperform just as consistently.
The impact EQ can have on an individual’s career and within organizations is nothing short of dramatic.
This Is How EQ Can Help in Sales
The most important thing to know about EQ is that it can be improved and developed. While a person’s IQ generally remains static throughout life, an individual’s EQ can be enhanced. This is especially good news for leaders, salespeople, negotiators — and any person really — who wants to gain a competitive edge and perform well. Leaders can employ tactics to help their team members become more emotionally intelligent which aids the members and assists them to succeed as leaders.
Emotionally intelligent sales professionals perform better than their non-emotionally intelligent peers. Often, sales reps can be derailed or distracted by their own emotions in the sales process, which can lead to such mishaps as leaving value on the table, presenting off-target solutions, not asking the right questions or enough questions, or failing to position themselves as a trusted advisor.
Having a high EQ allows a salesperson to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power of their own mind and emotions during interactions with buyers to improve sales. Let’s take a look at how the five components of EQ may positively affect sales performance.
A self-aware salesperson is going to be better able to manage their time and energy regardless of their emotional states. They are going to be less likely to offend or annoy a potential customer because of their own emotions. They will also bounce back from disappointment and rejection faster.
A self-regulated salesperson is going to be able to able to avoid bringing emotions such as fear, anxiety, or even excitement into client interactions. They are better able to assess and adapt their behavior to meet the needs of their job and each unique client situation.
- Social Skills
A sales professional with strong social skills will have more success prospecting and will be able to build a larger network for sales opportunities. They’ll be good at collaborating and cooperating with peers for mutually beneficial exchanges of information. They can also make adjustments to their own communications information and styles to meet the needs of the client.
An empathetic salesperson would be good at judging the “temperature” of the client and can adapt their approach and easily steer conversations to overcome obstacles. Empathy also helps the salesperson better understand the customer’s needs, goals, and pain points.
One item to note about empathy is that it can have a downside. For a salesperson to be effective, their empathy levels shouldn’t be too low or too high. Too much empathy can cause a salesperson to be overly sensitive to the feelings of others. They may, for example, not be assertive enough to ask essential questions or ask for the business for fear of seeming rude or pushy.
A salesperson with high EQ is going to be capable of generating enthusiasm and motivation consistently over the long run to do their job. They will be able to respond better to rejection and will seek to learn from their failures and improve their skills. They listen to feedback, make adjustments, and revise the way they work. They’re probably going to be more willing to explore leads and follow up on opportunities more assertively than their peers.
This Is How EQ Can Help in Negotiations
Whether you’re negotiating the purchase of a house, a sales contract, or a job salary, negotiations are stressful — for both sides — and filled with emotion. In a 2015 negotiation study, researchers sought to determine whether emotional intelligence correlated with beneficial negotiation outcomes, in particular trust-building, the desire to work together in the future, and joint gain Interestingly. According to the Harvard Law School Daily Blog article, Emotional Intelligence as a Negotiating Skill, here are their key findings and advice.
“Successful negotiation examples: emotional intelligence and integrative negotiation strategies
They could negotiate issues such as salary, vacation, starting date, and medical coverage, and had opportunities to both create and claim value. Because points were assigned to the various outcomes, the researchers were able to measure participants’ relative success by adding up their points.
Perhaps not surprisingly, higher levels of emotional intelligence were associated with greater rapport within pairs of negotiators. Strong rapport in turn nurtured trust in one’s counterpart and a willingness to work with the other party in the future. Counterintuitively, however, high emotional intelligence was not linked to better joint negotiation outcomes when measured by points.
Why didn’t emotionally intelligent negotiators leverage their skills to help both parties achieve more? Kim and his team speculated that these negotiators’ keen sense of empathy may have led them to make excessive concessions to their counterparts at the expense of their own gains. Past work has suggested that emotionally intelligent negotiators may be vulnerable to exploitation by their counterparts for this reason.
The results suggest that emotional rapport and other signs of a keen emotional intellect can promote trust and long-term partnerships. But when it prompts unnecessary concessions, emotional intelligence may undermine the same connections that it is touted to enhance.”
Having too much empathy proved to be a detriment in negotiations also. The researchers found that high empathy led people to make excessive concessions at the expense of their own gains. For information on how to develop your emotional intelligence skills in business, see the Harvard Business School Online article, Emotional Intelligence Skills: What They Are & How to Develop Them.
Emotional intelligence is proving to be a crucial component of professional success, especially in sales, leadership, and negotiation. Your ability to be self-aware and manage your emotions, as well as recognize and influence others is not considered irrelevant “touchy-feely” stuff anymore. EQ has become one of the strongest indicators of workplace performance and achievement. Technical skills will only get you so far. The good news is that you can build your emotional intelligence to bring out the best in yourself and others.