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The Other Kind of Smart

When we hear the word “smart” used to describe someone, this person is typically well-educated, well-read, understands complex ideas and processes, can quickly analyze a problem and determine a plausible solution, etc.  Smart is often interchangeable with intelligent, an individual possessing a high IQ or intelligence quotient.  We have been programmed to believe that the more knowledge, technical skills and hard, factual information we can amass, the more successful we will be in any career we choose. But is this always true?  Can we call someone with a keen awareness of their emotions and how they affect others smart?  Is it fair to identify a person as intelligent if they had a knack for forming and maintaining strong positive relationships?

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the ability to be aware of and properly express one’s emotions.  EQ has been dubbed “the other kind of smart”, an aspect of one’s intelligence that should be considered at the same level of importance as their IQ.  EQ is at the core of relationships, allowing us to judiciously handle our interpersonal relationships in every facet of our life.

Relationships are everything in sales. Even if you know 50 digits of the number Pi or can recite all the features of your product in your sleep, it doesn’t necessarily mean the prospect will want to buy from you.  The simple truth is this: if they like you, they will want to work with you.

EQ is a soft skill, something that is intangible and harder to measure than its concrete counterpart.  Even though it is dynamic and an ever-changing part of our intelligence, there are five main components of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, motivation and social skill.

  • Self-Awareness is the foundation of EQ; if we know ourselves and how our emotions, values and goals impact others, then we can adjust our behaviors accordingly to build relationships. If we are honest with ourselves then we can be honest with others, laying the groundwork for trust and understanding.
  • Self-Regulation allows us to control or redirect our emotions or impulses when they may not benefit a situation. Think of self-regulation like bumpers if life was a game of bowling; if we start to veer off the path, we can quickly correct to get back into our lane.
  • Empathy is the ability to understand and take into consideration what others are thinking or feeling. It may be the most underrated and underutilized emotional intelligence tool. The gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it is significant.
  • Motivation can best be described as the drive to achieve for the sake of achievement; a passion for the work, in and of itself, without the need for a tangible reward.
  • Social Skill is the ability to build rapport and manage relationships. It is the culmination of the other components of EQ. Think of it as being friendly with a purpose, not just for the sake of being social.

Although IQ and other hard or high concept skills are taken into consideration when selecting a candidate for a sales position, the soft skills or high touch skills, like emotional intelligence, can make or break a salesperson’s success.  Unlike IQ and personality which are fixed, emotional intelligence is dynamic.  As we age and become more mature, our EQ improves as we meet more people, have more interpersonal interactions, and learn more about ourselves.

Evaluations of how smart sales reps are should not be limited to the “traditional” definition of smart; intelligence.  Instead, smart should be used to mean a combination of intelligence and EQ, or soft skills, so as to not overlook key aspects of what makes a successful salesperson.