When most think of intelligence, images of mathematical formulae being furiously scribbled on a blackboard will likely come to mind. But the term intelligence is far broader than the movie depictions of book smarts would have you believe.
Emotional intelligence – or EQ – has been a buzzword in the world of tech for a while now, particularly in the field of sales. It recognises that someone like Raymond Babbitt (that’d be Rain Man for those of you playing at home) may be one of the smartest cats on earth, but pure, unadulterated IQ doesn’t take you far without a bit of emotional intelligence to back it up. And as this Salesforce article so eloquently outlines, this is particularly the case in tech sales.
Defining Emotional Intelligence
Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others”, but the term can mean different things to different people. James Bergl at data protection firm Datto defines it as “one’s ability to internalise and align meaning to nonverbal (body) language” and “the ability to demonstrate empathy and understanding in a situation allowing one to form a greater connection and relationship with another person.”
Toby Giles of RedBalloon has a similar take: “Emotional intelligence to me is the measure of someone’s ability to be aware of a state of mind – either your own or someone else’s – and act accordingly.”
So while a decent IQ is crucial to ongoing success in any professional field, in tech sales it could be argued that EQ is even more important. That being the case, the professional future of any tech salesperson rests on their ability to develop both their IQ and their EQ. But where to start?
Along with Datto and RedBalloon, we spoke to tech professionals from Big Red Group, Hubspot and Qualtrics to identify the IQ- and EQ-related skills required to grow your tech sales career.
10 IQ and EQ Skills That Every Tech Sales Professional Needs to Develop
The ability to empathise
Toby Giles, API Channel Manager at RedBalloon, points to the basic human trait of empathy as key to success in sales. “Having empathy is an underrated quality in leaders and sales teams. Selling is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and being able to understand what it is they need, and that’s why EQ is so fundamental. You need to first understand them and their problem before you can fix it.”
Reading between the lines
Also tied to EQ is the ability to pick up on body language and subtle cues. A good tech salesperson, according to Bergl at Datto, will be able to “internalise and align meaning to nonverbal (body) language.” This will allow them to exploit opportunities for selling by identifying where a potential customer is at. Giles of RedBalloon agrees. “It’s being able to pick up on social clues others might miss”, he surmises.
Conveying your ideas clearly and confidently
Demonstrating your depth of knowledge, and doing so confidently, is an incredibly valuable skill. “You can have all the knowledge in the world about a product”, says Sara Catania of RedBalloon, “but if you’re not assertive and confident then it’s really difficult to close a sale.”
Presenting to an audience
Those who are glossophobic beware (the fear of public speaking, don’t you know) – a tech sales career will see you out in front of the projector quite a bit. “As a salesperson you need to be self-confident and able to deal with your emotions in tough situations – sales presentations can be hard!” Catania adds.
Writing punchy emails
With the wealth of writing tools available to professionals these days – from Spell Check to Grammarly – there’s simply no excuse for a badly written email. The difficulty lies more in the structure and voice, two things that Angus McDonald of Hubspot feels are an extension of a salesperson’s broader communication skills. “If someone can verbally communicate in a clear and concise manner, you can be guaranteed that this will translate into sharply written messages.”
How many times have you left your office at the end of a workday, only to realise that you haven’t moved your most important projects forward at all? In the high speed environment of tech sales, prioritising your time to the things that are the most important is vital to success.
Saying ‘no’ from time to time
Continuing on from the development of your time management skills, you also need to be able to say no to unreasonable or overbearing requests. In fact, a study by the University of California found that the more difficulty you have saying ‘no’, the higher your likelihood of stress, burnout, and even depression.
A willingness to take on new challenges
Anesh Ravi of Qualtrics knows the power of simply putting your hand up and having a go. He began as an untried software salesman, but soon garnered a reputation within the company for challenging himself. In two short years at Qualtrics he has broadened his horizons by leading a whole host of programs outside of his sales wheelhouse, including onboarding and training programs and Southeast Asian business expansion.
“Don’t shy away from a challenge”, he says, “there are endless opportunities to take on more responsibility.”
The ability to listen
Bergl knows that the sales game is a two way communication street. “In solution selling, a lot of the job at hand is problem solving. It is uncovering issues that the other party may not fully understand, and then aligning a solution to it.” Listening is step 1 of this problem solving process.
“EQ is also about knowing when to take a risk and not” says Madeleine Robins, Head of People Operations at Big Red Group. But everyone will make bad calls in their lives, and how you deal with those bad ones can have a huge impact on your future successes. “We reward initiative, not results, so we look for people who have actively failed, but who have subsequently found the determination and grit to bounce back.”
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