The impact of emotions on salesperson performance is undeniable. However, these emotions can be an asset to organisations when salespersons have high emotional intelligence as well as high emotional self-efficacy (ability to use emotions). The ability to calibrate both these aspects of emotional competence allows salespersons to develop a better rapport with customers and have more effective interactions with them. Therefore, organisations should consider these factors for employee selection and work to build and maintain emotional calibration among salespersons.
It is almost cliched to say that salespersons need to manage their emotions. A salesperson faces rejections and tough situations quite frequently but they need to project a calm exterior to customers. Since Daniel Goleman made emotional intelligence and emotional quotient mainstream, firms recognise the importance of emotional intelligence in employee behaviour. As it is difficult for people to compartmentalise their emotions, it is inevitable that emotions will affect their performance. Organisations, therefore, are beginning to incorporate emotional competence as a factor in employee selection. However, when it comes to sales, managers are faced with the question: How do emotional intelligence (EI) and emotional self-efficacy (ESE) affect salesperson performance? A study compiling four multisource studies across diverse sales industries tries to answer this question through the concept of Emotional Calibration.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as a person’s ability to recognise, understand, use, and
manage emotions, both their own and others’. The higher a person’s emotional intelligence, the better their ability to build relationships, make decisions, defuse conflict, and relate to others. A related concept is emotional self-efficacy (ESE). ESE refers to a person’s confidence in their ability to use emotions during interpersonal interactions. High ESE helps people have open emotive communication and manage negative emotions better when interacting with others.
The study found that emotionally calibrated salespeople (emotionally intelligent people who
are also confident in their emotional abilities) tend to have higher sales performance. Emotional calibration allows them to remain calm and avoid aggressive behaviour when interacting with customers, even agitated or aggressive customers. In normal circumstances, such calm and positive behaviour increases the level of rapport and enjoyment of customers, leading to higher sales. When dealing with difficult customers, such calm behaviour prevents escalation of a bad situation and can avoid loss of sales and harm to customer relationships.
However, it is critical to have proper calibration between EI and ESE. Both overconfidence
and lack of confidence in the ability to act on emotions can hurt sales, as can low EI. Emotionally calibrated people (High EI, High ESE) achieve 37% higher sales outcomes, on average than salespersons who are emotionally underconfident (High EI, Low ESE). They also perform 61% higher than those who are negatively calibrated (Low EI, Low ESE) and a whopping 351% higher than those who are emotionally overconfident (Low EI, High ESE).
Interestingly, two factors affect the extent to which salespersons can benefit from emotional calibration. The first of these is felt stress or stress which is a chronic state where salespersons feel a negative emotion whenever interacting with customers. The higher the felt stress, the study found, the lower the positive impact of emotional calibration on performance.
The second factor that affects the demonstration of calm behaviour is tenure. Experience in
customer interaction develops a greater ability to manage emotion during such interactions. It also increases the ability to build rapport and be more effective in communicating with customers. Therefore, longer tenure enhances the positive impact of emotional calibration on sales performance.
This study has significant insights for organisations, especially Indian firms where emotional competence is still not considered as critical as other, more tangible, competencies. Organisations should consider not only EI when hiring, but also ESE. Further, they should develop and maintain the ESE of their salespersons.
Managers can use feedback to enhance ESE since emotional confidence can be situational
and can increase or decrease based on factors like performance, ratings, or feedback. Increasing awareness and understanding about EI through training programs can also help to enhance ESE. Managers and organisations need to accept and embrace emotional calibration and work deliberately to create a proper balance between EI and ESE among their salespersons.