Using Emotional Intelligence To Increase Your Bottom Line

If youve been in sales for any length of time, you very likely remember that perfect appointment–the one where everything went right–from the approach, to the presentation, to the close. Not only did you make a sale that day, but you probably made a long-term client and maybe even a friend. Weve all had appointments like that, and most of us use the same word to describe it: “Chemistry.”

Then theres that other kind of appointment–the one where everything simply fell apart. Weve all had appointments like that, too, where we felt terrible, looked worse, and couldnt agree on anything with our prospect. How do most of us write off those appointments? You guessed it: “No chemistry.”

The best salespeople, however, do not become dependent on chemistry. Rather, they develop an emotional awareness of both themselves and their prospects that allows them to “get out of the way of the sale,” and really listen to what the prospect is saying. Some learn this skill over time. A few come by it naturally. But a skill it is, and it has a name: “Emotional Intelligence.” (See sidebar.)

So how does emotional intelligence relate to insurance sales? If you can learn to develop (or improve) your emotional intelligence, youll be better able to service a more diverse group of clients, while improving your closing ratios. Youll become a better listener and a better observer, which, in turn, will allow you to understand how people process information differently.

A good example is the use of “space” in a sales situation. Many of the agents I encounter during training sessions confess that they have a habit of continuing to sell, even after they have made the sale–with the unfortunate result being that they often blow the sale.

If, however, they could learn to recognize this in themselves while it is happening–or even better, before it happens–they could learn to stay out of the way. They could focus instead on listening to their prospects, observing their behavior, understanding their concerns and motivations, and most importantly, knowing when theyve made the sale.

So, how can you improve your skills in this area? One option is to work with a business coach. An effective business coach wont tell you what to do (or when and how to do it), but will instead help you observe yourself with an eye toward understanding exactly who you are.

Once youve obtained this self-awareness, an effective coach can help you make the kinds of behavioral changes that will transform your approach, follow through, and, ultimately, improve your business.

Lets face it: Old habits are hard to break. It takes time to turn these behavioral changes into new habits–time and practice. A coach can help you get back on track when you inevitably slip back into your old habits.

Consider this “real-life” case situation from my coaching experience.

An agent who Ill call Rich was an influential person in his community. He could network well. He knew how to build solid centers of influences. But he had difficulty tapping into these centers of influence for referrals and found it even more difficult to follow up with them.

By using various assessment tools and asking a number of questions, we eventually figured out what was actually blocking him. It turned out that because of what Ill call his “high affiliative motivational structure,” he was reluctant to make his pitch to a prospect for fear of ruining the relationship.

On the surface, this might seem like a self-confidence issue, but when we went deeper we got to the real blocking point.

“What,” I asked him, “is your purpose?” He was stumped by the question and gave me the usual scripted response: “Im a financial services professional who helps clients meet their financial needs.”

But when I challenged him to forget the script and tell me what he felt his purpose was, he was unable to give a response.

As an industry, we have created so much confusion over what an agents role really is that most agents can no longer define it. Theyve lost any sense of who they are, what they do, and what the life insurance business is all about.

The life insurance business is about helping people make tough decisions, helping them face their own mortality and helping them take responsibility for their actions. Once Rich could reattach to what his real purpose was, he became very motivated–only this time in a different way.

He realized that he wasnt selling a commodity, he was giving a gift, the gift of “peace of mind.” He became less driven by his fear of ruining a relationship and more driven by his real purpose.

The end result: He began to approach his centers of influence without reserve, and his practice began to flourish. He came to see that if it were not for him, his clients would not have the advantage of working with someone that truly had their best interests in mind. He knew that these people he cared about would miss out on the opportunity to protect their families and businesses. Rich became very self-aware–or, emotionally intelligent–at a very deep level.

Unfortunately, as helpful as they can be, coaching relationships are not always successful. Sometimes, the “coachee” isnt ready, willing, or even able, to look in the mirror and make the necessary behavioral changes.

When a prospective coaching client asks me, “Why do I have to change?” it indicates to me that he or she isnt ready for coaching. One person I attempted to coach insisted that everything was just fine and that life was great–even as his organization was in the process of imploding.

The bottom line: If you arent willing to take a hard look at yourself and the effect that you have on others, and to make changes to accommodate what you see, then coaching may not be for you.

Could there be “emotional intelligence” issues standing between you and your success? Have you ever had the feeling that maybe youre getting in your own way? Have you ever lost a sale and wondered where you went wrong, what clue you missed?

Perhaps youre ready to work with a qualified business coach–one that can help you gain a greater awareness of both yourself and others. Once you uncover the issues that are blocking your success and become emotionally aware of whats motivating you (and your prospects), youll be well on your way to establishing–or re-establishing–a solid, successful business.

Sonda R. Frattini, CLU, FLMI, CBC is

director of career development for

National Life of Vermont, Montpelier, Vt. She can be reached at sfrattini@nationallife.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, November 11, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.