Emotional Intelligence Transforming Sales Leadership - Insights by Ravi Srivastava

Ravi Srivastava

Sales as a profession is often seen as gimmicky like the three hats trick, where the only thing that matters is hitting the targets and closing the deals. Sales people are expected to be aggressive, street smart and relentless in their pursuit of achieving their business targets & revenue goals. Sales leaders are often judged by their ability to drive results, push their teams for business objectives, and manage their pipelines.

But does this really define the key tenets to succeed in sales as a profession? Is there more to sales than just negotiation skills and people management? What about the humane side of the sales profession, the emotional and behavioural aspects that influence how we communicate, collaborate, and connect with others?

I believe that sales in its true sense is not just another profession, but actually, a highly evolved intellectual occupation that needs inherent maturity, rational thinking, adaptability & humongous patience to deal with the continuous pressures as an inseparable part of the daily routine for a highly demanding & yet equally rewarding career path. It’s a warrior’s way of life with its pain & glory in equal share.

We, at Ishan Technologies, are an aspirational organisation, driven hard to achieve the ever-evolving & far-reaching goals in definite timelines. We as an organisation are never satisfied with the status quo, as we always strive to innovate, improve, and set new benchmarks for our products, service delivery & customer centricity, both for internal & external stakeholders.

Sales leaders are at the forefront, building not just the businesses, but the overall brand image of the organisation and so emotional Intelligence plays a very crucial role in this evolution of an organisation where the sales team as the front runners & brand ambassadors help in representing the organisation to the world.

Recently, we received the prestigious CIO CHOICE 2024 award in the Large Enterprise category for Telecom Carrier (Leased Lines). This recognition is not only a validation of our efforts but also a celebration of the collective spirit that propels us forward as one team Ishan and which we proudly imbibe as ISHANISM.

However, this success did not come easy. It was a journey of numerous challenges, learning from failures, and a passionate zeal to grow ahead of the curve. A journey that required us to rethink our sales leadership and embrace the human side of it. It taught us the importance of emotional intelligence in team engagement, alignment, and collaboration for building an excellent sales team which truly represents the ethos of ISHANISM.

Why Does Emotional Intelligence Matter in Sales Leadership?

Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to understand and manage your emotions, as well as recognise and influence the emotions of those around you. The term was first coined in 1990 by researchers John Mayer and Peter Salovey, but was later popularised by psychologist Daniel Goleman. More than a decade ago, Goleman highlighted the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership, telling the Harvard Business Review, “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but…they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions.”

Emotional intelligence is especially crucial in sales leadership. Sales leaders have to deal with complex emotions, both their own and their team’s – related to performance, productivity, motivation and improvement. Sales leaders have to go through a range of emotions almost every day, such as rejection, competition, and uncertainty. Sales leaders must build trust and rapport with customers who have different needs, preferences, and expectations, and effectively communicate and persuade both verbally and non-verbally. Additionally, they need to adapt to changing market conditions and customer demands, while balancing the short-term and long-term goals of their teams and organisation.

All these tasks require a high level of emotional intelligence. Research by EQ provider TalentSmart shows that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance.

Employees with high emotional intelligence are more likely to stay calm under pressure, resolve conflict effectively, and respond to co-workers with empathy. Emotional intelligence in sales is like the secret ingredient that sets apart the exceptional sales team from its average counterparts. It refers to a salesperson’s ability to understand, manage, and harness their own emotions and that of their prospects, leading to more effective communication and long-term relationships.

How We Developed Our Emotional Intelligence Skills at Ishan Technologies

When I joined Ishan Technologies as a Business Sales Leader, I brought with me not just my two decades of experience in the Telecom and IT infrastructure sector, but also a deep understanding of emotional intelligence. Recognising that the organisation was poised for growth and aiming to compete head-on with major market players, I knew that applying emotional intelligence would be crucial. We came from a thought process that the tech team would be the best team to approach for collaboration with our prospective clients. They knew the product inside out, they were passionate about it, and they could talk about both challenges and solutions without missing a beat. Yet over our growth journey, we realised we needed a team focused on business development. Our goal was still to be focused on developing relationships, rather than purely looking at numbers. In the long term that continues to yield dividends for us, making our existence across India possible.

Connecting on a Deeper Level: The Power of Emotional Intelligence

Believing in the power of people, I decided to invest in our most valuable asset — our employees. I dedicated time to connect with each team member on a personal level, aiming to understand not only their professional aspirations but also the challenges they faced on a day-to-day basis. The goal was to build relationships beyond the confines of the office.

Creating a culture of trust, collaboration, and feedback was another priority. I encouraged open and honest communication within the team and with customers. Active and empathetic listening, coupled with providing constructive and timely feedback, became integral to our interactions. Additionally, welcomed feedback from others and utilised it for personal and leadership improvement.

Empowering Employees: Through Internal Training Sessions

The idea behind introducing internal training sessions at Ishan Technologies was to boost our team members’ skills and confidence. We wanted to focus on areas that would benefit both their professional and personal growth. The aim was to create a well-rounded and resilient team that could handle challenges effectively.

On one hand, we continue developing technical and functional skills, without which no sales professionals, especially in technology sales can succeed. On the other hand, we created development plans focused on developing tactful communication, managing emotions in stressful environments, collaborating cross functionally, building a strong presence and a proactive approach to challenges. The team’s confidence soared. The sense of purpose and alignment with organisational goals grew stronger day by day.

I personally feel that a development roadmap helps teams realise they are on a career path, not just another deliverable. As leaders, it is our responsibility to steer them in the right direction as well as to remind them with our actions, that they are valued.

The Results: From Pressure to Progress

The success of reshaping our sales leadership at Ishan Technologies through emotional intelligence is a shared triumph, and credit is due to the insightful Leadership & Management team at Ishan. Their understanding of the need for an emotional shift led to a culture of trust and collaboration. The leadership team’s vision of focusing on holistic skills development played a crucial role. This journey from pressure to progress upholds Ishan’s forward-thinking and people centric leadership, driving sustained success.

Conclusion: The Human Touch in Leadership

In conclusion, my journey has taught me that it’s about understanding that behind every sales target, there’s a person with ambitions, inhibitions, strengths, fears and untapped potential. As leaders, it’s our duty to connect, motivate & even challenge the team with our heart in its right place, to bring out the best in our team & help them succeed in their career paths in the organisation.

Here’s to leading with heart, embracing the human side of leadership, and creating a workplace where success is not just measured in numbers but in the growth and fulfilment of every team member.

We will continue making a positive impact together!

About Author

Ravi Srivastava

Ravi Srivastava

Vice President - Ishan Technologies