Women in the workforce hear it all the time: “You’re so emotional.” It’s a criticism levied at women (usually from men who are afraid to express their own feelings). The subtext is: “You’re too emotional to lead, to make levelheaded decisions, to be a grown-up.”
It’s infantilizing, damaging, and worst of all, aims at our core strength. Our superpower is our ability to sense and feel our emotions.
It is biologically and socially rooted that women have an instinctive drive to feel connected with people emotionally than do men. We’ve evolved for and been trained all our lives to connect emotionally—and that ability is an asset with real economic value.
It’s what our realtor used to win our trust when my husband and I bought our house, for example, and it can be what you use to attract customers who are thrilled to work with you and pay you well for the value you add to their lives. You need to use your emotional intelligence as a cornerstone in entrepreneurial success: Sales.
Particularly, in the new sales model for women that is geared for their success. In this article, I’ll share some tips on how to amplify your empathy and apply your innate emotional intelligence to sell more and forge lasting customer connections.
The Old and New Art and Techniques of Selling: Emotional Intelligence
We’re all living in a messy, in-between moment when the old way and the new way of doing sales coexist. In comparing the two, the one thing that sets them apart—emotional intelligence—becomes impossible to ignore.
When it’s missing, salespeople tend to do whatever it takes, such as reaching out blindly to prospects using mass cold calls and other aggressive, impersonal tactics. By sticking to a plan, they ignore objections and push through them. They then try to convince the person that it’s okay.
Emotional intelligence is central to the new approach. As a seller, your primary aim is to understand the customer’s needs or problems, and you do that by listening—not just to respond, but to understand.
You get out of your own head and into the customer’s by paying attention not only to what they’re saying, but also how they’re saying it. You should focus on the person you are serving, and not on how to express yourself. That is what women were socialized to do. Emotionally informed selling is better for all.
Empathy is vital
Empathy is essential to emotional intelligence. It is the ability of feeling what another person is feeling. It involves not only reading someone else’s emotions but also sharing them. To build and maintain your customers’ trust, it’s essential that your customers see that you genuinely care about them.
Let’s look at my fitness coaching business as an example. My ideal customer was a woman who wanted to take control of her health and her body image but couldn’t do it alone. Prior to finding me on Instagram she felt awful about herself. She likely felt anxious about her body, confused about how to eat, and ashamed for not being able to live up to her potential.
That is not the headspace of someone who’s ready to shell out serious money for high-end fitness coaching and dive into the program with unstoppable enthusiasm. She needed to be convinced her problem could be solved, enthusiastic that my solution was right for her and certain that she will be able to achieve the results that she desired. My job was to lead her down that path from anxiety and self-doubt to trust and self-empowerment—to show her that I empathized, and genuinely care.
You already have an advantage as a woman. Research shows that women are more compassionate than men.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. There is a space between stimulus and response that allows us to be free in choosing our responses. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” – Viktor E. Frankl
What can you do to strengthen your empathy
OK, you’re thinking. I’m a woman, but sales still freak me out. Are my feelings-with-others tools a bit rusty? You can increase your empathy by practicing it intentionally. These can be incorporated into everyday life to increase empathy.
Meet new people.To get to know someone casually, invite them to lunch. Or just to have a chat with someone you’ve always waved at but never had the chance to meet.
Practice curiosity.Make curiosity the highest priority in every conversation. Ask deeper questions to provoke more personal, real dialogue. Great listening is key to this conversation.
You can live a new life. Get out of your comfort zone and try on a new outlook by doing things outside your normal routine, which can open your mind to the ways other people’s lives and views are different from yours. You can start by going to a foreign place. Do something you’ve never done before, like playing a new sport. Study books that feature people like you.
If you do a few of these things every day, you’ll quickly notice your instinct for empathy becoming stronger.
Manage Your Emotions during Sales
Empathy is just one piece of emotional intelligence you’ll need to master sales. The other is the ability to manage emotions. That’s the skill that will allow you to disconnect your ego from the result of the sale, and meet your customer where they are.
If you’re emotionally hung up on whether you’ll get a yes or a no, there’s no way you’ll be able to listen with empathy and adapt your response according to the customer’s needs. You’ll end up interpreting every objection, question, or refusal as a personal attack, and that can leave you feeling nervous, angry, or dejected. With those emotions in the room, you’d be amazed at how quickly the sales process can unravel.
There’s an easy perspective shift that solves this problem immediately: the sale isn’t about you at all—it’s about the customer. If you’re thinking too much about yourself, you’ll get stuck in your head when you really need to be in their head. You need to listen to their problems and show them your solutions.
My students with difficulty managing emotions in sales discussions can use affirmations, mantras and meditation. During the conversation, check in with yourself occasionally and ask who you’re paying attention to, yourself or the other person. If you apply these simple practices regularly, pretty soon you’ll approach every sales conversation with excitement and a sense of possibility.
Mirroring your customer
You must first manage your ego. Then you can meet your customers where they are at their core. Unmatched vibes can be uncomfortable. Think about it: If you were a woman who was on a mission and needed to accomplish the task, but the salesperson had the essence of Zen, would you believe she was the right person?
You want your customer to feel you’re on the same wavelength. Mirror your customer’s emotional state at the beginning of the sales conversation. As you help them to reach their emotional state, this will increase their willingness to follow you. wantThey should be there.
That’s not to say if someone comes to you frustrated, you mirror that and spend the entire conversation feeding each other’s annoyance. Instead, let them know that you sympathize with their pain and help them find the solution.
Daily Attention: Pay attention
I hope you’ve realized that if you pay close attention to this crucial skill set, you can strengthen it just by going about your daily life. You don’t need to make time for meditation, practice or reflection.
Just keep doing what you do—working, studying, shopping, playing, socializing, caring for others—but with a more conscious awareness of the emotions in and around you. Who’s feeling what? What can you do to tell which person is feeling what? You can make them feel happier and help strengthen your relationship.
It is important to cultivate your emotional intelligence for your relationships. But, pay particular attention to your business interactions. When was the last time you were thrilled with a purchase from a customer Feeling overwhelmed? Are you feeling overwhelmed?
This deliberate practice and heightened awareness will strengthen your emotional intelligence, and soon you’ll feel like you can almost read your customers’ minds. You’ll empathize, mirror them, and create lasting connections that will serve you, your brand, and, most importantly, your customers, for the life of your business.