The interplay between intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional quotient (EQ) in boosting sales performance.


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I would start by posing this question to you: Have you ever been in a situation, where a smart salesperson, was trying so hard to sell you a product, without listening to your needs? He or she may be considered to have a high IQ (intelligence quotient), as displayed through immense product knowledge but low EQ (emotional quotient), by failing to listen to your needs. This scenario ushers in the great debate between IQ and EQ- as to which plays a greater role in the sales process. In the words of the CEO of a top global financial institution: “I hire the best and brightest – but I still get a Bell Curve for performance.” According to Daniel Goleman, this CEO was quite curious as to knowing why not all the smartest MBAs from top schools like Wharton, Harvard and Stanford, were successful in their jobs. Now most of these graduates are considered to be quite high in IQ but the very important question is: Does having a very high IQ equate to job success- regardless of the nature of the profession? This further carves out the dichotomy between the impact of IQ and EQ in boosting work performance.

Argument of IQ trumping EQ

In about a century of incisive and cutting edge research, there seems to be less agreement on the definition of intelligence and the proper measurement for IQ. A working definition of IQ as expressed by knowledge powerhouse Wikipedia, refers to: “Score derived from one of several standardized tests designed to assess human intelligence.” With the benefit of a working definition of IQ, it is important to state that Adam Grant, a big proponent for stating the supremacy of IQ over EQ– as he believes it is a debate, one which IQ is always destined to win. He insists emotional intelligence is overrated and that cognition trumps it all. In his notable piece titled: “the dark side of emotional Intelligence,” he opined “Emotional intelligence is important, but the unbridled enthusiasm has obscured a dark side. New evidence shows that when people hone their emotional skills, they become better at manipulating others. When you know what others are feeling, you can tug at their heartstrings and motivate them to act against their own best interests.” This standpoint by Grant and some other psychologists, have heightened a somewhat debate and divide between IQ (cognition) and EQ (emotion) – believing they are separate entities that are competitive and not complementary.

IQ thrives in a cognitive field

Cognition as captured by Wikipedia refers to: “the set of all mental abilities and processes related to knowledge: attention, memory and working memory, judgement and evaluation, reasoning and computation, problem solving and decision making etc.” Emotional Intelligence thought leader Daniel Goleman, argued that more than a century of research illustrates that IQ is the most appropriate predictor of the job you can get and retain. Jobs or professions in medicine, computer programming, accountancy, C-Suite executive or a top business school professor are highly cognitive hence, entry and performance in such occupations, largely depends on IQ.

Interplay between IQ and EQ are pivotal in sales

A balanced approach to the ensuing divide between IQ and EQ witnesses an understanding of the strengths of both elements and how they are both important in improving your company’s sales performance. Daniel Goleman, propagated the balance between both concepts and noted how this interplay is important in a job that largely depends on relating with people, as he enthused: “The more your success on the job depends on relating to people- whether in sales, as a team member or a leader- the more emotional intelligence matters. A high-enough IQ is necessary, but not sufficient, for success.” A flashback to the question tendered by the CEO of the financial institution, wondering why some smart MBAs from top universities like Stanford, are not performing in their jobs. In response to that, Goleman forwarded two models of emotional intelligence- self-mastery and social intelligence. Self-mastery is largely dependent on cognitive skills that relays to ones IQ while social intelligence is indicative of ones EQ- ability to intelligently respond, relate and connect with people. He believes that most of the top MBAs have high self-mastery or IQ- but to perform in a people laden career like sales, there is the need for the coming together or interplay between self-mastery (IQ) and social intelligence (EQ).

For your sales team to succeed and exceed targets, they have to have a lot of product knowledge and organizational USP (self-mastery) – and socially aware enough (social intelligence) to mesh on team, connect with clients or leads. If top and smart MBAs or sales staff fail to perform well, it is likely to be more down to low EQ and not IQ. In sales, an emotionally intelligent employee would develop that trust with the lead, through listening and empathy building. Putting themselves, in the shoes of the customer, to understand their needs and tailor the appropriate product to meet the said need. Selling the same SKU or product to every lead or customer might indicate low EQ- which is not sustainable and personal. The key is to be smart enough (IQ) to know the value of your product and sensitive enough (EQ) to tailor it according to the needs of your customer.
The sum total of the interplay between IQ and EQ is: seeing the product through the eyes of the customer and not the customer through the eyes of the product.

Dateme Tamuno
Dateme Tamuno (Tubotamuno) is currently working as part of the SEO and PPC delivery team for UK based digital agency, Cariad Marketing. He has also completed a book on user-generated content marketing.


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