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Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: The Ability to Connect

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
February 3, 2010

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The eighth essential attribute for salespeople is Empathy and Emotional Intelligence.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence follow the first attribute, self-discipline. The self-discipline that is the foundation of all future-oriented goals allows the professional salesperson to set aside their thoughts, their feelings, and their emotions and to instead focus on feeling what another person is feeling. It allows them to control their communication.


Empathy and Emotional Intelligence follow the second attribute, optimism. Optimism enables you to turn your empathy and emotional intelligence into a positive experience for other people.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence follow the third attribute, competitiveness. In order to win, you must be competitive. Competitiveness may get you in front of a prospect, but it is your empathy and your emotional intelligence that creates the connection once you are there.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence follow the fourth attribute, initiative, because to act empathetically and with emotional intelligence is a proactive approach to understanding how other people feel before acting. It couples the ability to act with the ability to include others needs.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence follow the fifth attribute, resourcefulness. It isn’t enough to simply generate ideas that allow you to succeed. To succeed, you need others, and empathy and emotional intelligence allow your resourcefulness to be leveraged with the thoughts and ideas of the people on whom your success depends.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence follow the sixth attribute, determination. Being determined requires action, action often involving other people. Empathy and emotional intelligence enable that determination to be coupled with a deep understanding other peoples needs, their thoughts, and their emotions.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence follow Caring. Caring is what underlies both the ability and the intention to act empathetically and with emotional intelligence. It conveys they authenticity of your caring.

What Is Empathy? What is Emotional Intelligence?

Empathy is the ability to feel what the other person is feeling. It is to experience their emotions. It is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes in a big and meaningful way. Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. This is a skill that all great communicators possess (more about this tomorrow).

Empathy and emotional intelligence work together in sales, enabled by caring, to produce long-lasting relationships. Together they are the foundation of trust.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence in Sales

Empathy is what allows a salesperson to understand deeply what their prospect is feeling. It is the patient exploration of the other’s person’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. In part, it allows them to create a connection with their prospect and customers.

Emotional Intelligence solidifies that connection. While empathy allows the salesperson to understand what the prospect or customers is feeling, emotional intelligence is what allows them to communicate that they understand those feelings and their implications.


Together these abilities allow the salesperson to understand the other person’s communication in not only their words, but also in what lies beneath their words. Working to understand another person’s thoughts, their feelings, and emotions, and communicating with emotional intelligence, are the foundations of building trust.

You see these attributes in great salespeople. You see it when their clients and prospects open up, sharing their business problems, challenges, and opportunities with the salesperson. You see it in the client’s sharing of the politics that exist in all companies and that may break or win a deal. You see it in the great salesperson’s ability to communicate that they do in fact feel what the prospect or customer is feeling, and by the sense of trust that is created. You see it in the customer’s willingness to share their dissatisfaction and the implications of that dissatisfaction. You see it in the salesperson’s ability to help manage the prospect or customers emotional state, using their connection with this customer to build a vision of something better.

You see the twin attributes of empathy and emotional intelligence in the salesperson’s ability to lead and orchestrate their own team to create a positive outcome for their clients, paying attention other’s needs. And you see these attributes on display whenever there is a problem or an issue. Great salespeople leverage the ability to feel what the other person is feeling, and to use their high emotional intelligence to communicate with them, as well as others, to resolve the issue.

Empathy and emotional intelligence are the currency of trust and rapport.

When Empathy and Emotional Intelligence are Missing

When empathy is missing, the salesperson has a difficult time connecting to their prospect or customer’s feelings, their thoughts, and their emotions. To the prospect, it comes across as a lack of interest, a cool distance, a lack of engagement. It leaves the prospect wondering if the salesperson really understands their problems or dissatisfaction. It manifests itself in a weak needs-analysis, one that focuses only on the superficial presenting problem, and not the underlying problems.

When empathy and emotional intelligence is missing, salespeople are poor at picking up the prospect’s verbal cues and their physical communication. The client feels this is as a lack of consideration, as unprofessionalism, and assumes her thoughts and feelings mean nothing. Rapport is never gained. It feels too much like the salesperson is simply there to sell, not create a positive outcome for the client.

The lack of empathy and emotional intelligence results in fewer second sales calls with the same prospect.

The lack of empathy and emotional intelligence are also problematic when working within their own teams. It manifests itself in problems developing the relationships with the cross-functional team members they need to produce the positive outcomes for their clients. It shows up in demands made, without understanding what the team may need in order to meet those demands. It results in adversarial relationships where the feelings of others are ignored, and where poor emotional intelligence results in poor communication choices.


Great salespeople have the ability to create high-level rapport with their prospects and their clients. Great salespeople have the ability to connect on a very human level. This rapport is built upon the modern sales professional's empathy and their emotional intelligence. These attributes combine to generate trust and confidence, and they are the foundation of long-term relationships.


1. Do have the ability to empathetic? Can I feel what my prospect or client is feeling?

2. Can I imagine myself in their situation? How would I feel if I were? Frustrated? Angry? Anxious?

3. Do I postpone sharing my thoughts and ideas until I understand not only the prospects presenting problem, but the deeper, underlying issues and how those issues affect them?

4. Do I have the ability to control my own emotional state? Can I communicate with others in way that I can create a positive emotional condition for them?

5. Do I use my empathy and my emotional intelligence within my own organization as well, in leading or orchestrating my business teams?

6. Are these skills that I need to develop?

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Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on February 3, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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