Being emotionally intelligent means being both smart and sentient. To think otherwise is, frankly, just not very smart.

The door of awareness stands between your emotional and rational selves. When this door is closed, you make poor decisions––regardless of how smart you are. When the door of awareness is opened, however, the emotional and rational sectors begin to act in harmony. The emotional part of your brain becomes subservient to the rational part, meaning you are a much easier person for others to deal with because you are more at ease with yourself. In other words, you are emotionally intelligent.

Especially in professionals that involve selling, emotional intelligence is often the difference between success and failure. I’ve created an easy-to-remember acronym—ARROW—to help you remember the five key attributes of emotional intelligence:

Others (empathy for others around you)
Working with others (building rapport with others)

ARROW serves as a metaphor for what stands between you and your targets. Everyone has targets: organizations, employees, customers, and clients. However, not all of those targets are the same: what matters to you may be inconsequential to your client. Your ability to navigate the emotional landscape with those clients while keeping your own negative emotions in check is imperative if you hope to meet or exceed expectations.

The five competencies that make up ARROW are the core of emotional intelligence. Remember, if your arrow is crooked or broken, no matter how hard you try, you will not hit your target.


Awareness affects your relationships with clients, coworkers, and even family members. Introspection leads to awareness, and awareness almost always leads to improvement. Here are some questions to ask yourself regarding awareness:

  • Why do I have an easier time connecting with some people and a more difficult time with others?
  • Why do some types of people cause me so much stress and tension?
  • Do some aspects of my personality and approach turn off others?
  • How can I recognize and compensate for the natural liabilities in my personality makeup?

Answer these questions honestly to create a portrait of the perceptions others have of you. Once you become aware, you can begin to bridge the gaps. Be sure to also identify your strengths and work towards putting those strengths front and center in everything you do.


Have you ever had a night where you beat yourself up over something you wished you hadn’t said that day? We’ve all had these moments in our lives because of a lack of restraint. We create what I call a “stress mess”––when we don’t have a game plan for managing our moods, events, stressful situations, and challenging people. Any gains we’ve made up to that point risk being wiped out in the few seconds we spent losing our cool.

Once we become aware, we are better prepared to practice restraint, and manage feelings of anger, hostility, disrespect, and embarrassment. If we are not aware of how our negative emotions impact others, those relationships will be adversely affected.

Restraint is the powerful emotional skill that keeps destructive emotions in check. Restraint also prevents us from barging ahead in situations that require patience by not pushing too fast or too hard. Let’s face it: there will always be people who manage to tick us off. However, emotional intelligence in the form of restraint keeps how we react in check.


Each day you are no doubt expected to endure rejection, disappointment, inaccessibility, runarounds, difficult characters, and slashed budgets (sometimes all before noon) and come back smiling and energized for the next “opportunity.”

Resilience may be the single most important emotional factor affecting success, especially in sales-oriented careers. Without resilience, you can quickly fall prey to self-sabotaging messages. Failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Optimism is the spinal column to and from which all nerves of resilience flow. Resilient people are better insulated against the daily bombardments of pessimism and cynicism, which only serve to exacerbate what is going wrong, and ultimately cause you to fall short of your goals. Especially when it comes to sales, there is a difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: top sales professionals are intrinsically motivated individuals. Extrinsically motivated sales professionals are quick to lose motivation, experience burnout, and are more susceptible to feelings of insignificance with their work.


Empathy, a cornerstone of emotional intelligence, is a highly misunderstood term. When people think of the word, they usually think “sympathy” and “compassion”. However, the concept of empathy is much more than that. I like to define empathy as emotional radar. Those who have developed this skill are able to read between the lines of dialogue and discern someone’s motivations. This sense of emotional radar is what some would call “political smarts”—the ability to recognize the payoffs that will make each party feel good about the transaction at hand. Body and tonal language is essential when it comes to empathy. Subtle but reliable signals, visible on someone’s face, eyes, in their posture or rhythms of speech, expose what they really think about what you are saying. This observational skill is an indispensable tool in the empathy arsenal.


Once sales professionals are trained in a particular product or industry, their entire success rides not on their ability simply to regurgitate what they have been taught, but on their ability to build rapport with others and persuade them to act.

In feedback I’ve gotten from groups who were asked to say specifically what they like and do not like in meeting and getting to know others, likability comes up often. Likability is surprisingly quantifiable and is imperative to building the long-term rapport necessary for successful business relationships. How successful can business relationships be if key contacts cringe every time they see you coming?

Plenty of us are terrific at building rapport—until that rapport is threatened. At that point, we go MIA, because the flip side of the winsome personality is to run for the hills and avoid conflict when anything negative gets in the way. To enjoy lasting success in sales (or pretty much any profession) a person must possess the emotional aptitude to successfully navigate through disagreements, misunderstandings, and opposing points of view.

In Selling with Emotional Intelligence, I talk about the differences between leading and managing. The fact is, you manage processes, but you lead people. It is dangerous to make decisions and establish agendas without asking, “How will this idea play out emotionally?” Emotionally intelligent people understand the importance of that question and proceed with a high regard for emotional impact and consequences. The topic of emotions is a complex landscape, but there are simple rules for becoming a positive emotional force. The first and foremost of those rules is to keep your eyes and ears open. Become an observer of yourself first. Look into your own personality DNA and make an assessment of how others see your strengths and weaknesses.

Remember, being aware of your own unique personality style will help you avoid annoying others who may not share your style. Awareness of why certain types of people grate on your nerves will help you to be emotionally prepared for them. Understanding why you react the way you do is the first step toward being emotionally intelligent.

As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”