Conversation with Punit Jansari: How to apply emotional intelligence when selling

Reading time: 18 minutes

Sharon Newey: Welcome to the Learn Grow Succeed Conversations Podcast. I’m your host, Sharon Newey. If you want to become the extraordinary leader today’s organisations need, then listen now. On this special Conversations episode, I’m joined by longstanding Excel training partner Punit Jansari.

Welcome, Punit, to the Learn Grow Succeed Podcast. It’s great to have you join us today. I know that the conversation that we’re going to be exploring is very much around emotional intelligence, and how that works and applies to sales. Before we do, can I just maybe ask you to share with our audience a little bit about your background, how long you’ve been a training partner with Excel Communications, and the kind of clients that you’ve been working with?

Punit Jansari: Yes, hello, and thank you very much. I’m delighted to be here. Just as a bit of a brief background, I’ve been working with Excel since 2013. During that time, I’ve been involved in various different learning and development interventions. I would say most of my experience with Excel has been working within pharmaceutical companies, healthcare companies and technology companies. Within those opportunities, I would say most of the development work I’ve been involved in has been around commercial skills, so selling skills. Also the skills around being able to engage someone to be able to have a meaningful conversation.

Sharon Newey: Okay, fantastic. It’s interesting, because there as you talk about engaging with people, having meaningful conversations, it’s already making me think about emotional intelligence. Maybe a good place to start then with this conversation is, for the audience, who may well have varying levels of insight and knowledge and awareness of emotional intelligence, is just to explain a little bit about what is it. It is something that is talked about an awful lot.

Punit Jansari: Great. I’m so glad you asked me the question, for two reasons really. If you look at emotional intelligence, and if you read the wealth of information that’s out there around emotional intelligence, you can really bathe in it. There’s just so much and it’s very, very deep. There’s so much text and so much research papers, and there’s lots of very useful, complicated information. Having said that, for me, Sharon, I also believe that sometimes it’s useful to be simple. For me, in its simplest form emotional intelligence is three things. I’m a big fan of this concept of three is the magic number. Simplest form, emotional intelligence is these three things.

The first thing is, how you turn up. When I say how you turn up, I’m specifically talking about your behaviour. As we know, behaviour is two things. It’s what you do and it’s what you say. What I mean by that is the first part is how you turn up, i.e., your behaviour will have an effect when you’re interacting with others. That effect in its simplest form is step number two. Step number two is it will have an effect on how others feel. Just to use a very simple example, if your behaviours are productive and useful and enabling for the conversation you want to have, then you will make the other person or the other people feel good.

On the flip side of that, if your behaviours and how you show up are not in line with what the other person’s expecting, then they will feel a different way. I guess that the other way is not so good. That’s the second part. You will have an effect on how people feel, which then leads us onto the third and final step. The third and final step is based on how others feel will have a direct impact and implication on their levels of engagement. When I say levels of engagement, Sharon, I’m specifically talking about their discretionary effort. As we know, discretionary effort is defined by going the extra mile.

In its simplest form, highly emotional intelligent people will make other people feel a certain way. Just to be very clear, it will make them feel good. It will make them feel positive. If you feel good and positive in the workplace, and especially in a sales environment, then you will offer more discretionary effort. Therefore, you will go the extra mile. As we know within the context of any industry, and especially sales, especially when you are serving your clients, your clients want you to go that extra mile. I’ve said it’s simple, but just to summarise, it’s three things. How you turn up is going to affect how other people feel. How other people feel is going to affect their levels of engagement.

Sharon Newey: Yeah. Of course, from a sales point of view, we can’t get anywhere, can we, in terms of influencing, consulting with someone, assisting them through that buying process if we can’t engage with them at the outset. I have to say, Punit, I think that’s one of the most practical explanations I think I’ve heard of EI. So we’re off to a fabulous start here. Now, one of the questions I used to be asked an awful lot, and still do when I’m in conversations around EI is, but how do you measure it? Is it something that’s tangible? How do you answer that question?

Punit Jansari: Yeah, and that’s another great question. As you know, Sharon, there are so many ways to do many things. Again, going back to the depths of research and all the different tools that are out there, there are various ways to measure. For example, I’m sure you could do an online search, and you could find some online tools to measure your levels of emotional intelligence. There are more sophisticated profiling tools. I guess the best measure is to use a reliable profiling tool, and a profiling tool that is specific to measuring your workplace behaviours.

There are various tools out there, but really my suggestion would be, when you are measuring your levels of self-awareness within the context of how you turn up, as I’ve said, really for me there’s a number of different parameters. I’ll describe the parameters that are important for me when I see evaluate someone in levels of emotional intelligence. For me, the first one is everything starts with self. An effective tool that would be used for measuring levels of emotional intelligence would include some kind of definition of your self-awareness.

This is fundamentally about being aware of how you feel, and ultimately the impact your feelings have on the decisions you make, and your behaviour, and then ultimately your performance. So the first one is self-awareness. In addition to that, it’s also useful to measure your awareness of others. Ultimately your awareness of how you’re perceiving other people, how you’re understanding other people, and also your acknowledgement of how others feel. There’s the two aspects around awareness of yourself and others.

There are four other measurements that I particularly find useful. The third measure is authenticity. If we come back to bringing this back to the context of sales, for me, one thing that’s fundamentally important is to sell in a way that is authentic to you, and to sell in a way that is authentic to your company and the values of the company. Authenticity is all about openly and effectively expressing yourself, and honouring the commitments, and encouraging the behaviours in others as well. Authenticity is the next thing that I would suggest is really useful to measure.

Sharon Newey: Just on that, Punit, before you share the other three elements. That is making me think that, because you mentioned values, and that was the word that was coming up for myself around… I have a set of values, and it’s how I operate and stay within those values, and don’t bend them and take on some other values to make myself fit with somebody else to get the sale. It’s more about how I stay aligned with my own values. I guess, in essence, the ideal is that my values align with the person that I’m selling with, because there will be I guess a greater opportunity for connection and us to partner and work together. My experience is when there’s a values mismatch, you might get the sale, but actually doing the work, it can be a rather awkward, uncomfortable journey for both parties. Is that something that sits within your description here of authenticity?

Punit Jansari: Absolutely. I guess there’s two points I want to make based on what you’ve just said. There is no one size that fits all in life, because everything changes. The keyword is, it all depends. Let me tell you what I mean by that. If, for example, you are selling something just as a one-off, and it’s fairly transactional, then maybe this whole idea about values and authenticity isn’t so important. Whereas, within the context that I’m talking about, where you are forging a longterm sustainable relationship and a partnership where there is equal value and mutual respect, then without shadow of doubt, your values, your company values and how they fit into the product or the service or the solution you’re selling to the customer, I think is paramount.

Fundamentally, if you’re not authentic, and if your product, service and solution does not fit in with whoever you’re selling it to, then I think that’s really not productive and effective for anyone. If you want to forge a longterm sustainable relationship, and if you look at the research that goes behind sales, and successful individuals and successful teams and departments and organisations, it is all around longterm sustainable relationships. Without a shadow of doubt, the values have to be aligned, and they have to be mutually beneficial for both parties. Authenticity, without a shadow of doubt factors in that piece around values, and having aligned values.

Sharon Newey: Fantastic. I know you said there were three more elements that for you really stand out. Do you want to maybe share a little about those other three?

Punit Jansari: Yeah. Then next one I’ll choose to share is emotional reasoning. Emotional reasoning is all about the information we have. When I say information, I’m not necessarily talking about technical data if, for example, you were selling something technical. I’m more about the information you get in feelings from yourself and from the other person, and ultimately then combining that with the facts and the information when someone’s making a decision. As we know, Sharon, often the decision-making process can become heightened the closer we get to some kind of closure and commitment of the sale. Emotional reasoning is all about using the information, so it’s beneficial for yourself and the client you’re selling to.

Sharon Newey: Yeah, makes sense.

Punit Jansari: That fundamentally moves this on quite nicely to the penultimate measurement scale that I think is useful, and that is self-management. In sales, it can be an emotional roller coaster, and the cliche is you’re only as good as your last order. Self-management plays into that concept of resilience. It plays into the concept of, can you continually perform in a consistent way to add value to your customers and to feel good about yourself? Self-management is all about managing your own mood and emotions. When things are going great, fantastic, ride the wave.

Sharon Newey: [crosstalk 00:14:14]

Punit Jansari: Exactly, indeed. When things aren’t going so great, it’s about just recognising that, and recognising the thoughts, the feelings and emotions, and using that information to continually improve yourself. I won’t be sharing anything here that will come as a surprise, Sharon, but wellbeing, moods, that is such an important factor in the world of work at the moment. Self-management is just being in tune with those thoughts, and with those feelings, and recognising that everything is temporary. What I mean by that is, in those times where we may not feel as resilient, we may not be able to manage state as much as we can when we are feeling great, it’s just about using tools, tips and techniques based on where your current levels of self-management may be.

Sharon Newey: Right. Okay, cool.

Punit Jansari: Finally, I guess the other measurement that I’ve found particularly useful and other people have found particularly useful is positive influence. When I say positive influence, I’ll offer you a headline of what my definition of positive influence here is. Positive influence is all about influencing the ways that others feel through various parameters. Just to give you some examples, one parameter could be problem-solving. Again, when it comes to sales, very early on within the sales process what we want to do is establish the needs. What are the pain points, what are the areas, what are the gaps?

Positive influence includes problem-solving. How can a product, solution, service help solve the problem? In addition to that, it’s about providing feedback and also recognising and supporting others’ work. Positive influence is absolutely fundamental. Again, it may be a bit of a cliche, but we want to offer clients good solutions, as opposed to strengthening what the big challenge is. Really, positive influence is ultimately making sure that we can really demonstrate what the solution is, how the gap can be plugged, based on potential needs and potential pain points.

Sharon Newey: I think, as we’ve listened to you talk through those six different areas, Punit, you certainly I think through that have already highlighted why emotional intelligence is important. Also, started to relate it to particularly a sales conversation. I am curious though maybe if we could go into a little bit more detail about, how do you work with emotional intelligence, within the sales context? Maybe just go into a bit more detail about that for us.

Punit Jansari: Sure, sure. Again, there is various ways, but I’d like to share a personal I guess example of what I found to be useful, and probably more importantly what a client and participants have found to be more useful. Again, just using a very simple example, I guess there’s a four-step process here. The first step is to ultimately use some kind of measurement, as we’ve been talking about, some kind of tool or measurement to establish what current levels of emotional intelligence are. That’s step number one. Step number two is, once you’ve established what the current state of play is, the current level of emotional intelligence capability, is to then provide those insights and provide that level of information to the client and to the participants.

Once that information has been shared, to then work with the clients. Now earlier on, we spoke about values. Let’s bring that language back in. To work with the clients, to understand the client’s company culture, to understand their mission, to understand their vision, and more importantly to understand their values. With that information, we would then consult, define the need, and then design something that is tailored, and in best case scenario bespoked to the actual benchmarks that have come out. We want to do that because as always, as you know, Sharon, collaboration and cohesiveness can only pay dividends when you’re [inaudible 00:19:24]-

Sharon Newey: Absolutely, yes.

Punit Jansari: I guess the second step is to then bespoke something that is fundamentally tailored to the development areas that have been established in step number one.

Sharon Newey: Absolute, yeah. Okay.

Punit Jansari: Once that design has been established, the next step would then be to actually deliver the intervention. For example, the intervention based on the design may be a series of one-to-one coaching with the individual. It could be mentoring the individual. If there are wider needs, it could be running workshops where it’s not one-to-one work, it’s more small cohorts of people being developed. But the development would be absolutely tailored to the parameters, or the measurements that have been established from the benchmark. So the third step is actually the intervention. Then the fourth and final step is to then remeasure to then see what the shift is like.

In the example I’ve just shared, that is something that we have done in the past, and that really works. I’ll tell you why it works. It works because you can see a good level of a behavioural change, but more importantly, you can also see a return on investment. One of the challenges that I have certainly heard from clients in the past is, with learning and development and training, what is the return on investment? By following that process, clients do see a return on investment. What’s great is, there is some great research papers out there where my anecdotal example is backed up with the research papers as well, specifically within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry.

Sharon Newey: Now, that’s interesting. I can’t let you not say a little bit more about that, because yes, I completely agree. I think whatever investment organisations are making in learning developments, they are looking for an ROI. Maybe can you just expand a little bit for the audience, because I’m sure people would love to hear about some concrete ROI that they can get from investing in this kind of L&D?

Punit Jansari: Absolutely, happy to share. The research paper I’m talking about is a paper from back in 2007. This research paper specifically looked at a pharmaceutical company called Sanofi. This research paper took a group of salespeople, so pharmaceutical sales representatives. The sales representatives were from the cohort that had the same level of knowledge, the same level of benchmark skills, and the same level of capability. They then split the cohort out into two different groups. They had one group, which is the control group. The control group, just to be very specific, Sharon, were left as they were. They had no intervention. The second group were the group that were benchmarked with their levels of emotional intelligence.

Based on those results, they then went through a learning and development intervention. When I say intervention, that’s probably not giving the full story. They went through a series of learning and development interventions. Those interventions were, once again, tailored and bespoked to the actual needs that came out from the original benchmark. The interventions took place over six months. This was not… As you know, Sharon, we get the best return on people’s development when the training is an ongoing process. In this example, there was six months of development. Various different development: coaching, one-to-one mentoring, one-to-one feedback given based on observations, and then also workshops as well.

At the end of six months, the second group were re-benchmarked. Based on those interventions, every single person increased their levels of emotional intelligence, which is great, and that’s worked. Then they were testing, well, has this increase in the levels of emotional intelligence, has it also translated into some kind of tangible results of people selling more? I’m pleased to say, the short answer is yes. I’m also pleased to say that there was an increase in 12% in sales revenue growth from the group that had the emotional intelligence development opportunity.

Sharon Newey: Which is significant.

Punit Jansari: Indeed, absolutely significant. I mean, yeah, it will be interesting. I know that the answer I’ve got when I’ve invited clients to share what their thoughts and opinions are on getting a 12% increase [inaudible 00:25:08] in the pharmaceutical industry. It always goes down as people saying, “Can I see the paper? May I have a look at it, because this sounds great.” Again, once they’ve had a look at the paper, once they’ve read the paper, they continue to have that belief that there is a return on investment with learning and development, and specifically there is a return on investment in improving people’s emotional intelligence.

Again, Sharon, one thing I’d also like to include is the emergence of emotional intelligence being recognised as a skill that is required for capabilities that are needed in the future. Again, Sharon, what I’m specifically talking about is data from the World Economic Forum. The World Economic Forum cited in this [inaudible 00:26:06] required in 2020, in their top 10 skills for 2020, number six is emotional intelligence. That’s from the World Economic Forum.

Sharon Newey: Wow. I didn’t realise it was quite so high, Punit. Okay. So, with that in mind then, if you are a manager or a leader in an organisation today, because that is who the audience is, if you’re an L&D manager, HR director listening to this podcast, and you are thinking about, okay, so how can we help our commercial teams develop EI? I think you’ve started to talk [inaudible 00:27:01] on it in some of your previous answer. What would you say to our audience listening is a good place to start?

Punit Jansari: I think a good place to start would almost be checking the current state of play. Again, let me add some words to contextualise what I’ve just said. I think a good place to start is to check what your sales team’s current level of knowledge is. I.e., their knowledge around the sales process, their knowledge around product information, their knowledge around any evidence that supports the product. Knowledge is without a shadow of doubt fundamental, so that’s the first thing to check. I think the second thing to check is then the two other elements, which really play into, for me anyway, emotional intelligence. To check people’s level of skills.

Now when I say skills, this could be everything from their selling skills, it could be their level of how they communicate to transmit that message. It could be their level of skills of how they are actually conducting their communication through presentations. Checking their level of skills, and combining that with the third element, which I believe is fundamentally important when it comes to personal excellence. That is their level of willingness and attitude and mindset. For me, the two last bits, skills and attitude are fundamentally important. What I’m saying is in summary so far, check where you are at.

The second thing to do is then to really recognise where is the balance? Is the product that you are trying to promote and sell and grow, based purely on your sales team’s level of how to transmit those messages through their level of effective knowledge? Some clients actually still rely on that. The product will, I’m paraphrasing, the product sells itself. If that’s your belief, then that may work. But for me, it’s more important to get the balance right. That balance is also then about the soft skills, and the human skills. The skills about, am I engaging this person in a way where I’m recognising the signals within myself, and how those signals are manifesting in this conversation I’m having?

In addition to that, am I also recognising the skills that are being communicated with the person that I’m selling to right now? Am I picking up on the subtleties, and am I picking up on the signals that I need to call out if I need to call out? Actually, if I don’t need to call out, am I recognising them so it’s benefiting the conversation, so the conversation is moving to a mutually convenient place? In summary, what I’m saying, Sharon, is there’s two things. First of all, see what your current level of knowledge, skills and attitude are. Secondly, do a review. Where is the current balance? Is it around knowledge, or is it around more the softer elements or power to engage someone?

If indeed it is around the softer elements, and you’d expect me to say this, for me the two things need to be in balance. If it is around the softer things, then discover the tool that is right for you to do some robust benchmarking to see whereabouts you are. Then work with your internal teams, work with external teams, work with someone to design an intervention that is going to meet the needs of whatever has come out. Then deliver that in an engaging way, where the participants can recognise that the learning and development is tailored to whatever came out. It’s got to be relevant. It’s got to be you. It’s got to be communicated in a way where the participants really understand the why.

Often, some participants will say to me, especially when I’ve asked them at the beginning of the workshop, “What’s your understanding about why we’re here? What are we looking to develop?” You get all sorts of answers. The best answers are the ones that will specifically say, “Well, this is as a result of some of the feedback I’ve had. I’m looking forward to develop this, because I’ve got this growth mindset.” Others, do come along because they believe it’s just part of whatever is happening in the organisation.

What I’m saying is, there needs to be a strong why, so participants are fully engaged in the experience. Then I guess the final step would then be to show the participants what the results are. I.e., you’ve improved your emotional intelligence. Then to link back to, how does this translate into some tangible result where it benefits you, where it benefits patients, for example, or when it benefits the healthcare professionals that you are engaging in selling to?

Sharon Newey: Let’s say then the final question I guess that comes to mind for me is, within that commercial setting, where else is EI useful? The obvious and probably the main part of our conversation has been when perhaps a salesperson is talking to a prospective client, customer. Where else though within their role would a sales professional be able to use and tap into their EI skills?

Punit Jansari: Sharon, you would expect me to say this. What I’m going to say is, where would they not use it? Because without a shadow of doubt, this is something that you can universally use, yes in the workplace, but outside of work. Let’s stick to the workplace. It can also be used to enhance and develop relationships with internal stakeholders. Up until now, we’ve mainly been talking about the increase in emotional intelligence for commercial sales teams, but it doesn’t end there. For me, this has to be a cultural shift within organisations, where everyone within the organisation that is a stakeholder experiences increased levels of emotional intelligence, if they need it.

This could be, for example, the sales management team increasing their level of emotional intelligence. So actually they are mentoring, they are coaching, and they are developing their sales team as a support function. It also then can be extended to second-line sales managers, to national sales managers. What I’m saying is, the more people that can increase their levels of emotional intelligence means that there is more awareness, self-awareness and awareness of others. To answer your question specifically, where else can salespeople use their increased levels of emotional intelligence?

It is to have more productive and effective conversations with internal stakeholders. Now, Sharon, when you’re a salesperson in the pharma industry, it’s not just your commercial team you need to engage with. There’s going to be cross-functional teams. For example, it could be marketing, it could be regulatory, it could be medical. These skills in emotional intelligence will support and help you have more productive, cohesive, collaborative conversations with every single touch point you have within that workplace.

Sharon Newey: I know that you’ve been speaking there I guess about the context being in the pharma and the healthcare environment, on the back of the paper that you shared. It does make me think though, Punit, with the other sectors that you’ve worked in, and the variety of ones that I’ve worked in over the years as well, is that emotional intelligence is applicable to whatever industry and organisation you are working in. It just seems something that doesn’t need saying, but I feel I want to say it, if that makes sense.

Punit Jansari: Sharon, I think it should be said. I’m glad you said it. Had you not said it, I think I’d be reminding you and me and everyone else that’s going to be listening to this. Don’t take our word for it. Take the World Economic Forum’s word for it, which is a very well respected global body. A quick Google search will confirm what I’m just about to remind us of. The World Economic Forum cites in 2020, within the top 10, number six is emotional intelligence. This is from the 10 skills you need to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. Number six, emotional intelligence.

Sharon Newey: Fantastic. Well, Punit, I could sit here and I could just keep asking you lots more questions, but I am mindful of time. If you were going to summarise in a few short sentences the importance of value that emotional intelligence can bring to a salesperson, to managers, and to organisations, I know it might be a stretch to summarise it in a few sentences, but what would you say?

Punit Jansari: Well, what I would say just to keep this memorable, and to keep it short and to keep it succinct was, let’s go back to the simple rule of threes. It’s very useful to be conscious about the thing that you have full control over, and that is your behaviour. That is, like I said earlier, how we turn up. Recognise how you turn up, recognise your behaviours. Also recognise that the behaviours that we demonstrate when we’re interacting with someone else is going to have an impact on how the other person or people feel. How people feel is going to have a level of their engagement.

If you want people to be engaged in whatever it is, in whichever process it is, and I think engagement is infectious really. But anyway, if you want people to be engaged, work backwards. Work back to, you’re going to have an effect on their feelings. If we work even further back, recognise your behaviour, because your behaviours are going to have an impact on those levels of engagement. That’s how I would summarise it. I think that kind of makes almost logical sense. If we take out all the wealth of very, very, very valuable academic knowledge that’s out there, it’s that simple rule of your behaviour is going to affect how people feel. And how people feel it’s going to affect their levels of engagement.

Sharon Newey: Fantastic. Well, thank you for all that, Punit. Some great insights, and a few things that I suspect people will be wanting to check out, particularly the World Economic Forum as well. Thanks for your time. It’s been great having a conversation with you today, and hopefully we get a chance to catch up soon.

Punit Jansari: Thank you so much for the opportunity. Appreciate it.