Emotion: A powerful sales tool

October 1, 2000
Janet Shanedling

Pharmaceutical Representative

Applying the wisdom of emotion to sales.

Displays of certain emotions don't quite fit into professional sales. We all know better than to show tears of frustration, voice our anger, or even exhibit too much enthusiasm in the middle of a sales call. It's also "unprofessional" to show signs of impatience, to appear nervous or to blush from embarrassment in front of a customer. If you really think about it, it's probably not totally clear what role emotions should play in everyday sales situations.

Emotion can be your biggest ally - a powerful source of information in the fast-paced, stressed-out, emotion-packed world of pharmaceutical sales. Emotion serves as a critical form of intelligence - intuition and gut instinct - that can help you build relationships with customers, colleagues, family and friends as you try to balance the numerous responsibilities that are prescribed for you each day.

Based on a strong foundation of neurological research, the science of emotional intelligence demonstrates the powerful role that emotions play in star performance. When we purposely access the functions of the limbic - or emotional - center of the brain in addition to the pre-frontal, cognitive lobes, we boost our ability to successfully manage the highs and lows of our sales careers. Increasing our brain power in this way helps us stay motivated, more consciously choose actions that will serve us best, empathize with others and build and sustain both professional and personal relationships.

The field of emotional intelligence is generally categorized into four competency areas:


•Â Self-awareness


•Â Managing our emotions.


•Â Empathy (awareness of others' feelings).


•Â Developing and managing interpersonal relationships.

Let's look at how this applies in the daily life of a pharmaceutical rep.

Self-awareness

Being aware of your feelings, as well as the physical symptoms that signal those feelings, can be a big help in handling frustrating sales calls. Pent-up frustration after a day complete with doctors who refuse to give you a minute, a canceled lunch-and-learn, and an unpleasant encounter with your district manager can translate itself into misplaced anger directed at innocent bystanders: your family or even the driver of the car that cuts in front of you on the way home.

Self-awareness means being able to read your physical signs and identify how you're feeling. Once you can articulate a specific emotion, you're on the road to making decisions about how to best use that emotion. Self-awareness also means listening to your "self-talk" – the endless stream of "mind-chatter" that we are constantly engaged in with ourselves (particularly in the shower, in the car, lying in bed at night, or sitting in a waiting room).

Managing our emotions

Suppose the receptionist comes out and gives you the news that the physician refuses to see you (for the fourth time this month). How you respond to that refusal is your choice. You may say to yourself: "I'm wasting my time. My drug isn't on formulary anyway. And I'm just not creative enough to get this guy's attention." (Researchers, by the way, have found that over 70% of what we tend to say to ourselves is negative.) Or, you can try changing those private messages and saying: "This is really disappointing. Now's the time I'm going to figure out something creative to get this guy's attention."

It's important to be aware of what you say to yourself, because your brain is constantly listening. And responding. Our brains are a series of maps and patterns that we create. In that way, our brains get used to managing our everyday reactions and responses. And it's our choice whether we create positive or negative brain maps.

Empathizing

Think for a minute about the receptionist and the nurses who have to bring you the message that the doctor isn't seeing sales reps anymore. One way to reply is to try to get the nurse to change the doctor's mind, to which she could respond either positively or negatively. Another way would be to consider her feelings. You might say, "I'll bet you're feeling frustrated because you're being placed between representatives like myself and the doctor and his decision."

What's the effect on the nurse? You've suddenly focused not only on her, but on her feelings. And that's what causes relationships to get a healthy start. The nurse may respond, "No, I'm really not frustrated at all by it. But I do understand how frustrating it may be for you." What feeling has she expressed now? Understanding. And for your situation! That spells opportunity for you to develop a relationship with her as an ally in that office.

Developing relationships

How can you differentiate yourself from other sales representatives? By developing a genuine relationship with the doctor, by showing him or her an authentic part of yourself. Self-disclosure is one of a number of important relationship-building tools. It requires that you share a genuine part of yourself in exchange for the other person getting a glimpse of who you really are. And that may cause the other person to do the same thing. You might start out with, "Doctor, this study was a bit difficult for me to sort out at first, but I'm pretty clear on it now. What were your impressions?" Chances are, the doctor would give you a candid answer, thanks to your up-front honesty and personal disclosure.

Sometimes, it may seem like risky business to let other people in on who you really are. However, it's one of the only ways to ensure that you're laying the foundation for a relationship based on authenticity. And that may differentiate you from your competitors.

Emotional intelligence is a set of competencies that we can develop and enhance over time. These are the traits that distinguish the people we remember most - leaders, musicians, artists, politicians and even physicians - from counterparts in their fields. In most cases, physicians enter the trade with high intelligence. But what differentiates those who are admired and loved by their colleagues, their patients, their staff – even their reps – from the others? The distinguishing factor is often their ability to deal with emotions, both their own and those of others, and to develop relationships with the numerous people they interact with each day.

In the same way, focusing on developing your emotional intelligence skills can enhance your success and satisfaction in your own professional and personal life. PR

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