533: Emotional Intelligence | Colleen Stanley

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Presented by: George Leith

Guest: Colleen Stanley

Uploaded on August 17th, 2022

Tune in as we delve into Emotional Intelligence and how it’s linked to Sales success and leadership with our guest Colleen Stanley, the President and Founder of SalesLeadership, Inc, a Sales development firm. Before starting SalesLeadership, Colleen worked in one of the fastest growing companies in the US as the Vice President of Sales for Varsity and oversaw a sales team of 130 virtual sellers.

Colleen is the author of two books – Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success and Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership. Not only was she named by Salesforce as one of the top Sales influencers of the 21st century, but she was also the number three Sales guru of the top 30 Global Sales Gurus. And her clients include Harvard Business, IBM, Appian, Gallagher, Otterbox, HomeAdvisor, and Bosch Rexroth. 

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Emotional Intelligence


George: This is the Conquer Local podcast, a show about billion-dollar sales leaders, marketers leading local economic growth, and entrepreneurs that have created their dream organizations. They wanna share their secrets giving you the distilled version of their extraordinary feats. Our hope is with the tangible takeaways from each episode, you can rewire, rework and reimagine your business. I’m George Leith. And on this episode, truly one of the most passionate speakers on sales we’ve ever had. We’re proud to welcome Colleen Stanley, the president and founder of SalesLeadership, Inc. She’s the author of two books, “Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success” and “Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership”. Salesforce named Colleen one of the top sales influencers of the 21st century. She’s also been named number three on the top 30 global sales gurus. Her clients include Harvard Business Review. IBM, Gallagher, OtterBox, Home Advisor, and Bosch. Get ready, conquerors, for Colleen Stanley coming up next on this week’s episode of the Conquer Local podcast. Colleen Stanley joining me all the way from Golden, Colorado. Welcome to the show today.

Colleen: Thank you for having me.

George: I’m really excited to speak to you today. You’ve got those two books that you authored, “Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success”, and “Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership”. And I have this question just to kick things off.

Colleen: Okay.

George: Is there different emotional intelligence skills that you need to be successful in sales? Are they different than what you would need to lead in sales, in your opinion?

Colleen: It’s yes and no. I would say they play out in different ways. So let’s take, for example, empathy, which is going to be a skill that is gonna work very well in the sales process and also in the leadership process. However, how you demonstrate that is gonna be different sometimes on a sales call than on a coaching conversation. So I would say the answer is yes and no. I think there’s other ones. I would say emotion management overall is gonna be important for both sales and sales leaders because that’s how you execute the knowledge that you know. The old saying is, if you’re stable, you’re able. So how’s that for a wishy-washy answer? Yes and no.

George: I think it’s a great answer because one thing that I’ve been noticing recently, I’d love to get your feedback on that is I’m involved in organizations that have been accelerating the careers of new sellers. So they’re a new salesperson, they start to do well, they hit their budgets, they show some leadership skills, they get moved into a leadership position and a lot of them come back and say, wow, a lot of the things that I do when I’m dealing with a prospect is similar when I’m coaching one of my team members. I’m wondering how you’ve dealt with that in your work over the years.

Colleen: Well, if you’re hearing that from young sellers that promoted to sales management and made that transition, George, that’s really smart because, you know, when you think about it, asking good questions, discovery needs analysis is what makes up a good sales call. It’s the exact same thing that you’ll apply to a coaching conversation. So what I find interesting is sometimes I’ve seen where sales managers don’t take those exact same skills and know how to position them as a sales manager. So absolutely, and there’s times to be assertive on a sales call, you know, what are our next steps? And with the salesperson as you’re coaching ’em, what are our next steps, action steps? So good for your young sellers that they made those transitions. Sometimes people don’t.

George: I’d love to understand how we can deploy a better understanding of emotional intelligence when we are recruiting and hiring sales professionals because I know you’re quite passionate about that.

Colleen: So do we have three hours?

George: Well, we definitely can look at the timeframe, but I think that it’s an important thing to discuss. So, you know, let’s dig into it.

Colleen: Well, one of the reasons I’m passionate about it, George, is that I missed it for a lot of years. And in many cases, I was very lucky. I had a very good sales team when I was a VP of sales. I would say as was a small business owner is when I started running into it more because, you know, you don’t have the big corporate budgets and maybe HR to help you out. So often in hiring, as you know, we will focus on the hard skills and those are important. Do they have vertical knowledge, product knowledge? What’s their number of years in sales? Were they a good prospect or more account manager? However, when you start looking at why somebody, quote “doesn’t make it”, it’s often the soft skills. They don’t play well with other people. They’re not a good learner. And as we know that business changes every six months. So they’re not keeping value propositions up to speed. They’re not that interested in knowing new product knowledge or industry knowledge. And in many cases, and I gotta tell ya coming off the pandemic, I think all of us can relate to this. Resiliency, this has been a huge soft skill that I’m coaching a lot of my managers to coach and vet for. And resiliency is a lot about stress tolerance, adversity, optimism, and having the bounce-back factor. And that’s come up a lot more with the last two years we’ve come off of.

George: Well, I love that you’re bringing that up because I think testing for the ability to adapt and to be resilient when you’re thrown a curve ball, because, you know, we just came through global pandemic. Now we got this looming R word that people are talking about. It seems like there’s no end to the curve balls. So I think trying to test for that when you’re adding folks into the customer-facing sides of the business is important. Do you have any tips on how you could test for resilience?

Colleen: You know, a lot of this goes into asking really solid interview questions, and here’s a very simple one to ask, but it’s almost a two-part because you can ask the question, tell me about the biggest adversity you’ve ever faced. And so people will sometimes give you a softball answer. Now, part of that is, I don’t know you that well, George, how much do I reveal? And so I remember in an interview years ago, somebody told me about the biggest adversity they had and I nicely smiled. I said, wow if that’s the biggest adversity you faced, you’ve led a charmed life. And then I paused. And then the truth came out and you know what? There was a great deal of resiliency in this candidate’s answer. So I think it’s a two-part question there, but you know the old adage is past behaviors are your best indicator of future results. And so when you can dig into somebody’s background where they’ve had to set back, a failure, but then also what they did with it, and did they bounce back out of it, maybe did they go and ask for help and resources? That’s fine, too. The fact is they had the bounce-back factor. And can I go on a rant?

George: Absolutely.

Colleen: A real rant.

George: No, I love rants.

Colleen: Well, one of the things I’m also coaching a lot of people on these days is that I have not given up on our youth or anything like that. However, I think we’ve all seen where we’ve got helicopter parents and I think now they’re calling ’em bulldozer parents. And so you do have to vet a little heavier for people that were raised in figured-it-out homes. People that were raised in homes where the parents realized it’s okay to take a face plant and learn the lesson and not be rescued. So they are still out there, I promise you. But you might have to vet a little bit more simply because some of the parenting styles have changed.

George: Well, that is some great advice. And if I, now let’s say I’m an individual contributor and I’m going for that interview or I’m applying for that new job. We talked about the one side of the desk. Now, what about the side of the desk where I’m the candidate? What are some tips that you would give me in that interview so that I could make that resilience question, I could nail that thing because I think that we have a tendency to go, oh, I don’t wanna be too vulnerable. It’s my first meeting.

Colleen: Yeah.

George: And I might actually disqualify myself. Is that a true sentiment that you see in candidates?

Colleen: Well, that’s why I said that question’s often a two-part question. So my suggestion is anything you’re worried about, simply state it. And they’re get asked the resiliency question, they should. And so they can simply state, hey, I’m gonna share with you. This might be a little personal, might be more information than you care to hear. So that’s a form of empathy and you let ’em know, this might land on you a little bit too vulnerable, too much information, let me know. But at that point, because you’ve said it, the person on the other side of the desk is more likely to hear it and be open to hearing it.

George: I just was at a conference a couple of weeks back and I heard this great tidbit on how to test to see if the candidate can learn. And it’s a question in the opening interview from people ops or human resources, that says, what are some of the top three learnings that you had in the last year? And then it gives that first interview or the ability to go in and do a little bit of research on it and then drop a bomb and to see if it’s true or not like to see if they just pick three things off LinkedIn and put it into the questionnaire. But I’m with you. If you are hiring somebody today and they can’t learn new stuff, it’s just not gonna work out for ’em.

Colleen: Well, and here’s what’s interesting, George, you know, I remember speaking, this was actually a group of CEOs, so they weren’t directly charged with hiring salespeople. But I asked the question, you know, how many of you have seen your business change in the last six months? Now, this was before the pandemic, okay? So now, you know, it’s like every six seconds, right? But you know, everybody’s hand in the room raised. And then I said, okay, so you’ve had a lot of change. How many of you are vetting candidates joining your company for their aptitude and attitude for learning? Not a hand went up. And so there was this big disconnect. Like they know you’ve gotta learn to change, but nobody was vetting for it. And I mean, and doing some serious, to what you said like you can be somebody that reads and studies a lot and I do, but do you apply any of it? So that’s the other thing as you’re interviewing candidates, what did you learn? How did you apply? Because you can have a walking encyclopedia that’s full of a lot of knowledge, but little action.

George: No, I love the LinkedIn post, like I’m reading one book a month. And then when you come a year later, you look at ’em, they look exactly the same. I’m like, okay, so you read a book a month, but you didn’t apply any of that. And like, there’s been no change. It’s crazy.

Colleen: Right, right.

George: Let’s talk about your take on instant versus delayed gratification because this dopamine thing that’s going on, where, you know, we put a post online and we’re like, oh, did anybody like it? And so we’re looking for that instant gratification. And I think that it’s really crept into sales. So I’d love to get your lens on that.

Colleen: Okay, it’s gonna be another rant. Maybe you’re gonna have to change the title of this whole interview. This is something that I actually was addressing back way back in 2006. I have never, I’ve never been somebody that’s been addicted to my technology. And so technology as wonderful as it is, ’cause believe me, I was the person that when I was in sales, do you remember the Rand McNally maps?

George: Yes, I do.

Colleen: That’s how old I am. Yeah, I’m a hundred years old. Tell your viewers, that I diet and exercise, pay attention. But so I love technology. There’s all sorts of things it can do to help you out, but we have not learned how to manage it. So part of it is, this is where EQ comes in, have the awareness of where technology is managing you versus you managing technology. So number one, there’s two places I see instant gratification impacting sales, and skill development. So let’s take a look. I’m a sales manager. I’m meeting with you, George, but here I am. I’m looking at my phone. I got my laptop up because I hate to miss any emails. So you’ve got coaching sessions that look like command and control centers. And the poor salesperson is trying to do some skill training, trying to get some coaching. And so from both sides of it, it doesn’t happen. The manager isn’t paying attention during a coaching call for skill drill, and then salespeople, they’re supposed to be in role plays, practice sets, whatever you call ’em. That’s called deliberate practice. And if you are sitting there being distracted, worrying about your next meeting, worrying about your last meeting, you’ve got technology buzzing, vibrating, you simply don’t get masterful. And I have to tell ya, it sucks to be average in sales. So one of the reasons I’ve been a good student, I don’t like being average in sales. You write a lot of practice proposals. I’ve written like hundreds of ’em. So that’s one area. The second area is in instant gratification. You don’t do your pre-call planning. So how many of the sales experts talk about pre-call planning and there’s great templates and tools? Pre-call planning is slowing down to do the prep work, which could be research, designing good questions, thinking about objections I’m gonna run into. What’s my response? How do I preempt it? So, I mean, those are just a couple of cases. Calendar blocking is a big one. Everybody knows that if you manage your calendar well, productivity is higher, and stress is lower. But calendar blocking takes 30 to 45 minutes of your time to calendar block your entire week. So you have to put in the time, slow down the impulses to react and act.

George: You know, I’ve had some great people that have worked with me over the last couple of years. We call them the GM of George because their job is to protect me from myself. And it was from guests like you that come in and remind me, because these episodes, by the way, for our listeners, there are as much for me as they are for anybody, of skills that we have, but we’ve forgotten to deploy.

Colleen: Yes.

George: And something that, I, this year was like, okay. I’m not gonna do this for two months. I’m gonna try it for 12 months. I’m gonna dial my calendar in. And I’ve got these big black bars that run across the entire week where it’s like podcast guest prep. And guess what? As evident today, we’re getting a hell of a lot better podcast guests, because we’re thinking about who we wanna reach out to. And the only way you’re gonna do that is by finding folks like you on LinkedIn. That’s how we found you. And saying Colleen would be a great guest. So I’m seeing the benefit of that. Does it translate into higher revenue? Yeah, eventually it does. I know that you’re a big believer in managing our impulses because I think protecting me from myself is about managing that impulse of the door’s always open, I’m one of those guys. And I love my customers. I always wanna talk to customers. And then I have a tendency to do a mediocre job on things because it didn’t put the prep in. So how can you help me manage my impulses a little better?

Colleen: Well, let’s see if we can help, George, okay? So, you know, sometimes here’s what I find. We’ve probably all studied belief systems. You know what you believe will drive your actions or skills. Here’s what I’ve also learned. Sometimes you have to take the action before you change the belief. And so it’s literally forcing yourself to say, okay, I’m gonna take the 30 minutes on a Friday afternoon, maybe a Saturday morning, whatever works for you. And once you’ve taken the action, then you see a better planned week. Now here’s a word of caution. And I think I learned this from listening to Steve McClatchy so I wanna give credit to where credit is due. He was the person I listened to or read an article about, leave white space on your calendar. And I’d never heard of this term white space, you know, because I was good at calendar blocking, eight to nine, is this, nine to 10, is this. Well something called life happens. Clients are calling in. Prospects are calling in. And you have no time on your calendar. So I’ve learned with my calendar blocking to leave the white space, as well. Now here’s where you have to have the discipline, especially for salespeople. You’ve got two hours blocked off on your calendar for proactive prospecting, right? And then all of a sudden that email comes in. I’d love to meet with you at 10 o’clock on Tuesday, but you have 10 to two or 10 to 12 on Tuesday for prospecting. So your impulse goes out the window. Sure, I can meet with you at 10. Well, the same thing happens on Thursday. You had two hours blocked, but a prospect wants that time. Now what I have kind of run with my salespeople, ’cause they push back on this. They’ll say I need to take the appointment. I said, okay. So let me ask you if your best client was meeting with you at 10 o’clock and a prospect wanted that time, what would you say? And they all give me the same answer, I’m booked. Yeah. So you are booked from 10 to 12 with yourself. So sometimes, you literally have to play a game with yourself to get yourself to honor the calendar. If you simply say you’re booked, a prospect or customer will say, oh, any other time. Does that make sense?

George: No, a thousand percent. And by the way, feel free to rant at any time because there are some lessons.

Colleen: I am, it’s a rant. You didn’t see that on LinkedIn, I should have put that professional ranter.

George: No, I love it. So then you all said this other statement when I was going through your information. Discipline is overrated. And I’m like Jocko Willink is not gonna like hearing that because you know, he’s got that book out that “Discipline Equals Freedom”. So why do you believe that discipline is overrated?

Colleen: Well, here’s what I see happening. I think everybody sits there and goes, I’m just not as disciplined as Colleen. So I’m pretty, there’s a lot of things I’m very disciplined about, but I create an environment for discipline. So for example, when I need to work on my delayed gratification activity, like right now, George, if you could see my office, I have all these papers laying on my floor. I’m getting ready for a big project, okay? I am going to be taking two hours blocked to simply go through all that content to figure out what order, what’s important, and what’s not important. So I will turn off my phone. My email will not be up. So I create an environment for success. And that’s not something I made up. I’ve learned that from some experts. I think James Clear talks about in his book, “Atomic Habits”, Marshall Goldsmith, and his book “Triggers”. So it’s really not that you’re more disciplined. You just sit there and go, you know what? I’m a human being. My brain will get distracted. It cannot avoid distractions. So quit trying to manage that. Get rid of the distractions.

George: No, and it’s never been, that has never been more poignant advice than it is today. And I’ll tell you why.

Colleen: Absolutely.

George: Because my wife gave me hell the other day. She’s like, you’re always on your friggin’ phone engaged when we’re, you know, we’re outside of work hours. So it’s impacting our personal lives, but it also is impacting the way that we feed our kids because this distraction world that we live in is creeping in. And I was really excited to have you on the show because of the lessons that I learned just in prepping for the episode. I’m a huge fan of emotional intelligence. I have a couple of episodes that we’ve ran on the podcast. We also have maybe there’s some keynote out there and in one of them, I’ve got this slide where it says, and I can’t say the word because producer, Colleen, will freak out, but it says stop blank-

Colleen: The other Colleen.

George: The other Colleen, that’s right. It says, stop blank lying. And then underneath it, it says, to yourself. So we can have all these components of emotional intelligence and we’re doing these things, but you know, the person we lie to the most is ourselves usually.

Colleen: Absolutely.

George: What lessons can you give us to overcome that?

Colleen: I would say when you’re lying to yourself, that is lack of self-awareness and probably reality testing. And self-awareness is really only improved and increased by carving out downtime. And no one has time for downtime! But we have time to keep repeating the same behaviors. We have time to keep repeating offending people and we don’t even know we’re offending them. We have time to, so that’s the piece you’ve gotta carve out the downtime to really sit, think and reflect. But then reality testing is also taking a look at things as they are versus how you’d like them to be. So I remember when I was single, George, this might be too much information and I would be complaining to my girlfriend, oh, had another terrible date. And finally, one day she kind of looks at me and she goes, well, you do know there’s only one common denominator here. I guess it was not the dates because they were not working out. I was the common denominator. So I had to sit back and reflect, okay, what’s the reason that you keep either accepting or attracting? I don’t know which one it was, dates. And until I changed, the dating opportunities did not change. And then I did marry my husband.

George: See, that’s the old story of, it’s not you, it’s me, but then it was always me.

Colleen: Yeah, absolutely. So, but you know, it is so easy to rationalize because you know, my husband was a prosecutor for years. And so if you talk about a world where you can live, where people rationalize why they did something, why they didn’t do something, rationalization is one that requires a healthy dose of self-awareness. And can I add one more thing?

George: Absolutely.

Colleen: I would also say another EQ skill is self-regard. So knowing that you’re really responsible for something that’s not working in your life, this is when people with high self-regard have the ability to admit their strengths. They’re really good about, hey, I’m really good at this, but they also have the inner confidence to admit their weaknesses and work on ’em. So that’s another skill that I really coach managers. Hire people with self-regard, because otherwise you try to have the coaching conversation feedback, and it just turns into this eggshell, you know, you can’t give the feedback. So people with high-self regard combined with self-awareness generally can make the changes necessary in life.

George: Well, just incredible learnings, Colleen, today, as we understand emotional intelligence and how it can craft better sales professionals. And I’m sure that our listeners, whether they be individual contributors or team leads, will take a lot away from this. I do always like to give our guests the opportunity to tell us how we can get more Colleen, if our listeners are looking for more of your coaching or more of your content, where would they find that?

Colleen: Well, thank you. Go to our website. Like many people, we have a lot of free resources on there. Salesleadershipdevelopment.com. How’s that for a long one? And then we also post a weekly blog vlog, which is where you found us. And so if you want two minutes of learning every week, that’s a quick way to get a, I guess in your words, get a shot of Colleen.

George: Well, that’s amazing. And we’ll put all the links into the show notes. And Colleen, we really appreciate you joining us on this week’s episode of the Conquer Local podcast.

Colleen: Thank you for having me.


George: I just love that episode with Colleen and we should get her back. I think there’s a lot more that we could learn from her, but let’s unpack what we learned in the last 15 minutes or so. When you’re learning, do you apply what you’ve learned? And I know that I’m guilty of this. You know you watch a podcast, you go to a special event, you go to a convention and you’ve got this great keynote speaker and there’s all these components. You might even write some notes. And then you don’t use any of it. You don’t apply any of the things that you’ve learned. And Colleen’s statement is true. You can be full of knowledge, but if you don’t apply it, you might as well save the time from learning. Now let’s talk about emotional intelligence in sales. It is almost a buzzword and you know how I feel about buzzwords, but what Colleen did say that I just loved is emotional intelligence is present as much in the sales process, as it is in coaching sales leadership. It should be demonstrated a little bit differently, but it is in both of those motions. Empathy and emotion management is the difference. I also wanna talk about managing impulses and why it’s so important because what Colleen took it back to was controlling time. And I don’t really know if any of us are in control, but getting a chance to manage our time because it is the one thing that we don’t get more of. And this comment, this quote from Steve McClatchy, I had to Google him. And maybe we should get him as a guest in the podcast, but leaving white space in your calendar. And I am the worst at this! I actually believe that my superpower is having a jam-packed calendar where I’m in meeting, after a meeting, after a meeting. But then you can’t put the time into prepping for the meeting, taking the correct notes so that you follow up on the things that you committed to. So having awareness of when impulse makes you give up your calendar and stopping that. It’s kind of like, oh, I’m bored. So I’m gonna walk over and grab myself a sandwich, but you’re not even hungry. Again, that’s an impulse. So controlling the calendar, blocking out that white space, and making sure that when you book an appointment, it has value and helps you get closer to your goals. And this one, if you were on a phone call, would you leave it to answer an email? You know, that’s what happens sometimes when we are following our impulses and not managing that time. If you like Colleen’s episode discussing emotional intelligence, let’s continue the conversation and check out episode 356, “Emotional Intelligence in Sales” with Jason Forrest, or episode 349, “The Four Stages of Competence: “Part of the Master Sales Series”. Please subscribe and leave us a review. And thanks for joining us this week on the Conquer Local podcast. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.

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