Why Emotionally Intelligent Salespeople Make More Money

No one would argue that emotionally intelligent salespeople – those who are able to pick up on subtle emotional cues from their customers – are going to successfully close more deals. Research by Byron and colleagues found that salespeople who are better at recognizing other people’s nonverbal emotional expressions earn higher average annual salary increases and close more deals per month.

A new study helps explain why our ability to recognize emotions in others translates into a higher salary.


Why emotional intelligence pays

Professors Momm and colleagues tested the emotional intelligence 0f 142 employees; specifically, their ability to accurately recognize emotion based on facial and vocal expressions. They also collected ratings of these employees’ political skills (the ability to understand others and use that knowledge to gain their trust and influence them) from their coworkers and interpersonal facilitation (the level of cooperation and helpfulness toward coworkers) from their supervisors.

The results found that people’s emotion recognition ability was correlated with both their political skills and their level of interpersonal facilitation, which was in turn correlated with their annual income. Cha-ching.


Momm et al. (2015)

What about non-face-to-face interactions?

Both these studies examined face-to-face interactions. But with so much of the selling process conducted online or over the phone, are these findings still relevant? An intriguing new study suggests yes.

Professors Engel and colleagues measured emotional intelligence by testing how well people could recognize facial expressions (to test your own ability, click here.) They then looked at the performance of groups who either interacted face-to-face or through online chat only. Emotion recognition ability was similarly correlated with group performance for both face-to-face and online groups.


(Engel et al., 2014)

The takeaway

The data show emotionally intelligent salespeople aren’t just nicer people, they also make more money. Encouragingly, the research suggests that a salesperson’s ability to read people’s emotions in person may generalize to their ability to read emotions online through text as well. In this age of social selling, a salesperson with that type of emotion recognition ability has a huge competitive advantage.

How do you assess emotional intelligence when hiring salespeople? Let me know in the comments.

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices in data-based recruitment. She writes about research and trends in talent acquisition, recruitment tech, and people analytics.
Ji-A Min