sales team coaching with emotional intelligence

Great sales team coaching takes specific knowledge and functional expertise to build a successful team. On their own, these aren’t enough to bring out the best in their sales teams and help them achieve their full performance potential. By adding Emotional and Social Intelligence to the coaching model, sales team coaches can discover amazing success.


As Daniel Goleman detailed in his groundbreaking bookEmotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ, research shows that up to 90 percent of performance effectiveness is due to emotional savvy rather than technical knowledge. And this is particularly applicable when we’re talking about the effectiveness of team coaches.


Here’s why. Emotional intelligence in sales produces traits such as stability, persistence, the ability to stay calm under pressure and resilience in the face of challenging situations and change. Whether it’s sales, service or other functions, most teams today are dealing with these kinds of realities on a daily basis. So while it’s true that IQ and functional knowledge are the baseline competencies for any effective leader, especially in this kind of environment, high Emotional Intelligence is critical for becoming a strong team coach.

The good news is that, unlike IQ, which is essentially fixed, Emotional and Social Intelligence can be developed.

Emotional Intelligence and Sales Coaching

Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence are closely related. Emotional Intelligence is the self-mastery that enables sales leaders to deal with their own responses in business interactions. Emotional Intelligence guides a leader’s thinking and behavior.

Social Coaching With Social Intelligence

Social Intelligence, meanwhile, is the ability to effectively negotiate complex relationships and environments. Social Intelligence helps leaders see the world as others do and to listen without bias.

Team leaders who develop their own Emotional and Social Intelligence have the potential to become great coaches because they can make the critical connections with their team to expand their belief boundaries and reach higher levels of performance.

Let’s take a closer look at what that entails.


A coach’s ability to develop high performance begins with expanding team members’ belief boundaries. Team coaches who understand members’ beliefs and values, and who are able to connect with them on an emotional level, can more positively impact their feelings about success, their actions and behaviors, and their overall abilities and performance.

Expanding a team’s belief boundaries starts with a coach’s own belief boundaries — their ability to shift their mindset during interactions with their team and, in particular, as they prepare for coaching sessions. Below are a few examples of the mindset shifting that’s required to be an effective coach.


Great team coaches apply some specific steps to build accountability and help their team members accomplish what they set out to do. That includes:

  • Creating a Positive Vision of the Future by communicating the vision and the value it creates for customers as well as the team. Effective coaches help their team feel emotionally connected to their role in achieving this vision.
  • Developing Goal Clarity by enabling their team members to define and reach higher goals and understand how goal clarity can be driven by a deep emotional need to succeed.
  • Communicating Personal Meaning in Work by assisting and encouraging others to tap into their own sense of purpose.
  • Unlocking Achievement Drive in Themselves and Others by harnessing the energy that is released with goal clarity. Great team coaches strengthen the belief that goals are possible and that the benefits/rewards of achieving goals are deserved.

Another way successful team coaches use EQ to improve coaching results is by aligning behavior, culture and strategy in the way they manage team conversations. For example, they:

  • Emphasize strengths, not shortcomings.
  • Address challenges openly, and frame difficult issues in a way that leads to constructive, creative solutions.
  • Ask questions based on both a desired future state and the emotional drivers that will impact attitudes and behavior.
  • Focus on fostering a culture that supports Emotional and Social Intelligence, since emotional skills are critical to the relationship aspects of sales, service and other functions.


Many sales managers and team leaders are given the responsibility of being a team coach without the preparation, skill and will to do it well. As a result, it becomes a back-burner activity, if it’s done at all, and the focus often misses the mark.

In sales, for example, managers might prioritize things like opportunities and pipeline issues but completely overlook the attitudes, values and beliefs that can make or break a salesperson’s success. To get the benefits of coaching in your teams, you have to make sure your team coaches understand what it means to be an effective coach and that they have the tools and motivation to do it effectively.


Consider the following questions when assessing the readiness of your team coaches:

  • Do they have a genuine desire to help their team move to the next level of performance? Their intention is key.
  • How willing are they to suspend their own judgment and assumptions?
  • How capable are they of listening to their own feelings and checking how their behavior affects others?
  • How skilled are they at understanding each of their team member’s attitudes, values and beliefs as a starting point for assisting them in expanding their personal belief boundaries?
  • Are they able to recognize when to be non-directive (listening, questioning, clarifying to promote creative thinking and idea generation) and when to be more directive (give advice and training)?
About the Author
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Terri O’Halloran

Vice President of Client Development

Terri partners with our clients to strategically plan, implement, and sustain high performing sales and customer service cultures that achieve...
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