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Everything about selling technology is changing; what you sell, how you sell, and who you sell to are all unrecognizable compared to 10 years ago. This is having an impact on the role of Sales managers and leaders across the industry.

Sales management roles in the past hired largely on the person’s ability to motivate, encourage, and manage a team to achieve a result. This was largely about having the right personality. Increasingly the new demands on Sales management positions are far more analytical and about positioning value, being able to articulate business outcomes, logical reasoning, etc.

Therefore, the most successful Sales managers of the future need to have a strong balance of motivational and intellectual capabilities—in other words, they need to have both a high IQ (Intelligent Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Quotient).

Emotional Quotient: Why Sales Roles Require Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Quotient (EQ), more commonly referred to as “emotional intelligence”, is the ability to monitor one's own and other people's emotions, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. The term was originally coined by Peter Salovey and John Mayer, first appearing in British Mensa Magazine in 1987. Saying that someone has “high-EQ” is an accepted way to characterize someone who has high emotional intelligence.

An Example of a “High-EQ” Sales Manager: A Personal Story

This concept isn’t new, as sales managers have always needed high EQ for success. When I started in my first Sales job back in the 1980’s, the role of my manager, Wendy, was almost entirely about motivation and discipline. Performance management was all around making sure that we made enough phone calls (the efficiency metric) and that we closed enough deals (the effectiveness metric). But more notably, she genuinely wanted us all to win, to develop, and to experience the intense sense of satisfaction and achievement when we created results from “thin air”.


The best sales managers have with the ability to motivate, engage and inspire their teams through high levels of emotional intelligence and connection. But that’s no longer enough.

It was around this time that the concept of individuals being “high-EQ” started to emerge. And, on reflection, almost all of the attributes that Wendy demonstrated, and many other sales managers from this time period, could be described as being typical of a high-EQ individual.

Certainly, since the time I started working it has been acknowledged that the best sales managers have the ability to motivate, engage, and inspire their teams through high levels of emotional intelligence and connection.

In my job, I’m very fortunate to witness lots of different management cultures and techniques as I work with organizations around the world. In recent years, I’ve started to see a shift in the profile of the most successful sales leaders. The most senior sales executives have always had very strong intellect, they’ve usually had good business school education, and can hold their own with any CEO or CFO in a strategy debate.

But there is a broader set of demands being placed on all levels of sales management which suggests a new set of requirements. One such change is that Sales teams must not only be intelligent in the traditional sense, but also have the emotional intelligence needed, not only for interpersonal success, but also to effectively sell business outcomes to customers. In other words, they need to have both IQ and EQ.

When preparing this blog, I came across a really interesting comparison of EQ versus IQ originally published on, which is a great resource for comparing two related subjects.

Emotional Quotient (EQ) aka Emotional Intelligence

Emotional quotient (EQ) or emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.

Abilities: Identify, evaluate, control and express emotions one’s own emotions; perceive, and assess others' emotions; use emotions to facilitate thinking, understand emotional meanings.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ)

An intelligence quotient (IQ) is a score derived from one of several standardized tests designed to assess intelligence.

Abilities: Ability to learn, understand and apply information to skills, logical reasoning, word comprehension, math skills, abstract and spatial thinking, filter irrelevant information.

Qualities of a Great Sales Manager

I found this list in an article published in 2018 on the Ten Qualities of a Great Sales Manager. It’s from the construction industry, but applies just as well to technology companies.

  1. Passion
  2. Integrity
  3. Positive Attitude
  4. Coaching
  5. Leadership by Example
  6. Loyalty
  7. Availability
  8. Motivation
  9. Continuous Learning
  10. Listening and Communication

Of the skills listed in 2008, I would categorize all ten of them as being directly related to a high-EQ individual.

As I’ve been working with many leading technology companies, I’ve been capturing a new set of qualities for sales leaders in the technology and services industry as we move into the next decade.

  1. Outcome-Based Selling
  2. Vertical industry knowledge
  3. Managing channel partners
  4. Process optimization
  5. Data analytics
  6. Ambiguity and complexity

I’m sure you’ll agree that they are much more IQ-related, according to the definitions in the comparison table earlier in this blog. Just to be clear, I’m not saying that these skills weren’t relevant, or necessary 20 or 30, years ago, but there is no doubt that the job of a sales manager is much more complex and broader than it used to be.

It’s important that I should highlight that most of the sales managers that I’ve had (including Wendy) have all been very smart and clever people. It’s just that, in my experience, they weren’t generally hired for their intellect, that was a bonus.

Selling Business Outcomes Requires Emotional Intelligence

The focus of my research and advisory engagements in Subscription Sales is on how Sales functions in technology companies need to adapt to the meteoric growth in subscription revenues. The graph below shows how this trend cannot be ignored, especially when you consider that the technology industry as a whole is growing at a rate of around 4.1% per year.

subscription revenue growth  

One of the dynamics related to this growth in subscription revenues is that increasingly the person responsible for the purchasing decision is the business owner and not the IT department. What this means is that the sales engagement is changing in just about every way. Who you sell to, what you sell, and how you sell it are all evolving at an incredible pace.

This is, in very simple terms, about hiring, training and developing people across your Sales organization who have the right balance of empathy, relationship-building, analytical thinking and logical reasoning.

The conversation with a business buyer is more about how your solution will help to address a particular business outcome than it is about a set of features and functions. And your salespeople have to be able to engage confidently on three important topics:

  1. The commercial offer
  2. The architectural solution
  3. The services proposition


This is best described in the figure below:

selling subscriptions to deliver business outcomes

For more information on outcome-based selling you might want to read a paper that I published last year called “Making the Move to Outcome-Based Selling”.

So, when you think about the focus of a sales manager in the 2020’s, they need to have the skills to be able to manage a team of salespeople who are operating in a very different way than they have in the past. This is, in very simple terms, about hiring, training, and developing people across your Sales organization who have the right balance of empathy, relationship-building, analytical thinking, and logical reasoning. In short, the right balance of EQ and IQ is fundamental to achieve sales success.

The profile of salespeople is changing, and the profile of sales leaders needs to stay one step ahead. To get help in preparing your Sales team for the future, contact TSIA to learn how a membership in our Subscription Sales research practice is helping thousands of technology and services professionals streamline their operations, starting with their people.

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Martin Dove

About Author Martin Dove

Martin Dove is the former vice president of subscription sales research for TSIA and brought a unique set of experiences and insights on outcome-based selling and subscription sales methodologies. Martin helped TSIA members navigate the journey to being more outcome-based in the way they sell and to optimize their organization’s sales of subscription, or “as a service” offers, to both new and existing customers.

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