How to use emotional intelligence to win more business

09 February 2021 3 min. read
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With technology increasingly taking over business development activities from human, the role of emotional intelligence is becoming more important than ever. Gary Williams, the founder of professional services business development coaching consultancy BD Coaching Hub, shares a few tips on how to use emotional intelligence to win more business.

As technology transforms the workplace, with automation and artificial intelligence bringing new opportunities and greater efficiencies, the spotlight is falling on emotional intelligence (EI) like never before. Rather than a 'nice to have', it's fast becoming a vital core capability for the future as it's something machines find hard to emulate.

Companies need people who can connect with others, display empathy and understanding, and understand emotions. And that's particularly true when it comes to winning new business. Technology, pricing, expertise and experience are all key ingredients for success – but it's EI that will really give you the edge over your competitors.

Gary Williams, Founder of BD Coaching Hub

All too often the focus is on demonstrating competence to a potential new client – at the expense of empathy and a genuine interest in building a trusting relationship. 

Beware of falling into the trap of equating being 'nice' with strong EI – they are not the same thing. You can't just overlay a thin EI veneer, say a few nice things and think 'job done'. You have to really listen to and understand your clients and be proactive – remember things they've told you in the past, for example, and ask follow-up questions when you next speak to them. 

The way in which people build relationships often varies drastically, according to their profession. There might also be more analytical introverts, for example, in certain fields. But there is no correlation between being an extrovert and being 'good' at client management. In fact, introverts who are very detailed and analytical often make excellent business developers and client relationship managers – they simply need to apply a methodical approach and develop their EI.

Here are some tips for demonstrating EI in dealings with clients: 

Know yourself – be aware of how you feel in a given situation. Tune in to that emotion, recognise it and learn from it. If, for example, you’re about to join an online meeting or present to a new audience, take stock of your mental state and evaluate how it might affect the situation.

Channel the acronym WAIT– some people talk when they’re nervous or excited. It's easy to get carried away when talking to a client and begin to 'solutionise' too early – potentially missing something crucial. So, take a breath, slow down and ask yourself: “Why am I talking?” 

Show empathy – empathy is not necessarily agreeing with everything someone says but standing in their shoes and understanding their perspective. If you can reflect back to the client their hopes, concerns, challenges and fears, you will be building a strong relationship. 

Develop a high degree of curiosity –genuinely enquiring about people and taking a real interest in them and their situation will build rapport and create trust. As former US president Franklin Roosevelt said: “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.” 

Be quick to praise – accentuate the strengths in others and go out of your way to deliver positive feedback on them. This can be anyone who is relevant to the discussion – a receptionist, a junior on the consulting team or your client. Don't overdo it though! 

Under promise, over deliver – it’s easy to make someone happy at the point of promise – but we are all measured at the point of delivery. Being known as someone who always does what they say they’re going to do is a powerful personal brand.

If you want to do the best for your clients, come up with the most innovative ideas and secure their buy-in for future projects, you have to return to basic human relationship principles.