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January 19, 2023

Increase Sales During a Recession with Emotionally Intelligent Sales Teams

Is a recession coming in 2023? Is it already here? How will this impact our sales numbers?

The truth is, even under the best economic conditions, the world of sales is more competitive than ever before. And as technology continues to advance at a faster and faster pace, things are only going to get more competitive.

So the question remains...

Is it Possible to Increase Sales During a Recession?

The answer is, "well, that depends."

Organizations invest millions in sales training every year, yet all too often don't produce the desired change in revenue or increase in sales. But why is this the case?

The short answer is these organizations are focusing on solving the wrong problem.

Make the Correct Diagnosis of Sales Performance Problems

Whether in good economic times or bad, improving sale performance starts by identifying and fixing the right problem. When companies misdiagnose their sales challenges, they focus only on improving their team's "hard" sales skills, blaming poor sales performance on inadequate execution or knowledge of these techniques. 

In most cases, however, the root cause of a sales team's problems goes beyond hard skills execution. Instead, the root cause is strongly related to a team's inability to manage their emotions, think clearly in stressful situations, and react effectively.

Let's face it; sales can be a challenging profession full of no's and setbacks. When a salesperson struggles with low self-awareness, self-control, or stress management, there's a good chance that when faced with adversity, they will respond with a roller coaster of emotions, days of inaction, negative self-talk, and doubt.

How Emotion Management Impacts Sales Performance

How Emotion Management Impacts Sales Performance

Sales professionals who are able to manage their emotions effectively are often better able to handle rejection, stay motivated and focused, and build strong relationships with clients. They are also more likely to be able to read and respond to the emotions of their clients, which can help them to close more sales and build stronger, more profitable relationships.

On the other hand, those who struggle with low emotional control fail to effectively handle stress and maintain a positive attitude, which can tank their confidence and negatively impact their overall performance.

No matter how much hard skills training a sales person has, or how extensive their product knowledges is, when faced with a high-pressure, stressful situation or a not-so-friendly prospect sales professionals with low emotion management tend to cave under pressure failing to properly execute the proper sales techniques.

Examples of How Emotionally Intelligent Sales Teams Can Boost Sales Performance

Still not convinced that a focus on boosting your sales team's emotional intelligence skills will positively impact your sales numbers? The following list outlines results from several studies looking at organizations that prioritize emotional intelligence training as part of their sales process.

  • A U.S. Air Force study examined 1,500 recruiters to discover common emotional intelligence traits among those who achieved 100 percent of their quota. By duplicating those emotional intelligence traits throughout the entire recruiting program, the retention rate increased 92 percent, saving an excess of $2.7 million.
  • American Express is another excellent example. They put a group of financial advisors through a three-day emotional awareness training program. The following year, those that participated in the training outsold their untrained counterparts by millions in extra earnings.
  • L'Oreal selected twenty-eight sales agents based on certain emotional traits. On average, these agents sold $91,370 more than the unchosen salespeople for a net revenue increase of $2,588,360.

7 Ways to Increase Sales During a Recession

So is a recession heading our way in 2023? It is possible.

But the truth is, the best way to insulate your sales performance from external factors outside your control is to focus your attention on increasing your sales professionals' soft skills and emotional intelligence.

In other words, if you want to increase sales during a recession, begin by building emotionally intelligent sales teams.

Building Emotionally Intelligent Sales Teams

Wondering how to sell during a recession? Here are five strategies you can start working on today to help increase sales during a recession.

Hire Emotionally Intelligent Sales Reps

The first strategy for increasing sales during a recession is to hire emotionally intelligent sales professionals. And the first step in hiring emotionally intelligent salespeople is to recognize that focusing entirely on a candidate's hard-selling skills is a great way to end up with a hiring nightmare.

When sales managers are asked to describe their worst sales hire, they typically describe this bad hire in the following ways:

  • Toxic attitude
  • Arrogant
  • Not coachable
  • Poor work ethic
  • No desire to learn
  • Not Ethical 
  • A bull in a china shop

Notice that none of these descriptions involve not having the right hard-selling skills or lacking the ability to close a deal. They are all related to one's emotional control, personality, and soft skills.

With that in mind, here are three things Sales Managers can do to help ensure they hire emotionally intelligent sales reps.

  1. Interview for Both Sales IQ and Sales EQ: Ensure that your interview process includes a balanced mix of questions about a candidate's sales experience and hard selling skills (Sales IQ), as well as their soft, emotional intelligence skills (Sales EQ). 
  2. Prioritize Your "Nonnegotiables": What qualities do you consider an absolute deal-breaker when hiring a new sales rep? Don't know... then you need to get clear on that before you start the hiring process. Once you have a clear picture of what you will and won't tolerate in a sales rep, ensure that your interview process includes questions designed to sniff out undesired personality traits.
  3. Watch for (And Don't Ignore) Red Flags: Ignoring a red flag during the interview process can quickly turn into a long-term fire. Upon reflecting upon hiring mistakes, most sales managers admit they suspected something was off during the interview process but decided to give the candidate the benefit of the doubt. Take time to think deeply about any bad hire you may have made (be honest, we've all done it!) What red flags did you ignore, and why? Now commit to being alert and not repeating the mistakes of the past.

Avoid the Trigger-Response-Regret Loop

Are you easily triggered emotionally? Are there people who know just what buttons to push to get you spinning out of control?

The truth is even people with a good amount of emotional control can become trigged in the right circumstances. That said, the difference between a high-performing sales professional and one that is just average comes down to their ability to show up fully, even under extreme pressure.

Simply put, emotions get in the way of your ability to perform effectively at a consistent level. When you allow tough situations or difficult prospects to get under your skin, you are sacrificing your ability to execute good selling skills.

We call this the Trigger-Response-Regret Loop, and it goes something like this.

  • Trigger: A sales professional encounters a difficult situation that triggers them emotionally. Maybe it's a disinterested or aggressive prospect, maybe it's a tricky question you weren't prepared for, or perhaps you just get the sense that your potential buyer doesn't like you.
  • Response: When a sales professional lacks emotion management, they typically respond to a trigger in one of two ways. Either they get defensive, speaking louder and faster, trying to win the product knowledge war, or they withdraw, wishing the sales meeting would quickly end. Either way, the result is not good.
  • Regret: Once the situation has passed, the sales rep regrets their performance and asks themselves, "what happened?" How could they abandon all their sales training and knowledge so quickly when faced with a setback? The answer is that they let their emotional response cloud their judgment.

When you and your sales team learn to avoid falling into the trigger-response-regret loop, you will be well on your way to building a high-performing, emotionally intelligent sales team.

Overcome Self-Limiting Beliefs and Negative Self-Talk

Want to increase sales during a recession? Work on eliminating the negative self-talk and limiting beliefs of you and your sales team.

Did you know that when faced with a high-pressure situation, just uttering the words, "I am excited," is proven to improve self-confidence, relieve stress, and lead to a better performance? It's true. Countless research studies have shown that when people increase positive self-talk, their ability to perform at their best also significantly improves.

Unfortunately, the inverse is also true.

Limiting beliefs can negatively impact sales performance by causing a salesperson to doubt their abilities or the value of their product or service. This leads to less confidence in their sales pitch, making it more difficult to close deals. Additionally, self-limiting beliefs will cause a salesperson to set lower sales goals for themselves, leading to lower overall sales performance. And, as this cycle continues, it creates a self-fulling prophecy.

Break the cycle for you and your sales team by following these steps to overcome limiting beliefs and negative self-talk.

  • Identify the negative thought: Recognize when negative self-talk is happening and label the thought as "negative self-talk."
  • Challenge the thought: Ask yourself if the thought is based on facts or feelings. Are there any alternative perspectives or ways to interpret the situation?
  • Replace with a positive thought: Once you've challenged the negative thought, replace it with a more positive and realistic one.
  • Use "I" statement: Instead of saying, "I am not good at this," replace it with "I am learning."
  • Practice gratitude: Focus on what you are grateful for and practice gratitude regularly.
  • Find evidence that contradicts the negative thought: Try to find evidence that contradicts the negative thought, and remind yourself of those examples when the negative thought comes up.
  • Talk to yourself as you would to a friend: Be kind and encouraging to yourself, as you would be to a friend going through the same situation.

Develop a Stress Management Plan

We've heard a lot lately that employees today are beyond burnt out. Add to that the thought of a possible economic recession, and you have a recipe for stress overload. 

A stressed-out sales team operates at half speed, which costs sales organizations a lot of money. To avoid a below-average effort and below-average results, you need a stress management plan.

Here are a few key elements you can include in your stress management plan:

  • Teach your team the key principles of stress management. Stress is a part of sales, so I like to say, "stress management is sales management." Talk through the issues your team is facing. While stress isn't going away, you can help improve your team's ability to manage it.
  • Help your sales team to understand what is in their control and what they have no control over. Then teach them to focus on what they have control over and permit them to let go of the things they don't.
  • Lose the victim mentality. Optimism is the key to overcoming stress.
  • Remember the power of humor. Include a humor section in your next sales meeting where you trade "worst sales call" stories.

Get an EQ Baseline

My final tip on how to increase sales during a recession by building emotionally intelligent sales teams is to get an emotional intelligence baseline for each of your team members.

If you've attended any of my sales management training programs, you have probably heard me say, "you can't change what you don't measure."

We believe the best way to get clarity on your and your team's specific emotional strengths and weaknesses is by implementing the EQi 2.0 Emotional Intelligence Assessment.

The first step in increasing your sales team's EQ skillset is to measure and assess where your team is strong and where gaps exist that need to be improved.

Our EQi 2.0 Assessment is an excellent tool for sales teams looking to boost sales performance by building an emotionally intelligent sales team.


In the end, no one really knows if we are heading into a recession in 2023. And whether we are moving into tough economic times or prosperity, the best way to ensure your sales team is performing at peak performance is to focus on boosting their emotional intelligence skills.

Training sales teams in emotional intelligence competencies and soft selling skills will help them better navigate the challenges of a recession and come out on top. By investing in the emotional intelligence of your sales team, you'll increase sales performance, even in the toughest of economic conditions.

Some of the keys to building an emotionally intelligent sales team include:

  • Hire emotionally intelligent sales reps
  • Work with your team to recognize and avoid the trigger-response-regret loop
  • Overcome the self-limiting beliefs and negative self-talk both you and your sales team may have
  • Develop a stress management strategy to help your team operating at peak performance
  • And finally, leverage an EQ focused behavioral assessment – we recommend the EQi 2.0

Emotionally intelligent sales teams are the key to increasing sales during a recession.

Good selling.

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