Fighting Adversity in Sales

Updated: Sep 10, 2019

Today, I'm going to shed some light on a lesser known quality you should look for in the profile of 2019's High Performing Sales Professional. Ladies and Gentlemen, AQ is back in fashion.

Throughout my business development career, I was taught that EQ outweighed IQ

Knowledge often sits hand in hand with credibility, so I wouldn’t completely discount IQ, however it’s not much use if you can’t connect with your audience. Fair enough?

EQ, or ‘Emotional Quotient/Intelligence’ is the capacity to be aware of, control and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

In plain English - understanding emotions.

The term was popularised by science writer Daniel Goleman in the mid 90’s. A hell of a quality to possess and since then, the concept has enjoyed a widespread level of acceptance.

Fast forward to 2018. Byron Matthews, President and CEO of the Miller Heiman Group, made the case for what he coined: ‘Inspirational Intelligence’ in an interview with Inc. I’m paraphrasing here, but this relies on a seller’s ability to help the customer think about solving a problem in a new way and how a product or service might assist in that. For the sake of this article, we’ll refer to this as IQ Version 2 or IQ.V2 for short ('II' just looks odd). Nothing too radical.


IQ: Knowledge of your subject matter.

EQ: Understanding of yourself and your audience.

IQ.V2: Understanding of your audience’s needs.

But before you head for the exit, spare a moment for the lesser known ‘AQ’

Adversity Quotient

This catchy term was first coined by Paul Stoltz in ‘97 in his book Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities. Simply put, Adversity Quotient is the measure of a person’s ‘Resilience’. Paul was on to something, but he could never have imagined exactly how the tech boom would make his point more relevant than ever.

In the year that Hanson delighted us all with the pop powerhouse that was ‘MMMBop’ (apologies for bringing that back into your head) – procurement was still finding its feet. Mainstream broadband was but a pipe dream and arguably, the seller held all the chips.

Today, it’s a much different story.

"Imagine a world not of information asymmetry, but of something closer to information parity, where buyers and sellers have roughly equal access to relevant information. Actually, stop imagining that world. You're living in it." Daniel Pink, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Persuading, Convincing, and Influencing Others.

To the point... Buyers can arrive at a balanced and considered purchasing decision with very little influence from a salesperson, such is the availability of mass information or ‘content’.

Effective salespeople must now become founts of unique, relevant and personalised content to truly add value to the buying journey. The 2019 Demand Gen Report into B2B Buying Habits supports this:

Three-quarters (75%) of buyers said they are spending more time researching purchases, which is up from 72% in 2018. Ultimately, 79% of respondents said the winning vendor’s content had a significant impact on their buying decision – Demand Gen B2B Buyers Survey Report 2019.

So, what does all of this have to do with our aforementioned Adversity Quotient? Well, unless you’re a trailblazer in the evolution of B2B sales; winning will become harder and chances suggest, you will lose more...and losing is a bitter pill to swallow.

Losing can make or break a fledgling seller and resign even the most experienced BDD to take a permanent back-seat. Doesn't just the 'L word' itself make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up?

Salespeople can see it coming. Our very own 2019 Sales Insight Survey revealed that 79.2% of sales leaders believe the buying process had become increasingly more complex.

Now, your team of high IQ, EQ and IQ.V2 salespeople could be one hard loss away from hammering your business's churn rate.

What can you do about it?

For a start, ditch the ‘failure = failure only’ culture. It's toxic. Re-frame the paradigm: Failure = learning = increased % chance of future success.

Ask any credible business owner, entrepreneur or high performing seller and they’ll typically agree, it was their failures that presented the catalyst for success. The ability to reflect, learn, adapt and bounce-back is what ‘AQ’ is all about. Think about it; losing a battle could help you win the next one. And the next one…

And the next one…

Begin by building AQ questioning into your recruitment process. Stop focusing on all those big contract wins (seriously, why do people still do this?!) and hone in on those missed opportunities and adversities, inside and outside of the workplace. How did they bounce back? What did they learn?

Introduce AQ awareness into your sales coaching and development programs. If you're a salesperson, begin re-framing the prospect of failure so that when it happens - and it will - you're ready. You'll come out the other side a stronger person for it.

Yes, build a team with high emotional, intelligence and inspirational behaviours, but now more than ever, build it with fighters...

... You'll need them.


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Want to gain the competitive edge? Alexander & Neighbour are certified experts in B2B sales. Get in touch now to find out how A&N help businesses rapidly accelerate their growth trajectory through mastering digital growth.

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