October 16, 2018


To develop a good sales strategy, we have to pay attention to the world around us. Here is a lesson that we can learn from professional tennis.

If you’re a tennis fan like me, you’ve noticed that Federer hasn’t been performing up to standard this year. He put in as much effort as ever, but the results were lacking.

So what happened?

Federer began this tennis season on a high note. He started on a 17-0 streak.

That was Federer’s personal best win streak so far. The closest he ever got before was a 16-0 streak back in 2006.

He won the 2018 Australian Open, his twentieth Grand Slam trophy.

You’d think that this would inspire him to continue the season on a high note, right?

But instead, Federer lined up a series of disappointing losses. He wasn’t bringing his best game on the court.

I want to explore how this happened, and what we can learn from it if you’re in sales.

Planning – It’s Not Always Enough

As one of tennis’s all-time greats, Federer has a good grasp of his own strengths and weaknesses. He planned his matches accordingly.

It went so far as avoiding a particular match with Nadal on clay, where the clay court specialist would have an advantage.

Like many other fans, I expected Federer to score win after win. But it didn’t work out that way.

Why didn’t his plan work?

The Sneaky Damage That Comes from Expectations (Especially In Sales When You’re Expecting A Lead To Close)

Like a true sportsman, Federer is careful about what he says in public. He doesn’t talk too much about expecting to win every match.

Yet, that doesn’t mean the expectations aren’t there. After his great start to the season, Federer thought he would keep winning.

It’s not surprising that he wanted to perform exceptionally well.

From sports commentators to his own fans, everyone has an idea about how he should be performing. They know his stats. They know when he’s playing well and when he’s not.

Experts analyse Federer’s every decision. Millions of people worldwide watch his big games.

But none of that matters on the court.

What matters is Federer’s own expectations. This year, he aimed too high and then couldn’t follow through. His plans were ruined because he unintentionally succumbed to the pressure.


Frustration Is the Enemy of Productivity

How can you tell that something’s changed in Federer’s approach to tennis?

It’s not just the losses. If you watch his games this year, you’ll notice that he’s been behaving differently than usual.

Federer is normally a stone cold professional. He takes on every challenge in a calm and graceful way.

This year? He started showing frustration in his body language. You could see him getting upset and annoyed with his opponents.

Worse yet, Federer started arguing with the ref. This isn’t just bad form, it’s counter-productive.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Let’s talk a little about managing your own expectations and emotions as a salesperson.

Sales and Emotional Intelligence – What You Need to Know

What exactly is emotional intelligence (or EQ)?

Emotional intelligence is something we are all born with. It is just as important as your IQ. In fact, it is more important in a number of situations.

An emotionally intelligent person has a good grip on their emotions. But let’s look at what that really means.

1.You Recognize and Acknowledge Your Emotions

You probably know a few people who are out of step with themselves. For example, they refuse to admit that they’re angry even though it’s obvious that they are. Or they refuse to give themselves the time to celebrate a success.

Some find it difficult to recognize which emotions they are experiencing. Others are convinced that they’re too rational to have emotions at all.

But when your EQ’s high, you’re able to form a clear view of yourself.

Acknowledgement doesn’t have to mean talking about it. This aspect of your EQ refers solely to the way you process things internally.

In the case of a high-stress situation like Federer’s, you have to think carefully about what you are feeling.

Do you feel terrified or excited? Do you resent someone for putting you under pressure? Or do you feel emotionally disconnected even though the stakes are high?

To achieve remarkable success, you have to know the answer to these questions.

2. You Have Control Over Your Emotions

Here is where Federer made a mistake. In spite of all the careful planning, he failed to maintain emotional control.

Acknowledging that you’re under a lot of pressure is important for your own wellbeing. But what happens next is up to you.

It’s no secret that Federer is one of the best players in the world. He is in top form physically and he has decades of experience in the game.

None of this mattered when he couldn’t control his feelings. Likewise, you might be one of the best closers in your office. But if you’re not able to manage your emotions, you’ll soon see your sales pipeline dry up.

Why Because it’s your emotional intelligence that lets you control your frustration or nervousness. And that’s what influences your sales results.

It doesn’t eradicate your feelings. The tension is still there. But it doesn’t have to affect what you’re doing.

3. Your EQ Improves the Way You Express Your Emotions

People with high EQ usually have a solid control of their behaviour. But it’s still easy to slip up, the way Federer did.

How do we know that he’d let his emotions get the better of him?

They had an impact on his playing style and his attitude.

Everything that he did betrayed his emotions. You could tell from his body language that he was upset. It was also obvious from the way he spoke to the ref.


4. You Recognize Others’ Emotions and React Accordingly

When you’re on the court, your own state of mind is your primary concern.

But there’s another thing that you have to pay attention to. To win, you need to be aware of your opponent’s state of mind too, just like in sales you need to be aware of your client’s mind state as well.

Once again, your emotional intelligence is an important tool.

All the best tennis players, Federer included, are proficient at reading their opponents’ emotions. This lets them find the best way to win.

This is a subtle but important skill. It is much easier to navigate everyday situations when you have a good sense of what people are feeling.

If you have high EQ, you can instinctively tell the best way to communicate with someone. You take their body language into account automatically. Your EQ gives you the insight you need to predict their responses.

What’s All This Got to Do with Sales?

Over the years, I’ve met many salespeople who didn’t know why their results were disappointing.
These were dedicated professionals with a lot of training. They knew everything about making a sale.
So why was their success rate so low? They lacked the EQ necessary for great results.

The Weight of Expectations

Making a sale is a high-pressure situation. It may not be a Grand Slam tourney, but the expectations are still high.

You have to deal with people fixing their attention on you. Like it or not, you may also have to deal with open hostility. I used to do cold calls, and I often had to deal with open rudeness.

In these situations, some people freeze up. It’s like they forget all that they know about making a sale. They are too tense to think about the best way to approach the situation.

The Subtle Effects of Emotional Intelligence on Sales

Even when you don’t freeze up completely, your emotions may affect your behaviour in less obvious ways.

For example, you might change your intonation or become less eloquent. Your body language might seem hesitant or aggressive. You might fall into nervous habits that direct people’s attention to the wrong thing.

But it’s not just emotional control that affects your sales. It’s also important to read others’ emotions and react to them in the right way. Improving your EQ means developing better people skills.

What Can You Do to Improve Your EQ and Avoid Failure?

Is it possible to increase your emotional intelligence?

To some extent, this is a trait you’re born with. But people with extremely high EQs tend to work on it intentionally. What can you do to improve in this regard?

Tip #1 – Do a Self-Evaluation

To perform better in a high-pressure setting, you need to evaluate your own emotional intelligence.

Think about your emotions and acknowledge them. Then become aware of how they’re affecting your actions.

It’s important to recognize situations that tend to be a problem for you. But you should also pay attention to the occasions when you exhibit great emotional control.

In what ways are you good at managing your emotions? When do you start making mistakes?

Answering these questions can help you learn about yourself.

Tip #2 – Take Responsibility

You can’t improve your approach to your emotions until you take responsibility for them.

I know this can be a difficult step to take. But it’s absolutely crucial if you want to increase your EQ.

Don’t blame the circumstances for your emotions. Instead, think deeply about what you are feeling in a specific situation. Recognize the ways that you can change your approach next time.

Taking responsibility will make everything a lot simpler.

You are the one in charge of your actions. It doesn’t matter that the situation is fraught. Nobody else gets to affect the way you express your emotions.

Tip #3 – Ask for Help

Do I think that Federer can come back from the losses?

Absolutely. He has the ability to get back to his top form, and here’s why.

Roger Federer has talked a few times about working with a sports psychologist. He specifically talked about the way his mental fortitude affected his game. His psychologist helped him become a better player.

This indicates that he’s willing to work on his EQ. He isn’t convinced that he’s in possession of all the answers.

Working with a professional can do a lot to increase your emotional intelligence.

It’s not just that they can give you practical tips for managing your emotions. A professional can assess your emotional expression from an outsider’s point of view. This gives you a better grasp of what you need to work on.

A Final Word

It’s important to acknowledge that you work in a high-pressure profession.

Even if you don’t realize it, you might be affected by the stress of your job. Your performance reflects the way you feel. All the expectations that you face can make it difficult to use all your skills.

But there is a solution to this problem.

Managing your emotions is the best way to deal with stressful situations. If you have control over your feelings, the expectations don’t matter anymore. You can keep your focus on doing a good job.

Emotional intelligence is something that you work on.

To start with, it’s important to get a good grasp on your current EQ and pinpoint the areas that need improvement. Then you can begin developing your emotional control.

Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. Like Federer, you can reach out and get help.

If you’re interested, why not look into our complimentary training session on the Psychology of Sales? This training can help you or your employees work on your emotional intelligence.

One of the topics we cover is the emotional roller coaster that comes with this job. Working out how to ride the rollercoaster is the key to managing stressful situations. Once you get a grip on that, you can expect a series of wins.