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Emotional intelligence and sales performance. A myth or reality?

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  • Wellington Institute of Technology New Zealand

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The concept of emotional intelligence has become popular as a consulting tool as theory suggests that individuals who are high in emotional intelligence are likely to exhibit a higher level of performance outcomes. In this study, we examined the impact of emotional intelligence on sales performance. We hypothesized that the impact of emotional intelligence on sales performance was mediated by adaptive selling behaviour. Data were collected from sales people in the financial industries in Malaysia via the WLEIS emotional intelligence scale and ADAPTS adaptive selling behaviour scale, and were quantitatively analysed using structural equation modelling (SEM). Results were in keeping with the model. Emotional intelligence was not found to impact sales performance directly. It impacted on sales performance through a mediating variable; adaptive selling behaviour. 2015
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International Journal of Business and Society, Vol. 16 No. 2, 2015, 185 - 200
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND SALES
PERFORMANCE. A MYTH OR REALITY?
Zazli Lily Wisker
American University of the Middle East
Athanasios Poulis
American University of the Middle East
ABSTRACT
The concept of emotional intelligence has become popular as a consulting tool as theory
suggests that individuals who are high in emotional intelligence are likely to exhibit a higher
level of performance outcomes. In this study, we examined the impact of emotional intelligence
on sales performance. We hypothesized that the impact of emotional intelligence on sales
performance was mediated by adaptive selling behaviour. Data were collected from sales
people in the nancial industries in Malaysia via the WLEIS emotional intelligence scale and
ADAPTS adaptive selling behaviour scale, and were quantitatively analysed using structural
equation modelling (SEM). Results were in keeping with the model. Emotional intelligence
was not found to impact sales performance directly. It impacted on sales performance through
a mediating variable; adaptive selling behaviour.
Keywords: Emotional Intelligence; Adaptive Selling Behaviour; Sales Performance.
1. INTRODUCTION
The importance of the role of salespeople in today’s complex marketing environment is
undeniable. As the market is extremely competitive and customers are becoming less loyal and
more sophisticated while at the same time becoming more demanding, the role of salespeople
has become more imperative in developing good customer relationship. Salespeople play a
key role not only in customer relationship management but also in understanding, creating,
communicating and delivering values to customers, which in turn increases the sales
performance of the rm (Paparoidamis & Guenzi, 2009; Weitz & Bradford, 1999). Therefore,
it is not surprising that for decades sales management researchers have invested time in
studying the determinant of salesperson performance. Researchers have come to agree that role
perception, aptitude, skill level and motivation level are the main determinants of salesperson
performance (Churchill et al., 1985). Although in recent years there has been considerable and
growing interest in the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) in the Organizational Behaviour,
Human Resources, and Management literature (O’Boyle Jr. et al., 2011), it has yet to receive
Corresponding author: Zazli Lily Wisker, Marketing Department, Business School, American University of the Middle East,
Kuwait. Phone +96590005245, email: zazli.wisker@aum.edu.kw or lily.wisker@xtra.co.nz.
186
sufcient attention in the sales performance literature. The research areas in the Organizational
Behaviour, Human Resources and Management literature stress the importance of EI as a
predictor of leadership, negotiation, perception of trust in leader-member relationship,
organizational citizen behaviours, work-family conduct, and work performance (Ashkanasy &
& Daus, 2002; Carmeli & Josman, 2006; Côté & Miner, 2006; Dulewicz et al., 2005; Humprey
et al., 2008). The theory of emotional intelligence was set forth by the Harvard psychologist
Howard Gardner in 1983. He based his theory upon the social intelligence concept developed
by Thorndike in 1920. Gardner’s concept was then expanded by Mayer and Salovey in the
early 1990s; however, it did not come become popular until Goleman published his book
in 1995. The concept of emotional intelligence has been developed in the elds of neuro-
psychology and neuro-science, and focuses on a patterned structure of responses that regulates
emotions: in particular, it focuses on the role of brain connectivity between the amygdale
and the neural cortex (Roche, 2004). Regardless of its recent emergence in the literature, it
already includes a large number of concepts. Of these many concepts, four main approaches
to emotional intelligence have been widely used in recent years – the EQ-i Bar On; the ECi
Goleman approach; the Four Branch Model of Mayer, Salovey and Caruso (MSCEIT); and
the Four Dimension EI approach of Davies, Stankov and Roberts (1998) (Law et al., 2004;
Rahim, Psenicka, Polychroniou, Zhao, Yu, Chan, Kwok et al., 2002). Although a variety of
EI domains have been conceptualised over the years, the modern interest in EI began with
Mayer and Salovey (1997). Mayer and Salovey (1997) describe emotional intelligence as a
form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings
and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use them to guide one’s thinking and action.
Their concept of emotional intelligence has been built upon by Mayer et al. (1997; 2004), who
suggest the four-branch model as the construct of emotional intelligence: (1) the ability to
accurately perceive, appraise and express emotion; (2) the ability to use emotion to facilitate
thinking; (3) the ability to understand the temporal course and probable outcome of emotions;
and (4) the ability to regulate emotions effectively. They also claim that emotional intelligence
is a form of intelligence in that the development of emotional intelligence increases with age
(Mayer & Salovey, 1997). It is important to recognise, however, that the various theoretical
perspectives regarding emotional intelligence are not mutually exclusive. In a meta-analytic
study, Van Rooy and Viswesvaran (2004, p. 72) described EI as “the set of abilities (verbal and
non-verbal) that enable a person to generate, recognize, express, understand, and evaluate their
own, and others’, emotion in order to guide thinking and action that successfully cope with
environmental demands and pressures.” In this study, we adopt upon the Law, Wong and Song
EI measures, WLEIS (2004), which are based on Mayer and Salovey (1997) and Mayer et al.
(2004) This EI theoretical model examines the four domains of EI separately.
When the concept of EI was initially introduced to the literature, it has received vigorous
criticism from the academics (Mathew et al., 2004). It is not surprising that EI has received
robust criticism and has received less attention among sales management researchers because
EI was initially made known through a series of articles (Gibbs, 1995) and trade books
(Goleman, 1995; 1998) with little or no analytic evidence established, For example, EI is often
considered as an elusive and vague concept and as more of a myth than a science (Matthews
et al., 2004). These initial negative opinions on EI, according to Mayer et al. (2004), resulted
from the lack of empirical research evidence. Although there is much argument surrounding
Emotional Intelligence and Sales Performance. A Myth or Reality?
187
the nature and validity of EI, it is also clear that the concept and domain of EI has been
gradually accepted in numerous studies (Davies et al., 1998; Mayer et al., 1997; 2004; Law
et al., 2004; Chrusciel, 2006). For example, several empirical studies have found a positive
association between EI and performance (e.g., Dulewicz et al., 2005; Jennings & Palmer, 2007;
O’Boyle Jr. et al., 2011; Semadar, et al., 2006). O’Boyle Jr. et al. (2011), in their meta-analysis,
found a relationship between EI and job performance over and above cognitive intelligence
and the personality traits in all three streams studied. They concluded that “EI represents
one important predictor of job performance’ (O’Boyle Jr. et al., 2011, p. 806). Similarly,
Van Rooy and Viswevaran (2004) provide empirical support for the positive impact of EI on
performance. In contrast, others found an inconsistent or non-existent relation between EI and
performance on particular tasks (Austin, 2004), academic performance (Petrides et al., 2004),
and supervisory ratings (Wong & Law, 2002). Interestingly, Moon and Hur (2011) found that
three domains of EI appraisal of emotions, optimism, and social skills were negatively
related to job performance.
While the previous empirical studies have been helpful in contributing to the body of
knowledge, our present study builds upon the literature in a few ways. First, there are few
empirical studies in sales literature focusing on the impact of EI on sales performance. Attempt
to empirically examine the role of EI in individual success in workplace have been limited and
still in formative stage (Carmeli & Josman, 2006). Since EI is a form of social intelligence that
involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate
among them, and to use them to guide one’s thinking and action (Mayer & Salovey, 1997), it
would be fair to argue these are some of the skills required for building relationships between
salespeople and clients, which in turn could inuence sales performance. Second, few empirical
studies have examined the components of EI domains that impact performance separately. As
Carmeli and Josman’s empirical study points out, “it is not clear which emotional intelligence
components implicate which type of work performance . . . it is important to establish which
specic components of the emotional intelligence model relate to work outcomes” (Carmeli &
Josman, 2006, p. 415). We respond to Carmeli and Josman (2006) by examining the impact of
various EI domains on sales performance separately. Third, Côté and Miners (2006) conclude
that the relationship of EI to performance is not always linear. In response, we argue that the
effect of EI on sales performance can be extended through a mediator.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1. Emotional Intelligence and Work Performance
Notwithstanding the debate surrounding the concept and constructs of EI, several studies have
shown positive associations between EI and leadership, and to some extent individual work
performance and team performance (Dulewicz et al., 2005; Longhorn, 2004; Mayer & Caruso,
2002). The literature has suggested that EI provides the basic competencies that are important
in almost any job. In fact, EI is claimed to be a better predictor of success than the traditional
measure of general intelligence, IQ (Goleman, 1998; Pellitteri, 2002). For example, Goleman
(1998) found that 67% of the abilities that are regarded as essential for effective performance
were emotional competencies, and EI accounts almost twice as much as IQ and expertise. The
higher an individual rises in an organisation, the more important EI becomes, compared to IQ
Zazli Lily Wisker and Athanasios Poulis
188
and technical skills (Goleman et al., 2002). Dulewicz et al. (2005) provide some initial evidence
that EI (9.2%) makes the greatest contribution to overall performance when compared to
general intelligence (5.0%) and managerial competencies (6.1%). Emotional intelligence can
enhance the job performance of individuals even with low cognitive skills through the quality
of social relationships (Côté & Miners, 2006). If job performance is not attained through
cognitive intelligence, it can be attained through EI via multiple complementary mechanisms,
such as interactions with co-workers, supervisors and support staff (Côté & Miners, 2006).
In the management and leadership literature, studies have shown that leaders who are
emotionally competent were better performers and more successful (Brown & Moshavi, 2005;
Mayer & Caruso, 2002). An emotionally competent leader correlates with an emotionally
competent group norm, which in turn affects the team performance. Dulewicz et al. (2005), in
studying the leadership of navy ofcers across seven different ranks, found that EI accounts
for the greatest contribution to overall performance. Another study that took place in a retail
industry found that EI was negatively related with workplace distress and stress, and positively
related with emotional well-being, morale, quality of work life, and overall performance
ratings (Slaski & Cartwright, 2003). Interestingly, although Wong and Law (2002) found
that the EI of leaders was positively related to job satisfaction and extra-role behaviours of
followers, no relationship was found between the EI of leaders and the job performance of
their followers. Similarly, Feyerherm and Rice (2002) discovered that the higher the EI of the
team leader, the worse the team’s performance, concluding that highly emotional intelligent
people tend to focus on their own performance and hence neglect the team. Longhorn (2004)
found no support for the view that age-related EI was associated with performance. A person
with high EI may employ their abilities to develop good social relationships that can boost task
performance through advice and social support (Wong & Law, 2002). For instance, the ability
to be empathetic and understand both one’s own emotions and the emotions of others would
enable one to establish a rapport with and effectively manage subordinates (Semadar et al.,
2006). Further, the ability to manage and control emotional states such as anger and frustration
can be conducive to a more stable working environment (Newsome et al., 2000). In addition,
Côté and Miners (2006) found that EI is an important predictor of job performance due to its
interactive effect with cognitive intelligence. Previous research has also explicitly proposed
that EI relates to task performance in independent and complementary linear ways (Mayer et al.,
2004; Côté et al., 2006). Bardzil and Slaski (2003) suggest that if a manager has interpersonal
skills (one of the emotional intelligence constructs), then s/he can evaluate the emotional states
of customers in order to identify their needs (Chrusciel, 2006). This could lead to gaining
competitive advantage. This suggestion is supported by Longhorn’s (2004) empirical study
on the restaurant industry. The study that uses Bar-On EQ-i (1997) measures found that EI is
positively related to customer satisfaction, which in turn increases the performance of the rm
(Longhorn, 2004). Interestingly, the study also found that EI is able to predict team turnover.
In the sales literature, it is recognized that the sales account management job requires a sales
account manager to deal with emotional skills and maintain self-control when under pressure
in almost all sales tasks (Churchill et al., 1988). Researchers have found that a salesperson’s
performance is related to his/her ability to manage various social problems and deal with
motivational and emotional problems that arise due to negative feedback and failures (Brown
Emotional Intelligence and Sales Performance. A Myth or Reality?
189
et al., 1997). A salesperson is also required to understand the feelings of others and the reasons
behind them in order to persuade them into entering the sales-purchase contract. A salesperson
of high emotional intelligence will be resilient and able to maintain self-control and deal
with difcult situation (Sjoberb & Littorin, 2003). Summarising the discussion above, we
hypothesise the following:
H1: EI is positively related to sales performance.
2.2. Adaptive Selling Behaviour (ASB)
On the other spectrum of sales literature, the concept of adaptive selling behaviour has been
examined and developed over the last few decades (Park & Holloway, 2003; Spiro & Weitz,
1990; Weitz et al., 1986). Adaptive selling behaviour is conceptualised as the alterations in the
selling strategies, tactics, social style, verbal communication and physical appearance of the
seller (Giacobbe et al., 2006). Nonetheless, over the years, the denition of adaptive selling
behaviour has evolved to reect the philosophy of selling and marketing in that era. In the
late 80s, adaptive selling behaviour was dened as “the altering of sales behaviour during a
customer interaction or across customer interactions based on perceived information about the
nature of the selling situation” (Weitz et al., 1986, p. 175). In contrast, in today’s relationship
marketing era, buyers are more experienced, educated and powerful; consequently, the
denition of adaptive selling behaviour has changed to reect this condition: “a complex
process that emphasizes customised solutions to t each buyer” (DelVecchio, Zemanek,
McIntyre & Claxton, 2004, p. 859).
2.3. Emotional Intelligence and Adaptive Selling Behaviour
If Emotional Intelligence is a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor
one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, a salesperson high in EI is expected to be able
to adapt his/her selling behaviour to customise solutions to each potential buyer’s needs. As
a salesperson engages in active listening and becomes sensitive to the feeling and emotions
of others, that salesperson develops a greater ability to understand the unique set of need and
problems of the customer, which could lead to adaptive selling behaviour (Pelham, 2009). As
Giacobbe et al. developed a model of the relationship between adaptive selling behaviour and
sales performance, they argue that empathic ability towards customers and the ability to pick
up contextual cues and modify one’s own behaviour are some of the domains that moderate the
relationship between ASB and sales performance. Arguably, these are the domains of emotional
intelligence (Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Wong and Law, 2002). Based on this argument, it is fair
to predict that ASB mediates the relationship between EI and sales performance. Hence, we
posit the following:
H2: The positive effect of emotional intelligence on sales performance is mediated by adaptive
selling behaviour.
2.4. Adaptive Selling Behaviour and Sales Performance
The literature has well acknowledged the relationship between adaptive selling behaviours
ASB and sales performance outcomes (Anglin et al., 1990; Giacobbe et al., 2006; Sujan et
Zazli Lily Wisker and Athanasios Poulis
190
al., 1994). For example, several studies have found that adaptive selling behaviour exerts a
positive inuence on a salesperson’s regular performance, closing ratios, and the effectiveness
of a sales department and unit (Johlke, 2006). However, the practice of adaptive selling
arguably would be successful provided that the salespeople are predisposed to its facets, such
as the recognition of different selling approaches and the ability to use them, and the collection
of information about the sales situations to facilitate this adaptation (Spiro & Weitz, 1990).
Information about the market plays important roles in the success of adaptive selling practices,
which in turn inuences the sales performance (Spiro and Weitz, 1990). Based on this nding
and argument, it is fair to predict that ASB impacts sales performance. Therefore, we posit the
following:
H3: Adaptive selling behaviour is positively related to sales performance.
3. METHODOLOGY
3.1. Data Collection
We collected the data from account managers in the nancial industry in Malaysia. We
distributed the survey to 1441 account managers systematically drawn randomly from the
29 nance companies including stock broking houses in Malaysia that were registered
with Central Bank (Bank Negara). Subsequently we received 281 usable replies, yielding a
19.5% response rate. Twenty randomly selected non-responding managers were contacted by
telephone to directly ascertain reasons for non-response. This revealed that the main reasons
were (1) ineligibility, such as no longer having direct contact or making sales presentations to
customers, or (2) time constraints which prevented participation in the survey.
3.2. Measurements
Emotional Intelligence was measured using the self-rating emotional intelligence scale
WLEIS (Law, Wong & Song, 2004). Law et al. (2004) developed WLEIS based on the EI
theoretical concepts of Mayer and Salovey (1997). This measure has been validated and
replicated by many scholars. To conclude the validity of WLEIS, O’Boyle Jr. et al. stressed
that “specically, more research needs to be conducted to assess the validity-based measures
of EI (e.g., MSCEIT V2.o) as compared to self-report measures WLEIS…” (2011, p. 789). The
response format of this measure is a 5-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree,
3 = Neither Agree Nor Disagree, 4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree). The 16 items of the WLEIS
measure four EI-related subscales: self-emotions appraisal, others-emotions appraisal, use of
emotion, and regulation of emotion – each of which has four items. Sample items include the
following: “I have a good sense of why I have certain feelings most of the time” (Self-Emotion
Appraisal); “I always know my friends’ emotions from their behaviour” (Others-Emotions
Appraisal); “I am a self-motivating person” (Use of Emotion); and “I am quite capable of
controlling my own emotions” (Regulation of Emotion). Table 1 presents the scale reliabilities
for the EI constructs.
Emotional Intelligence and Sales Performance. A Myth or Reality?
191
We also used Exploratory Factor Analysis testing to examine whether the four EI dimensions
would emerge as separate factors. Because we are more interested in understanding the
correlations among constructs and have expected these constructs to be somewhat correlated
to each other, the Principal Factor Analysis method with Varimax rotation was selected as the
rotation method (Leech et al., 2008). Sixteen (16) EI items were factored, and 4 rotations were
used. The sample accounts for 69.64% of the variance in total, indicating strong support for the
separation of EI items into four distinct variables: EI self-emotions, EI others-emotions, EI use
of emotion, and EI regulation of emotion. Table 2 details out the results.
Adaptive selling behaviour was measured via seven items from the adaptive selling scale
(ADAPTS), rst developed by Spiro and Weitz (1990). The items for ASB include “I treat
all customers pretty much the same.” This was measured on a 5-point Likert scale with the
endpoint anchors being ‘Strongly Disagree’ and ‘Strongly Agree’. The measure also proved
to be adequately reliable by its coefcient alpha of .80. Table 3 presents factor loadings for
ASB items for the sample. The results are all substantial and statistically signicant. The scale
reliability for ADAPTS has a coefcient alpha of .92.
We adopted both subjective and objective performance measures. The objective performance
measure is dened as the percentage of accounts held over the annual target for the current
and previous two years. The item for objective performance was “What were your actual sales
during each of the last three years, expressed as a percentage?” Subjective performance was
measured by a self-assessed general performance measure developed by Farh et al. (1991).
Four items were included, such as “I make sales with the highest prot margin”. The reliability
of the sample has a coefcient alpha of .91.
Table 1: Scale Reliability Coefcients (Alphas) Emotional Intelligence
Cronbach Alpha α
Variables
EI 1 – Self-Emotions .89 4
EI 2 – Others Emotion .91 4
EI 3 – Use of Emotion .89 4
EI 4 – Regulation of Emotion .87 4
ItemsSample
Zazli Lily Wisker and Athanasios Poulis
192
Table 2: Exploratory Factor of Emotional Intelligence
Table 3: Standardised Factor Loadings for Latent Adaptive Selling Behaviour
Com.Factor
4
Factor
3
Factor
2
Factor
1
Items
I always tell myself I am a competent person. .78 .78
I am a self-motivated person. .73 .76
I always set goals for myself and try my best to
achieve them. .69 .78
I would always encourage myself to try my best. .69 .55
I can always calm down quickly when I am angry. .80 .71
I am able to control my temper so that I can handle
difculties rationally. .78 .83
I am quite capable at controlling my own emotions. .75 .63
I have a good control of my own emotions. .61 .73
I am a good observer of others’ emotions. . 88 .76
I always know my friends’ emotions from their
behaviour. .81 .73
I have a good understanding of the emotions of
people around me. .69 .68
I am sensitive to the feelings and emotions of
people around me. .69 .59
I really understand what I feel. .73 .65
I have a good understanding of my own emotions. .69 .77
I have a good sense of why I have certain feelings
most of the time. .67 .74
I always know whether I am happy or not. .45 .55
% of variance 23.75 16.62 15.09 14.20
Notes: Determinant =.003, Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin Measure of Sampling Adequacy = .793, Sigma = .000.
CommunalitiesFactor
Loadings
Items
ASB7 - I change my approach from one customer to another. .77 .73
ASB5 - I treat all customers pretty much the same. -.74 .70
ASB6 - I like to experiment with different sales approaches. .70 .792
ASB1 - I am exible in the selling approach I use. .67 .65
ASB4 - I do not use a set sales approach. .62 .74
ASB2 - I can easily use a wide variety of selling approaches. .61 .65
ASB3 - I vary my sales style from situation to situation. .61 .68
Determinant .003
Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin Measure of Sampling Adequacy .771
Sigma .000
Emotional Intelligence and Sales Performance. A Myth or Reality?
193
4. RESULTS
In utilising SEM, the rst step is to build the baseline measurement model. Once the baseline
model is established, the invariant (equivalence) of the measurement across samples is
assessed. The baseline model consists of the following variables: the independent variables
(emotional intelligence, self-emotion, others-emotion, use of emotion and regulation of
emotion); the mediating variable (adaptive selling behaviour); and dependent variables of sales
performance. I examined the measurement model by conducting CFA on 7 latent variables and
28 indicators (comprised of 16 indicators for emotional intelligence, 7 indicators for ASB,
4 indicators for subjective sales performance, and 1 for objective sales performance). The
measure of Maximum Likelihood was chosen, and the parameters were freely estimated. A
summary of the baseline measurement model is depicted in Table 4.
Table 4: Summary of CFA and Revisions Result for the Baseline Model
1 Run 7 latent with 28 indicators χ2 = 3298.45; df = 1056; χ2/df = 3.124;
GFI = .826; CFI = .901; RMSEA = 0.078;
p-Value = .000
2 Combined subjective and objective χ2 = 2831.45; df = 942; χ2/df = 3.124;
performance, run 6 latent with GFI = .855; CFI = .911; RMSEA = 0.071;
28 indicators p-Value = .000
3 Re-estimated error 18*16, error χ2 = 2432.46; df = 816; χ2/df = 2.980 ;
9*7 and error 16*11, run 6 latent GFI = .869; CFI = .912; RMSEA = 0.068;
with 25 indicators p-Value = .000
4 Re-estimated error 16*14, run 6 χ2 = 2057.49; df = 746; χ2/df = 2.671;
latent with 24 indicator GFI = .915; CFI = .935; RMSEA = 0.055;
p-Value = .000
Goodness of Fit IndexChangesModel
We rst tested the four domains of EI (Hypotheses H1) on sales performance separately. No
signicant support was found for hypotheses = .096, p .05). Then we tested the effect
of mediation. In establishing this effect, rstly adaptive selling behaviour, ASB (M) had to
signicantly affect sales performance (Y). Consistent with our prediction, ASB was found
to affect sales performance signicantly, although the effect was somewhat not strong H3,
(β = .283, p ≤ .01). Then, the second set of hypotheses (H2,) was tested. Consistent with our
prediction, we found support for H2, (β = .283, p ≤ .01). We controlled for several variables:
work experience, age and educational background. Consequently, Z tests were conducted
on these effects to assess the full mediation, and results were found to be non-signicant.
This shows that only partial mediation holds in the absence of direct effect for the emotional
intelligence–sales performance relationship. The variance (R2) shown for ASB was fairly
strong at .36, indicating that 3.6% of the differences in ASB was explained by EI. Figure 1
presents the overall regression results.
Zazli Lily Wisker and Athanasios Poulis
194
5. DISCUSSION
Our hypothesis concerning domains of EI – Sales performance (H1) was not supported.
One possible explanation concerns how EI may predict job performance differently and not
always be in a linear relationship of cause and effect (Côté & Miners, 2006). Although when
considered directly, three domains of EI are not related to sales performance, the results of
the current study show that these three domains link to sales performance through ASB,
demonstrating partial mediation in the absence of direct effect. This indicates the importance
of a synergistic combination of emotional intelligence and adaptive skills, which in turn links
emotional intelligence to sales performance indirectly. The ndings of our study add value
to the emotional intelligence–sales performance literature by providing insights on how the
relationship actually occurs. Our ndings concur with Côté and Miners (2006), who implied
that the impact of EI on job performance is not always in a linear effect.
Mediation for the emotional intelligence sales performance relationship is relatively easy to
interpret. The results suggested that, at least in terms of predicting account managers’ sales
performance, the validity of emotional intelligence variables can be extended through the
inclusion of the mediating variable; adaptive selling behaviour. Although when considered
separately, emotional intelligence is not related to sales performance, the results of the current
study show that emotional intelligence links to sales performance through adaptive selling
behaviour, demonstrating partial mediation with the absence of direct effect. This nding
indicates the importance of a synergistic combination of emotional intelligence and adaptive
skills, which, in turn, link emotional intelligence to sales performance indirectly. This nding
contributes signicant theoretical implications.
Figure 1: The result
AB7
E11
1
AB5
E9
1
AB2
E6
1
AB6
E10
1
AB3
E7
1
AB4
E8
1
AB1
E5
1
W1
W2
W3
W4
E1
E2
E3
E4
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
ASB
E1 .283
.096
.292
SALES
PERFORMANCE
S2
E13
1
S3
E14
1
S4
E15
1
S1
E12
1
Emotional Intelligence and Sales Performance. A Myth or Reality?
195
Emotionally intelligent individuals are adaptable and exible in handling change (Goleman,
1995; Wong & Law, 2002). In addition, emotionally intelligent individuals have the ability
to monitor others’ feelings and emotions, discriminate among them, and use this evaluation
to guide thinking and actions (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Emotionally intelligent individuals
are also high in self-motivation (Wong & Law, 2002). Given the concept of emotional
intelligence, in the case of emotionally intelligent salespeople, they have the ability to
monitor others’ feelings and needs and act accordingly to meet those needs. Moreover, they
are highly motivated in making sales. Arguably, these are also some of the skills required to
practise improvisation (Moorman & Miner, 1998) and adaptive selling behaviour (Spiro &
Weitz, 1990). This phenomenon claries the rationale behind the current study’s ndings. To
conclude, the relationship between emotional intelligence and sales performance is mediated
by adaptive selling behavioural skills. Therefore, researchers and practitioners should not
completely discount the concept of emotional intelligence when studying the potential factors
that contribute to sales performance among account managers. A few interesting implications
were made by the study in relation to ASB. The ndings of the current study support the
contingency theory of ASB proposed by Weitz et al. (1986), which claimed that ASB is an
important determinant of a sales performance among salespeople. These results serve not only
to add clarity to a number of previously unclear and contentious relationships but also to
extend the understanding of the overall ASB process.
It is also worth noting that the results of the current study support the claim that adaptation
during the sales presentation is an activity engaged in by most salespeople in a context where
the buying units and offerings are complex and each customer affords a signicant medium-
to long-term prot potential (Giacobbe et al., 2006; Kidwell et al., 2007). The mean rating
for ASB in the present study is signicantly high (3.53), indicating that the respondents are
highly adaptive with regard to the sales presentation. The industry studied here is comprised
of nancial rms that deal with complex investment products such as shares, debentures, unit
trusts and bonds that arguably provide signicant medium- to long-term prot potential.
5.1. Managerial Implications
In today’s highly competitive marketplace, personal selling plays a critical role in ensuring
the rm’s ability to understand customers’ needs, which in turn increases the volume of
protable sales (Giacobe et al., 2006). Several studies have found that salespeople play a key
role in customer relationship management in terms of understanding, communicating, and
delivering value to customers; thus, today’s relationship marketing focuses on interpersonal
communication building and maintenance of relationships with the customers as opposed
to short-term sales (Gummesson, 2008; Paparoidamis & Guenzi, 2009; Weitz & Bradford,
1999). In today’s complex market, salespeople not only need to have good interpersonal
communication skills to communicate with both internal and external customers, but also must
be able to adapt, empathize and recognize others’ emotions. This study’s ndings show that
emotionally intelligent individuals are adaptable and exible in handling change and have
the ability to monitor others’ feelings and emotions, discriminate among them, and use this
evaluation to guide their thinking and behaviour. Arguably, these are some of the elements
needed to effectively develop good interpersonal communication skills with both internal
Zazli Lily Wisker and Athanasios Poulis
196
and external customers. When salespeople and customers are mutually committed to the
relationship, they are motivated to maintain the relationship’s existence in the long run and
strive for mutual benet (Paparoidamis & Guenzi, 2009; Weitz & Bradford, 1999).
Additionally, we found a positive relationship between emotional intelligence and adaptive
selling behaviour; this has several managerial implications. First, when recruiting account
managers, rms need to focus on potential candidates who (a) can facilitate social interactions
with target customers, (b) have a high level of emotional intelligence, and (c) have the ability
and skills to practise adaptive selling. Firms should also provide training and motivation in
order to impose and instill this aptitude in salespeople. This has become especially important
as traditional communication activities, such as TV and radio advertising, have become very
costly and competitive.
Several studies have established that the relational behaviour of salespeople, such as adaptive
selling, are the antecedents of relationship marketing, which in turn affects the effectiveness
of sales performance (Paparoidamis & Guenzi, 2009). In this study, we found that the aptitude
of sales people, such as their ability to adapt their selling technique, inuences their sales
performance. Consequently, rms need to recruit potential salespeople who have the ability
to recognize others’ emotion and to adapt when meeting the needs of relationship marketing.
Nonetheless, this is an area that future study could develop further. It is hoped that this study
will act as a catalyst to help further research address this gap.
5.2. Limitation and Future Research
In this study we only used only self-reports measures for both emotional intelligence and
adaptive selling behaviour. Arguably self-reports measures can be subjected to various
distortions, including elements of bias and/or the faking of answers; however, previous studies
have found that, when both peer and supervisor ratings were gathered, results between the
self and peer/supervisor ratings were similar (Law et al., 2004; Goldenberg et al., 2006).
Moreover, supervisor ratings pose a validity risk as indicators of true emotional intelligence.
For example, some supervisors are indiscriminately hard or easy across all participants or
allow their personal opinions or grievances to enter into their ratings (Strauss et al., 2001).
Second we did not test the domain of EI separately. This could be the work of future research.
Further replication is needed to determine how the ndings reported herein align with the
results of studies conducted in other work environments. In particular, the impact of EI on
sales performance requires further study to understand the effect of EI constructs separately
on sales performance. The study did not also measure possible moderating variables that could
inuence the relationship between emotional intelligence and sales performance. Possible
moderating variables may include personal characteristics, rm structure and industry
characteristics. These can also the work for future research.
Emotional Intelligence and Sales Performance. A Myth or Reality?
197
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