Are You Passive, Assertive or Aggressive?

Last Updated Dec 19, 2007 8:28 AM EST

Aggressive Sales TechniquesOn Monday, I posed the question of which of the 15 "sub-scales" of emotional intelligence (aka EQ) were the most important to sales professionals. According to sales guru Rob Scher, the key scales are Assertiveness, Emotional Self-Awareness, Empathy, Problem Solving, and Happiness. Sales reps that make an effort to increase their skills in these five areas are, in his view, the most likely to see an increase in their ability to sell.

Take "Assertiveness," for instance. According to Scher, this is the aspect of EQ that helps the sales rep to move a sales situation forward without offending or frustrating the customer. He sees assertiveness as being located halfway between passivity and aggressiveness. Suppose you are trying to close but the customer is delaying the final decision. Responses to this situation can be characterized into three generic categories:

PASSIVE: "Could you give me a call when you've made a decision?"
"Would you mind if I sent you some additional literature?"

ASSERTIVE: "Can you give me a specific date when you'll make a decision?"
"What, exactly, is causing the delay in the decision-making process?"

AGGRESSIVE: "If you don't buy now, the offer is off the table."
"If you don't want to do business with us, please tell me so we won't be wasting our time."

As any experienced sales pro will tell you, passive behavior seldom (if ever) works, while the aggressive behavior, if it works, ends up making the customer feel pressured and resentful. In most cases, it's the (appropriately) assertive behavior that moves the sale forward, setting up the specific conditions for the close -- without forcing the customer's pace.

Where EQ comes in is the ability for the sales pro to gauge the correct level of assertiveness that's most likely to move the sale forward, without slipping into an aggressive stance that might cause the prospect to balk.

Of course, making this kind of judgment call requires a certain amount of emotional self-awareness. Otherwise, your judgment in making these decisions would constantly be clouded by your own emotional needs. For example, if you were really worried about making your quota, and not self-aware enough to understand that you were feeling pressured, you might make a response that was too passive, simply because you were afraid that a more assertive approach might kill the deal outright.

Over the next few posts, I'll review the other four key EQ skills, so stay tuned.