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Press Release From the Journal of Marketing: Emotional Calibration and Salesperson Performance

Matt Weingarden

Researchers from University of North Texas, University of Tennessee, Virginia Tech, and University of Kentucky, published a new article in the Journal of Marketing that examines how emotional confidence is needed along with emotional intelligence to be successful in sales.

The research, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Emotional Calibration and Salesperson Performance” and is authored by Blair Kidwell, Jonathan Hasford, Broderick Turner, David M. Hardesty, and Alex R. Zablah.

In an ever-changing sales environment, what attributes does a salesperson need to be successful? Many sales managers consider emotional intelligence to be a trait that matters a lot for sales success. These sales managers believe that the more emotionally intelligent a salesperson is, the better he or she will perform. However, this new study discovers that simply having high emotional intelligence is not enough to be great at sales. Instead, it matters both how skilled salespeople are at the ability to use, manage, facilitate, and perceive emotions and how confident they are in these abilities.

The research team surveyed more than 350 salespeople and their managers in four different industries and found that salespeople who were high in both emotional intelligence and emotional confidence (referred to as emotional self-efficacy) were emotionally calibrated. Thus, these salespeople are able to be calm and relaxed around their customers and build rapport. Because they build this rapport, they are more successful at sales than salespeople who are not emotionally calibrated.

The study discovered that if a salesperson was lacking in either emotional dimension (intelligence or confidence), he or she was a worse sales performer. In particular those low in emotional intelligence, but high in confidence, are termed emotionally overconfident. These salespeople are often inattentive and display too much excitement and eagerness and thus find it more difficult to build rapport with their customers.

In contrast to these inattentive salespeople are those salespeople who are high in emotional intelligence, but lack confidence in their emotional skills. These salespeople are termed emotionally underconfident. They often find it difficult to build rapport with their customers because they are often filled with self-doubt. Finally, salespeople who are low in both emotional intelligence and emotional confidence are negatively emotionally calibrated. These salespeople also find building rapport with their customers to be more difficult and they often express anger and frustration during the sales process.

Kidwell explains that “We believe that if sales managers continue to invest in emotional intelligence training or selection tools, they should also invest in developing and sustaining emotional confidence. If their salesforce does not have the emotional confidence to match their emotional skills, then they cannot realize the benefits of these skills.” Moreover, salespeople need to be aware if their emotional skills are lower than their emotional confidence because the research suggests that having high confidence and low emotional skills can backfire.

Hasford adds that “our research has important implications for recruiting and managing a salesforce. For instance, many salespeople have high levels of confidence in themselves regardless of their actual abilities. Managers may need to initially screen and provide feedback that reduces the potentially detrimental effects of overconfidence in salespeople.”

The research also suggests that emotional calibration is most beneficial for salespeople who work in supportive environments. An environment with supportive supervision, high teamwork, and access to the organizational resources needed to serve customers is found to be the best one for a salesperson to leverage high emotional skills and confidence. Moreover, environments where salespeople can have longer tenures and lower felt stress are more likely to see improved sales performance when the salesforce is emotionally calibrated.

“For salespeople looking to use our research to improve their sales performance, we suggest that you do two things. First, consider how confident you are right now about your emotional skills. Next, you should take an assessment of your emotional intelligence ability. You can use our scoring tool here ( After getting your scores, reconsider how confident you should be in your emotional skills,” says Turner. Hardesty adds that “If you receive a high score, then you should be more confident in your emotional skills and use these in your interactions with customers. However, if you do not score as highly as you thought you might, then you should calibrate your confidence in your emotional skills. There are very few benefits to being confident when your emotional skills are low.”

Full article and author contact information available at:

About the Journal of Marketing 

The Journal of Marketing develops and disseminates knowledge about real-world marketing questions useful to scholars, educators, managers, policy makers, consumers, and other societal stakeholders around the world. Published by the American Marketing Association since its founding in 1936, JM has played a significant role in shaping the content and boundaries of the marketing discipline. Christine Moorman (T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University) serves as the current Editor in Chief.

About the American Marketing Association (AMA) 

As the largest chapter-based marketing association in the world, the AMA is trusted by marketing and sales professionals to help them discover what is coming next in the industry. The AMA has a community of local chapters in more than 70 cities and 350 college campuses throughout North America. The AMA is home to award-winning content, PCM® professional certification, premiere academic journals, and industry-leading training events and conferences.

Matt Weingarden, Vice President, Communities & Journals, leads the diverse team that supports the AMA’s network of community leaders from its three broad communities and four scholarly journals.