The Amadori Case

EQ, Sales Performance, and Burnout

This study answers 3 questions: 

Does Emotional Intelligence Influence Sales Performance?

What are the key Emotional Intelligence Competencies and Brain Talents of Top Performers?

What do the Wellbeing Scores of Top Performers Indicate about Sales Success and Burnout?


After completing a three-year study at Amadori, a leading supplier of McDonald’s in Europe, researchers further explored the relationship between emotional intelligence (EQ) and the performance of the Amadori sales force. Performance data for members of Amadori’s sales department were combined with results from the Six Seconds’ Emotional Intelligence (SEI) and Brain Talent assessments. Overall EQ predicted 16% of the variation in sales performance. Extensive analysis revealed the specific EQ competencies present in the top performers, including one EQ competency that by itself explained 10% of the impact on performance. Finally, the data revealed alarming signs about the personal cost of the success of the top performers.

1. Does EQ Influence Sales Performance?

To assess this question, two variables were evaluated:  EQ scores and Performance data. EQ scores were measured using Six Seconds’ SEI Assessment. Performance scores were measured using AMADORI’s Sales Volume Indicators, reported as kilograms sold per client . The sample was 350 of AMADORI’s salespeople throughout Italy.



of Variation in Salespeople's Effectiveness Scores Is Predicted by EQ


of Variation in Sales Performance Is Predicted by EQ


Is the Average Difference in Sales Between the Highest and Lowest Performers

Discussion: EQ & Sales Performance

A growing body of evidence has found a strong, significant link between the “hard” outcome of sales results and the “soft skills” of emotional intelligence.

  • At L’Oreal, sales agents selected on the basis of certain emotional competencies significantly outsold salespeople selected using the company’s standard selection procedure. On an annual basis, salespeople selected on the basis of emotional competence sold $91,370 more than other salespeople did, for a net revenue increase of $2,558,360.45.
  • Rozell, Pettijohn, and Parker (2006) explored relationships between emotional intelligence and performance in a sample of medical device salespeople. Once again, emotional intelligence proved to be a highly reliable predictor of performance leading to the conclusion that salespeople who are positive, happy, and who perceive the “best” in situations combined with low levels of anger, negativity and the like will obtain the highest performance levels.

Since we know that emotional intelligence is learnable, these finding suggests that massive individual performance benefits can be reached by developing these skills, and by selecting salespeople who already exhibit these skills. It’s also worth noting that these studies of EQ and sales have been conducted in a wide range of industries. Thus, it appears that emotional intelligence is a critical sales success factor irrespective of the product sold. Learn more about sales and EQ by downloading the Business Case for Emotional Intelligence.

2. What are the Key Emotional Intelligence Competencies and Brain Talents of Top Performers?

To assess this question, three variables were evaluated:  SEI scores, Brain Talent reports, and sales data. 


The two Brain Talents with the strongest correlation to salesperson Effectiveness were Prioritizing and Problem Solving. The top EQ competency was Recognizing Patterns.

The EQ Competency of Recognizing Patterns Predicted 10% of Salesperson Performance

To assess the power of the relationship between the EQ competency of Recognizing Patterns and sales performance, a linear regression analysis was conducted, revealing a statistically significant positive relationship between RP scores and objective sales data.


“In light of these results…

it is clear that our ideal agent is a practical and rational operator, a problem solver focused on achievement, and able to prioritize, to choose from several options rapidly and with care and attention. This agent is optimistic, pro-active, and not, as we thought at the beginning, an entrepreneur geared towards the long term.”

-Paolo Pampanini, HR Director, AMADORI

3. What Do the Wellbeing Scores of Top Performers Indicate About Sales Success and Burnout?

The top performers scored significantly lower on the Outcome of Wellbeing than the low performers. This suggest a link between performance and self-sacrifice to achieve that success. The low performers may also be choosing a better lifestyle over organizational performance. Given the apparent negative impact on Wellbeing of sales success, these results indicate that the top sales performers may be at high risk for burnout.

How can organizations create a climate that incentivizes high performance – and also balance to avoid burnout?


The study provides evidence to answer all 3 questions:

  • Does Emotional Intelligence Influence Sales Performance?  Yes.
  • What are the Key Emotional Intelligence Competencies and Brain Talents of Top Performers?  Prioritization, Problem Solving, and Recognizing Patterns.
  • What do the Wellbeing Scores of Top Performers Indicate About Sales Success and Burnout? The inverse relationship between sales success and wellbeing indicates that success comes with a certain level of personal sacrifice, and that managers should be aware of this relationship.

This study adds to the growing body of evidence that emotional intelligence is an essential skill for sales success. It also offers a warning on the personal cost of sales success, and the relationship this may have to traditionally high levels of costly turnover on sales teams. 

It appears that Emotional Intelligence, as measured by the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment, is a significant capacity for salespeople, and Recognizing Patterns in particularly important.

63% Reduction in Personnel Turnover

In addition to the results of the study, one striking result was a drastic 63% reduction of personnel turnover of Amadori’s sales force.  Sales managers participated in the EQ training, and the competency framework and manager-coach process was extended to the external sales force (300 sales agents all over Italy).  The employee turnover rates are shown in this graph:

  • 2010 Turnover Rate
  • 2011 Turnover Rate
  • 2012 Turnover Rate

The Authors

Lorenzo Fariselli

Lorenzo Fariselli

Regional Network Director, Six Seconds Italy

Joshua Freedman

Joshua Freedman

CEO, Six Seconds

Massimiliano Ghini

Massimiliano Ghini


In Collaboration with Fabio Barnabè and Erika Paci of Gruppo Amadori 

From Our Clients

“Probably the best training course I have ever attended in 25 years of business.”

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Director, Kwikform

“EQ is crucial for business development and yet in nearly 30 years of working in corporates, I have never had EQ explained, demonstrated and presented in this most engaging fashion. A superb facilitator who shared abundantly. This is truly the BEST program I’ve attended in 20 years.”

Joni Peddie

MD of Bizcomm & Lecturer, Gibbs Business School

“Emotions are so incredibly valuable and yet discounted so much of the time. This course connects the dots to bring the value proposition of emotions to the workplace.”

Dawn Karner

HR Training Manager, Cache Creek Casino Resort

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