Why The Mental Health of Your Sales Team Matters
Everyday sales representatives are facing unrelenting expectations to perform and it’s taking a dramatic toll on both their mental health and company revenue.
This post is going to look at why improving mental health among sales representatives is important and how a sales manager can bolster the mental health of their sales team to drive consistency and increased performance.
Sales Representatives Need Mental Health Support
First let’s take a step back and review why mental health is being overlooked and what’s currently happening in sales organizations around the world. This will help illustrate why sales representatives need more mental health support from their sales manager.
Remember back in university when you had to write an exam that could have been worth up to 100% of your entire grade?
The anxiety, pressure and stress leading up to the exam, that would ultimately define a portion of your life… Not fun and not healthy.
Schools provide students with the tools to do well on the exam. If they attend class, listen to the professor and do the readings - they should pass, but ultimately schools leave students totally unprepared from a mental health standpoint.
Exams and the weeks leading up to them ravage the mental health of students and it is primarily because schools do not teach students the skills they need to manage the anxiety, fear and stress they are to face in a healthy way.
Only now are schools starting to look at mental health more seriously; after thousands of research papers have proven that maintaining good mental health during stressful situations can substantially increase performance and productivity.
So why is this important to a sales manager?
Unfortunately, for a sales representative and sales team - a similar scenario exists, but does not last for a few weeks. It’s the environment sales people are living in every day, of every month and of every quarter.
An unrelenting expectation to perform at a high level all the time.
Similar to schools - most companies give a sales representative the tools they need to succeed. Strong sales processes, scripts, KPI’s to hit and a repeatable way, that if followed, will set a sales representative up to hit target.
Though a strong sales process helps drive desired company results, the sales representative and their mental health is left totally unprepared for this journey as they are continuously bombarded with client objections, the fear and anxiety of missing target, getting yelled at by their sales manager and the worst case scenario - fear of getting fired.
Currently sales organizations and sales managers are missing a massive, untapped opportunity to improve mental health within their sales team, that will increase productivity and retention, while driving higher performance and revenue.
Here are some ways a sales manager can start protecting and improving mental health within their sales team.
Build Trust Between the Sales Manager and Sales Representative
It all starts at the top and whether they choose to acknowledge it or not - every single CEO, Director of Sales and Sales Manager has battled mental health at some point during their career given the nature of sales.
It is the responsibility of the sales manager to start the discussion about mental health - an honest conversation with their sales team about what they’ve had challenges with and ways they’ve learned to overcome them throughout their sales career.
Even though the discussion around mental health has become less taboo in society, a sales representative will often still feel embarrassed or fear talking about their mental health struggles in the workplace. The sales manager needs to start the conversation and create a culture where it’s comfortable to openly talk about mental health.
It starts with one meeting and in the past I’ve seen a meeting like this immediately strengthen trust bonds between a sales manager and their sales team, but also uncover underlying issues within sales representatives that have been hurting performance.
Prioritize Coaching and Creating a Collaborative Sales Culture
A great sales manager and former colleague once told me - “If your sales team can commit to getting better at just one thing every week - the rest will take care of itself.”
Sales can be an absolute roller coaster at times and leading with this philosophy, builds better bonds that will get the sales team working collaboratively, instead of separately as a group of individuals. Collaboration within sales teams helps teach sales reps it’s ok to ask for help and fosters a good mental health culture.
How this can work - Each week the sales manager starts by leading a training and coaching session on one area within the sales process that they’ve identified as weak within their sales team. In this case, for example - “Closing questions.”
After their coaching session, the sales manager should open the discussion up to the sales team - ask them what their best closing questions are and capture the responses in a shared excel document so everyone can collaborate.
The goal that week is to have the sales team collaboratively test closing questions on calls with clients and by the end of the week, determine the best questions to ask when closing business. The sales manager should also create an incentive that rewards the sales representative who successfully uses/reports feedback on the most closing questions that week.
Throughout the week, the sales manager can use this as an opportunity to encourage sales reps to share best practices with the sales team and reiterate the messaging that it’s ok for an individual sales representative to ask for help when they need it.
At the end of the week, one aspect of the sales process will be better than when the week started and sales team collaboration will garner better sales team dynamics that also support better mental health.
Creating a team incentive or contest using gamification is a powerful way to improve team morale and drive higher sales activity on a specific KPI. Keeping morale and motivation high will maintain positive mental health in sales reps.
Here is a very simple example of how you can use Gamification to increase Demo Sets by a sales team:
Buy a mini basketball net for the office (think a cheap plastic net that hangs on the back of a door).
On a whiteboard - create three columns for each sales representative: Demos Set, Shots Made and Total Points.
Then explain the rules - for every demo set this week the sales representative will get 1 point and one shot on the mini basketball net.
For every basketball shot a sales representative makes - add another point.
Total demo set points and basketball shot points for the week on the whiteboard and the sales representative with the most points at the end of the week gets a free lunch with the sales manager (or some other reward).
The whiteboard creates visibility and team accountability - no sales representative wants to be far behind. The small action of taking a basketball shot forces sales reps to take small breaks to limit their daily burnout and create sales floor motion. Then finally the lunch at the end of the week creates an incentive that rewards behavior.
Using gamification is a very easy way to improve mental health, increase morale and get the sales team excited about hitting seemingly boring KPIs.
Become an Expert in Mental Health and Share Knowledge in the Workplace
Finally - the last thing a sales manager can do to improve the mental health of their sales team is become an expert in how to deal with it.
This can be an entire future blog post in itself, however the brain is the strongest and most important organ in your body so it’s important to keep it healthy.
Some initial tools that have been extremely helpful for me personally and sales teams I’ve worked with are:
Daily meditation - open this up to the team to do during the day.
Journaling after a very stressful day before bed to release my thoughts, practice gratitude and limit spiraling.
Using apps like Headspace or Relax Melodies to improve mindfulness.
Reading books like The Untethered Soul that teach you how to keep perspective and stay grounded.
Maintaining positive mental health while working in an environment like sales that demands unrelenting expectations to perform has never been easy and the absolute best way to improve mental health is to start having a conversation about it.
Sales Knowledge Institute has created a LinkedIn group focused on improving Mental Health in Sales. Please use the group as a resource to post about mental health best practices you’ve learned for sales, share any issues you’re struggling and support your fellow sales folks.
In addition - for any CEOs/Founders or Sales Managers looking to improve the mental health of your team, you can schedule a free consultation with Sales Knowledge Institute here.
Good luck and happy selling!