This Week’s Big Deal: How to Mitigate Stress on the Sales Team

May 20, 2019

We all know that sales can be a demanding, difficult, and ruthless profession. It can also be highly rewarding and fulfilling, but those acutely challenging times are apt take a toll on us.

Sales managers are accountable for overseeing strategy, processes, and results. But we’re also managing people, and that’s often the most important part of the job. Keeping sales reps happy and engaged is vital to succeeding with those other operational priorities.

Last week, Trellis CRO Jared Shaner published a great article on Forbes, entitled Why It's Time To Start A Conversation Around Mental Health On Your Sales Team. In it, he notes that more than 300 million people around the world suffer from depression, and that rates are especially high for sales professionals.

Chronic stress is toxic. It’s highly correlated with mental health issues and can significantly impact job performance. As Shaner notes, research has found that salespeople who experience high levels of stress tend to be less involved in their jobs and less committed to their organizations.

As a sales leader, you can’t eliminate all stress; it’s simply part of the gig, and to an extent, stress can actually be good. But when it spirals out of control, the negative effects can be substantial.

Here are our tips for managing stress on your sales team.

5 Tips for Managing Sales Team Stress

First things first: If you’re concerned that anyone on your team is facing serious mental health struggles, encourage them to seek professional help. These tips aren’t meant as substitutes for that crucial course of action, but rather as day-to-day recommendations for keeping harmful stressors at bay.

1. Show Humility and Empathy

Create a culture of solidarity and let your team members know that everyone’s in it together. Shaner says he makes a point of openly discussing his own personal struggles, adding that this builds trust and makes his employees feel more comfortable approaching him.

In her recent piece for the Proposify blog on the future of sales management, Lauren d'Entremont points to the example of sales executive Michael Hannon, who was an “introverted kid with a stutter” and now uses this vulnerability as a “starting point for developing empathy” with employees and prospects.

One of the best ways to help a person who’s feeling down is by letting them know they’re not alone.

2. Create Clear Structure

Ambiguity and confusion can be major causes of stress. When one doesn’t know what to do, or whether they’re doing the right thing, they may end up feeling lost. Sales managers can prevent this by defining roles, expectations, and processes in ways that everyone understands. Document these details and meet with your people to make sure everyone is on the same page.

In his writeup for Business 2 Community last week, Josh Bean offered a four-step plan for building your sales management process, which includes guidance for creating a sales process roadmap.   

3. Play Up the Positives

One suggestion in Bean’s article is to “celebrate wins in creative ways.” It’s only natural for people to dwell on missed opportunities and setbacks; managers can counteract this by placing a strong focus on accomplishments and achievements.

4. Get People Moving

Research shows that exercise — even something so simple as getting up and going for a walk — can help alleviate minor levels of stress and anxiety. Build time into reps’ schedules for things like taking a stroll outside, or even just experiencing changes of scenery. If employees don’t feel like they have enough bandwidth for these kinds of breaks, that may be part of the problem.

5. Work Toward Shifting Mindsets

In a recent post at IMPACT, Steve Bookbinder outlines three methods for combating sales stress. One recommendation is working to downplay the prevalent obsession with time management. So often, the feeling we don’t have enough hours in the day can instill feelings of dread. As managers, we might seek to avoid this pitfall by instead emphasizing attention management, defined as “the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, in the right places and at the right moments.” It’s about prioritizing people and projects that matter instead of fretting about how long tasks will take.

“Practicing a more mindful, attention driven approach to your daily activities by eliminating distractions and focusing on why, where, and when you do things will help reduce stress and anxiety,” Bookbinder writes.

Put People First, and Results Will Follow

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. There’s no better time than the present to contemplate steps we can take as managers to ensure our sales reps are happy, comfortable, and fulfilled. Less stress leads to lower turnover and higher productivity. In addition to the suggestions above, it may be worthwhile to hold open, honest discussions with your sales team regarding the ways they feel workplace stress can be diminished.

Whatever approach you take, the most important thing is to be cognizant about the mental states of everyone on your team, and ready to help when you can.

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