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Sales is emotional, and that’s what I love about my profession of choice. There are very few things in life that give me as much of a high as the triumph and surge of energy I feel when a proposal comes back signed or, even more exciting, when someone on my team closes a deal that I know they have been agonizing over for months. I take it personally.
Some thought leaders might say that salespeople need to remove the emotion from the job and rely only on metrics and processes, a method I have tried both personally and across teams. In the end, however, I have concluded that not allowing salespeople to factor raw emotions into their jobs takes away their passion. The highs are inspiring and rejuvenating, while the lows — losing a deal — should be equally inspiring to avoid having to feel that emotion again soon.
Either way, sales is emotional in some shape or form. But beyond that, I have noticed a worrying stigma often attached to salespeople: that they are extreme extroverts who have very high self-confidence and no mental health concerns. You might think, “Why else would they be in sales?” Having worked in the tech industry, I can tell you that this is far from the case. In fact, there are two concerning aspects that have recently been getting more attention:
1. The startup tech industry has rampant mental health issues that can get buried amidst the buzzwords of “startup life” and “the grind.”
2. Salespeople are just as vulnerable to the mental health concerns that plague many Americans.
I will dive deeper into these ideas in subsequent posts, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a couple of findings and thoughts as I delve into a topic that is so personal to my heart.
Succeeding in the sales industry is hard enough when you consider the constant worry of closing deals, meeting quotas, spending time away from family, etc. Amid these stressful work-related issues, mental health problems are on the rise, making day-to-day sales obligations more and more difficult to complete for those who are struggling.
Managing your mental health concerns is essential. Work should be a place where you strive to be better than the day before, but that’s hard to do if you are faking a smile and not feeling like yourself. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 300 million people around the world suffer from depression, with many of them also suffering from symptoms of anxiety. Health.com reports that sales is among the career fields with the highest rates of depression.
According to The Oxford Handbook of Strategic Sales and Sales Management, sales reps who regularly experience high levels of stress “tend to be less involved in their jobs, less committed to the organization, and to experience lower levels of work and life satisfaction.” They also do not perform as well and are more likely to leave the organization.
Employees and managers need to be on the lookout for signs of depression and any other mental health-related symptoms so they can seek help or offer support. This is especially important because work problems can follow you home and home problems can follow you to work. Some common indicators of stress and anxiety include: racing thoughts, insomnia, trembling, loss of interest and, in some cases, thoughts of suicide.
If you are spending long days at work, don’t be afraid to step outside of the office to give yourself a change of scenery to clear your mind and come back to work refreshed. Experts say that maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and exercising are also important. Don’t hesitate to share your concerns with your employer ⏤ this can alleviate tension and allow your team to form a community of those dealing with similar issues. Seeking outside help from a medical health professional is crucial in these circumstances — these tips are merely suggestions and you should seek professional help if you are struggling.
Beyond supporting your employees because you are a community, the World Health Organization states that “for every USD $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of USD $4 in improved health and productivity.” Your employees invest a lot of time in your company; it’s time for you to invest in them right back.
Here are a couple of things I have found to help without drawing unwanted attention on employees who might be struggling or starting to feel the signs:
1. Humility In Leadership: Whether we actually have superpowers is up for debate, but the reality is that many founders are viewed as superheroes by their employees — especially in the startup community. This is why I openly discuss my struggles personally and as a founder. While some may consider this to be exaggerated transparency, I find it to develop more dedicated “soldiers” and also builds trust with employees who feel more comfortable approaching leadership with their struggles.
2. Strong Mental Health Plans: When rolling out our new health care plan, we were sure to find an option with strong mental health coverage and highlighted this coverage in a company-wide rollout. As part of this rollout, we made our employees aware of services and organizations such as Open Sourcing Mental Illness. Organizations can supplement and provide advice in addition to doctor visits, and increasing employee awareness about them promotes the normality of seeing a mental health professional.
3. Mandatory Time Off: While the tech community is filled with influencers peddling the “grind till you shine” mentality and emphasizing that only those willing to sacrifice will succeed, we mandate that employees get their relaxation and come back fresh.
Just like any job, stress is common and expected, but managers and team members alike must be on the lookout for more serious problems. With a little bit of determination and support, we can fight the stigma and help team members achieve sales and personal goals beyond their belief.
May 14, 2019 at 08:35AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs