Sales Performance Suffers During Mental Distress

BY Tim Londergan
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You can’t shoot a scared stick.” That’s how my pool-​shooting buddy would put it when he knew my head wasn’t in the game. You see, pocket billiards is a game of concentration and confidence. And just like sales if your mental state is off – your game is too. Mercifully, in pool, after the last ball is sunk, you rack ’em up and the winner breaks for the next game. Your therapy is to take a breath, lower your shoulders, clear your head, and enjoy the ball align sport. However, in sales, there’s much more on the line. Sales performance suffers when stress takes your head out of the game.

Mental health directly affects sales performance

When Sales Health Alliance released its second annual report it showed 63% of salespeople are struggling with their mental health. Crucially, this represents a 5% increase from the prior year! Surprisingly, any notion of a return-​to-​normal work state has not caught up to the sales industry. In fact, while 77% of mentally healthy salespeople rate their sales performance as very good or excellent, only 29% of those with the worst mental health did so. Therefore, good mental health positively impacts sales performance by a factor of two and a half.

Stay positive and carry on

Salespeople are taught to always be positive. Additionally, they must bury their emotions of disappointment or negative thoughts in front of clients and staff. Regardless of stressors and tension, they must ignore their deteriorating mental health and carry on. The culture of working in sales — hitting new targets, placating difficult customers, and pleasing management — can be overwhelming. Fear of failure or fear of being judged loom large for even the most accomplished sales professional. That’s the assertion by Colleen Stanley as she examines the importance of psychological safety in an article for Sales Leadership.

Psychological safety is a great predictor of high sales performance

According to Stanley, “psychological safety is the ability to share one’s thoughts and feelings without the worry of being judged, shut down or put down.” Furthermore, she refutes that most sales organizations stand by the adage that “you learn more from your failures than your successes.” In fact, fear of failure is why many sellers hesitate to sell into new markets, try new skills or call on larger accounts. Knowingly, correcting this “scared-​stick” sales culture is what she recommends for organizations seeking to improve overall sales performance.

Share experiences, exploit failure and learn without judgement

Changing the paradigm on failure is a giant step toward psychological safety. Stanley suggests managers invite team members to come to a meeting prepared to share a failure and the lessons learned. Further, she urges discussion of how these lessons will help sellers approach business in the future. Caringly, Stanley reminds the confessor that the failure was a setback in their ROLE as a salesperson — not an indictment of their self-​worth. The subsequent sharing and support without judgement sets the tone for a safe sales culture to take hold and thrive.

Take responsibility for your own mental health

Hopefully, your company takes the mental health of their employees seriously. If not taking it into consideration out of compassion, then for their own bottom line. You may find relief by seeking mindset training or study resilience or stress management techniques. However, if you find yourself slipping into depression with nowhere to turn, make an appointment with your HR department. Often, companies have ready access to independent resources that provide confidential counseling services. For immediate needs, you can access the new Mental Health Emergency Hotline anywhere in the United States by dialing 988.

Photo by samer daboul on pexels​.com.