Salespeople are no strangers to stress. Sales is a high-pressure, performance-oriented, and results-driven profession. There is constant uncertainty, frequent rejection and significant pressure to meet sales quotas.
Many salespeople rely on commission to pay bills.
Often your financial well-being and the company’s success is completely dependent upon your performance. The pressure to convert quickly and hit your sales targets is strong.
Sales managers have a responsibility to help their sales teams manage this pressure. This is critical - not only for the health and well-being of your team, but for your own productivity and the future success of your company.
Finding the right balance
A little stress isn’t a bad thing. This emotion can motivate us to push ourselves and drive momentum to achieve sales goals.
But what happens when this stress starts to escalate out of control?
As sales managers, it’s important to apply some pressure to promote healthy motivation, but you need to do this without compromising the health of your team.
Stress is dangerous. It can have extremely harmful effects on the mental, physical, and emotional health of your employees. Stress-related conditions can have life-changing consequences.
That’s why stress is definitely not something to be ignored.
Understand your stress triggers
Before diving into stress management in sales, let’s look at some of the root causes. Prevention is always better than cure.
Below are just some of many stress-triggering factors that frequently seep into the daily life of a salesperson:
- Financial worry
- Struggling to meet quotas
- A cluttered pipeline
- Lack of direction/poor management
- Unattainable targets
- Lack of resource
- Toxic work environment
- Failing to meet expectations
And the list goes on...
It’s important to evaluate your stress triggers in order to manage them effectively.
Everyone experiences stress, but being self-aware enough to understand how you experience and cope with pressure is the first step towards overcoming the problem.
Psychological barriers to selling
So what can sales managers do to alleviate some of the pressures that comes with working in sales? Let’s categorize the common stress triggers into three main psychological barriers to help you manage and combat this stress:
- Lack of control
- Fear of failure
- Loss of focus
All these obstacles have something in common.
They are focused on the end goal. On the outcome. On results.
The first step to breaking down these barriers involves a shift in mindset - turning your focus from the outcome to the process.
Sales managers need to consider how they can set sales goals for their team to emphasize the activities required to achieve the desired result, not just the result alone.
An activity-based approach is an effective way to set effective sales goals for your team to help achieve business results.
Let’s look at each of the psychological barriers in detail to see how this approach works.
1. Lack of control
One of the few certainties in sales is constant uncertainty.
The results you are aiming for are entirely out of your control. You can never guarantee someone will buy your product or solution. This is a difficult and vulnerable place to be day after day. If this stress is not managed appropriately, it will undoubtedly impact your mental health.
By shifting your approach from results-based selling to activity-based selling you are helping your team to win back control of their actions and their schedules.
A structured sales process and a clear sales pipeline allows you to break down goals into smaller, achievable tasks.
How to win back control
Take a look at the past performance of your sales team, including average conversion rates, and work back from your annual sales target. This will give you visibility into the number of activities required to meet sales targets. Based on this analysis, you can set weekly or monthly goals for your team, which are much more consumable and controllable.
Don’t forget to discuss these goals with your team to make sure they are comfortable and feel confident enough to achieve them.
Having the right tools in place helps you stay on track and monitor progress. A good pipeline management system will visualize this process for you, making it easier to keep track of activities and work towards goals.
Working towards a goal without a plan of action breeds anxiety and stress.
The sense of achievement your salespeople will get from completing these activities will help you replace anxiety with confidence, and stress with fulfillment.
2. Fear of failure
Even the best salespeople fail.
Our recent Global Sales Performance Review showed that even high performing organizations close less than 50% of prospects.
Failure in sales is plentiful and presents itself in many forms - failing to close a prospect, failing to meet a quota, failing to retain a customer. Fear of failure can be crippling and actually prevent salespeople from taking action.
Another element that feeds into this obstacle is fear of rejection.
No one likes rejection. We all like to be accepted. And we love hearing ‘Yes’!
We are programmed to actively avoid rejection. Rejection is not just an inevitable part of a salesperson’s life - it’s a frequent occurrence. Many salespeople take rejection personally and this is where things can become really problematic. Self-worth becomes associated with sales success.
Fighting the fear
Let’s turn this around. Activity-based selling allows you to redefine the meaning of failure by projecting it onto the actions instead of the results.
In this way, losing a prospect is not considered failing, but not making the call that could have closed the opportunity can be. Failure only exists when someone chooses not to take action.
Salespeople are constantly dealing with the emotional roller-coaster of success, rejection and the occasional failure. Sales managers need to help their teams effectively cope with setbacks without dwelling on them. One way to do this is to highlight losing as an opportunity to learn.
In the end, hearing ‘No’ is certainly disappointing, but it also brings clarity to your process and your pipeline. Help your team to accept it, learn from it, and move on!
3. Loss of focus
There can be a lot of moving pieces in a salesperson’s pipeline - it’s easy to get drowned in data and tasks.
Complicated sales processes and cluttered pipelines can leave sales reps paralyzed. An overwhelming amount of information will result in procrastination, simply because your team members don’t know where to focus their attention.
This means you need to streamline your sales processes and prioritize tasks so salespeople can focus on what matters most.
Be more selective
Greg McKeown, author of ‘Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit’, explains:
“Essentialism is not about getting more things done; it’s about getting the right things done...it’s about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy to operate at your highest point of contribution.”
McKeown emphasizes just how much focusing on the most important tasks matters, and how it will eventually help you regain control of your choices and feel empowered. It’s important for sales managers to teach this skill to their team and say ‘no’ when they have surpassed their threshold of productivity.
A successful activity-based plan will help you avoid unnecessary complexity and focus attention on the actions that matter most.
Mapping out your customer sales journey will also help you prioritize opportunities so your team can determine where they can bring the most value.
Another way to get some extra clarity is by using lead tracking software. These tools give you a clear view of your pipeline, helping you focus on the right deals and activities. It also helps your team evaluate the opportunities which generate the highest value or make the most impact.
Think like an engineer
Overcoming psychological barriers often requires rewiring your mindset and how you think about problems.
Engineers apply logical and systematic thinking to how they approach obstacles and issues.
This approach involves a structured, problem-solving process to find solutions, and asking questions to best understand the desired outcome.
Asking the right questions leads to fewer assumptions, and fewer assumptions lead to better results.
While sales is all about building relationships, it’s important to develop structured processes. Start thinking like an engineer by applying a systematic approach to how you manage opportunities. And if it doesn’t work, try to identify patterns that tell you why and then search for a better solution.
By taking control of your actions and viewing losing as an obstacle instead of failure, you can manage stress and operate more effectively.
Develop healthy habits
Your team also needs to take responsibility for monitoring their own workload and maintaining their health.
Creating a culture that values health is the best way to support this. As a sales manager - you need to lead by example. Proactively develop a plan for managing workplace stress.
Here are some healthy habits you should encourage your team to embrace:
- Work-life balance - You need to take breaks and switch off. If you maintain the energy and focus required to continue smashing your targets, then you must be strict with your downtime.
- Eat well and work out - This may sound basic, but the life of a salesperson often means long hours on the road. It’s too easy to opt for fast food and make excuses not to work out. Make sure you are fueling your body with the right food and moving about to get those endorphins flowing. Stress is closely linked with depression and exercise is a proven method to combat this.
- Breathe - Sure, we’ve all heard this one before, but how many of us actually do something about it? Breathing is something we can regulate and control, but often choose not to. Mindful breathing is one of the fastest ways to achieve a relaxed and clear state of mind. Here are some tried and tested breathing exercises to get you started.
- Look out for your people - A good manager knows when to encourage a rep to step away. If you notice one of your team is doing all the right things but still struggling - encourage them to step away from their phone or desk and go for a walk to get out of the office. Help them blow off some steam. They might need some outside influence because they’ve become too involved to notice they need a break.
Awareness is the foundation to managing stress
Everyone experiences stress, and it’s an inevitable part of work and life in general. Understanding how you deal with stress is key to how you manage it. This self-awareness will help you to deal with stress in a positive and resourceful way.
Andy Puddicombe, founder of Headspace, writes, “It’s about training in awareness and understanding how and why you think and feel the way you do, and getting a healthy perspective in the process.”
There’s 4 key takeaways you can turn into practical action to help you start managing your stress effectively.
- Focus on the process, not on the results - Remember that failure is not the result, it’s choosing not to take action.
- Learn from losing - When your prospect says ‘No’, what can you learn from it? Once you have established that, move on!
- Embrace essentialism - Struggling to focus? Ask yourself what is the most essential task to achieve your goal today. And do only that.
- Be kind to your body and your mind - Enjoy downtime, eat well, break a sweat, and keep breathing.
You can use these 4 strategies straight away to start developing those healthy habits. Go one step further with your proactive stress management and save our stress-busting tips and reminders on file to revert back to whenever you or your team are crumbling under the pressure of the sales world.
And remember - focus on the process, not the outcome. That will help you set a healthy example for the rest of your sales team to follow.