The Missing Ingredient for Sales Success | Jeff Riseley

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“There is the belief that salespeople... must be infallible. It is hard to be honest when your career is so closely linked to your performance”

Over the past five years, there has been a lot of “talk” and promotion surrounding the value of mental health in the workplace. The large marketing campaigns about mental health can inspire, but only for a short period of time. Our optimism is restricted because the talk is limited to special days and occasions throughout the year. We need to move beyond talk and show people and organizations how to navigate this troublesome situation. People’s fear of being honest about their mental health feeds a pattern of stigma and avoidance. No one wants to talk and no one wants to listen.

The stigma around mental health in sales is even greater. I know this because sales has been my life for the last 10 years and I’ve seen it firsthand. There is the belief that salespeople can never be weak, depressed, sick or miss target if they want success– they must be infallible. Any sign of vulnerability is often viewed as a direct sign of weakness. It is hard to be honest when your career is so closely linked to your performance. When salespeople fall behind their forecasts, there is a tendency to forget that they are a colleague and are treated more like a number on a dashboard. They are pushed, pulled and stretched to perform with little consideration of this stress on their wellbeing. Empathy towards their personal struggles is overlooked because the company must meet target– no matter what.

I experienced this myself in my first sales job. My daily metrics consisted of making more than 200 dials and having at least 2.5 hours of talk time. I also had a monthly revenue target and if I missed my daily metrics or monthly target I would likely be fired. The office was a revolving door of salespeople, who were either being fired or quitting because they were burnt out.

Going for ‘after work’ drinks happened almost every night, if not starting early during the lunch hour. It was here when I started to become aware of my mental health and the overwhelming power declining well-being could have on my life.

On a nightly basis my anxiety would spiral out of control. If I had a bad day at work, missed target or had a deal fall through it would be even worse. At night, I was totally alone with my thoughts and they would keep me up all night worrying about losing my job. If I did manage to fall asleep, I’d usually wake up drenched in sweat. When I didn’t sleep it would only make the spiraling worse the next night. It would be an endless dark tunnel of self-defeating thoughts that I couldn’t shut off- no matter what.

I would lose perspective on my entire life. Totally unrealistic scenarios, like ending up homeless or disowned by my family, became absolute certain outcomes in my mind during these nights. I thought everything would depend on whether or not I would make my sales target. On several occasions the spiraling resulted in severe panic attacks that led to trips to the hospital with heart palpitations.

The worst part about these times was that I felt like I couldn’t talk about these mental health challenges with anyone- hell I didn’t even know what mental health or anxiety meant at the time. I felt totally alone and had no idea how to regain perspective and balance with my mental health after stressful moments throughout the day As a result, this led to frequent ‘after work’ trips to the bar where I felt like I could vent and decompress. However beneficial a pint with friends can be, it is rarely conducive to solving emotional and psychological problems.

When it got bad enough, I spoke with my doctor who recommended I try taking daily anxiety medication, which I tried for about a month and a half. I hated it, because it totally dulled my emotions. The emotional highs were never as high and the lows were never as low. I just felt lost in a low frequency haze. I wanted my passion back, the good and bad, because I believe that’s what makes salespeople great. As a result, I stopped the medication and became addicted to learning about anxiety and mental health in general.

During my sleepless nights, I’d read every article and book I could find to understand what was going on in my head. The more I learned, the better equipped I became. I’d try every technique I could find to reduce anxiety and sleep better. Slowly, overtime, things started to improve and I started to develop the right tool kit that worked for me. I spent a lot of time focused on mindfulness, learning how to be truly connected with my intuition and emotions. Being in touch with myself enables me to connect fully with my customer, allowing me to pick up on even the slightest changes during a sale. Remaining fully honed in on my intuition is like a superpower, and ultimately what I believe is the real ingredient for sales success.

That’s the most challenging part about Mental Health is there isn’t a one size fits all and everyone is different. To be successful, you need to become obsessed with trying new things and learning how to focus on the things you can control in your life. Life and sales, in particular, is unpredictable. It’s totally unrealistic to think I could make everything perfect. That was one of the biggest things the perfectionist in me had to learn.

Over my career, I’ve had countless conversations with other salespeople who have experienced very similar battles with their mental health. Sales is one of the most demanding professions out there. It’s also one of the most important functions within the organization. Salespeople pay the bills, keep the lights on and determine the success of a company. Yet, they are often offered little support from the organization to navigate the stressful situations that come with the territory.

That’s why I have started The Sales Health Institute  and have partnered with Starts With Me to create mental health training programs for salespeople that do exactly that. We teach practices to help reduce short and long-term disability claims, absenteeism and presenteeism within sales. Motivating our work is a sincere desire to help people become healthier human beings and ultimately to create a more prosperous and cohesive world. Drawing from our personal and professional experience, we have put every ounce of effort and desire to bring forth a program that can change lives. We hope to meet and work alongside you on this journey.

If you’re interested in exploring the mental health workshop for your sales team or organization please contact us.

My name is Jeff and I am UNCrushed.

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JEff riseley

toronto, on, canada