Life in sales can be a roller coaster ride. Today, you are on the top of the world after hitting your sales quota. Tomorrow, you would feel like nothing is working anymore after losing an account. Sales jobs don’t end at 5:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. The schedule of a salesperson doesn’t account for overtime work or holidays. A prospect may be available for meetings only after office hours or on weekends. Salespeople are always on-the-go, especially when they are behind target. Many experience anxiety, mental stress and burnout. Indeed, it is time we talk about mental health in sales.
The cost of ignoring mental health is staggering. A study led by the WHO suggests that depression and anxiety disorders cost the world economy about US$1 trillion annually in lost productivity. According to Forbes, mental health and substance abuse cost US businesses US$80-100 billion each year.
What is mental health in sales
If you are in sales, you are familiar with the seemingly constant anxiety of not meeting your quota. You worry that an account you have been working on for weeks or months might drop out of the negotiations. You think about how to juggle your professional and private lives because, essentially, you are always chasing after prospects and trying to close deals. If you aren’t able to manage your daily stressors, these could affect your performance and overall health.
Anxiety and depression are common in the sales industry due to the high demand and cut-throat environment. The chronic feeling of ineptness and the constant battle with the insecurity of not being able to deliver triggers fatigue, stress, and burnout. It is a known fact that sales is a highly emotional job as most employees are expected to be always confident, energetic, extroverted, and on-the-go.
However, this is not always the case. Closing a deal can be elating, but losing a prospect that you have worked on for months on end can cause depression, which then affects your current disposition and mood.
Below are some common mental health problems encountered in the salesforce:
- Behavioral and Emotional Disorders
- Clinical Depression and/or Anxiety
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD)
- Mood Disorders
Most of these mental health issues require medical and professional help. Having dedicated support and medical staff who are trained to handle such cases is necessary in ensuring the well-being of your employees. Creating a culture where work-life balance is prioritized also helps.
Importance of addressing mental health in sales
Dealing with mental health issues in the workplace should be a priority for every sales team, or any team, for that matter. An article by Farleigh Dickinson University suggests that “60% of lost workdays each year can be attributed to stress. In addition, an estimated 75-90% of visits to health care providers stem from stress-related conditions, costing employers in increased health care costs.”
A stressed-out sales team is an unproductive team. Salespersons who regularly experience high levels of stress tend to be less involved in their jobs, less committed to the organization, and experience lower levels of work and life satisfaction, according to The Oxford Handbook of Strategic Sales and Sales Management. They are more likely to jump from one organization to another.
Mental health problems in sales lead to a demotivated sales team
Failure to cope with stress can put your sales team at a high risk of burnout. Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, who coined the term, defines burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon. The agency notes that burnout is only applicable in the occupational context and not in other aspects of life. Salespersons suffering from this mental health issue in the workplace experience the following:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
Sales burnout affects the physical and mental well-being of sufferers in various ways, including:
- fatigue and sluggishness
- high blood pressure
- anxiety and depression
These physical and mental issues lead to harmful behaviors such as self-isolation and anger towards family and friends. Likewise, sufferers face an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Help your team combat sales burnout by creating a healthy workplace for them, complemented by a supportive management that promotes and upholds mental health.
Leadership and motivational skills to help boost your sales team’s morale and mental health.
How do you create an environment that will help improve mental health and productivity in the workplace?
The World Economic Forum shares that it starts with an awareness of the workplace environment and how it can be adopted to improve the mental health of all types of employees.
The organization should then take note of learning from leaders and employees who have taken action as well as from other organizations that have implemented measures to promote better mental health.
The organization should strive to understand the opportunities and needs of each employee to help develop effective mental health policies. Finally, the organization must let its people know of available support resources and mental care providers whom they can call or visit. Always remember
Your employees matter more than tasks or targets
A healthy workplace is a product of strong leadership and management. How salespersons and other employees are treated by their managers has a huge impact on how they feel about themselves and their work. Work-related risks to mental health include:
1) Poor Communication Practices
Knowing how to communicate with your team members is more than just assigning tasks. Poor communication between coworkers may lead to strained teamwork , unsatisfactory performance, and eventually low trust among themselves.
Learning how to communicate not just responsibilities but also encouragement and sometimes, criticism. Make sure that you use the right platforms to converse with your teammates, depending on the situation. All communication should also serve to improve productivity in the workplace, which requires managers to strive to be magnanimous and approachable.
Be open about discussions around mental health in sales and talk about mental health in sales teams.
2) Unclear Tasks Or Confusing Instructions
When assigning tasks, make sure that the instructions are clear and concise. Clear tasks and procedures can help guide your teammates into doing a proper job.
When instructions are unclear, your team members might fail or make errors. These mishaps can strike a blow to their confidence which can lead to more mistakes. Regularly ask your coworkers if they understand the task and if they need assistance. When employees are aptly guided, they do their job correctly— which in turn boosts their motivation.
3) Limited Participation In Decision-making
When managers monopolize decision-making, their team members might lose their sense of agency in their work. Having a work set up where they just obey orders like slaves will make them feel helpless and voiceless. Provide a platform for all employees to share their thoughts and collaborate.
Prevent this by actively seeking their ideas when coming up with new plans or decisions. You might even find that their opinions can actually improve your business practices.
4) Lack Of Support For Employees
Treating your employees like names on a payroll and not supporting them during their time of need can bring them down. Sales team members that feel like their managers don’t care for them are likely to have low productivity and high tendency to quit.
Let your teammates know that the company values their well-being— whether physical or mental. Support them when they ask for help, such as decrease their workloads or give them ample time to recover when signs of sales burnout are apparent. Visible concern for your employees can help encourage them to do better at their jobs and foster good workplace relationships.
When your sales team members are bullied at work, they might feel out of place and anxious. This can lead to poor performance and even resignation. Bullying can range from simple name-calling to actual discrimination.
Prevent this by having a solid HR department that is proactive in improving work relationships. Encourage your employees to be open with you about struggles they face regarding their colleagues and conscientiously resolve the problems.
6) Sexual Psychological Harassment
Sexual harassment is also a prevalent risk in the workplace. Without strict policies and information drives in place, workers face the danger of being sexually harassed in the office.
Sexual harassment takes a toll on anyone; it can lead to PTSD, depression, and even suicide. Make sure that everyone is equally protected from these attacks and provide them with a safe platform to voice out their grievances and seek accountability should these occur.
Good leaders are not only involved in managing employees with mental health issues, but they also strive to eradicate work-related risks. They have a strong grasp of the strengths, weaknesses, motivations and desires of their team and know how to guide them toward productivity. Attuned managers are able to pinpoint harmful stressors and address these accordingly. Most importantly, they lead by example.
Apart from management skills, empathy is a key ingredient to being a good leader. Great leaders are able to put themselves in the shoes of others, especially their team members. Due to the high demands of the work, it is a common scenario for employees to fail to strike a fine line between work and personal life. An attuned manager delegates tasks accordingly and doesn’t allow workload to pile up.
A simple reminder and assurance that tasks can be carried over the next day would go a long way in keeping your workforce happy. No one wants to do work at home. Although it is important to keep communication lines open, limiting it during work hours is important.
Common signs of mental health issues
Aside from stress, salespersons might also suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). By identifying mental health issues in the workplace, you will be able to address these early on.
Avoid the financial costs to your organization and the lasting effect to your sales team by being aware of the following tell-tale signs of mental health problems:
Many symptoms of issues with mental health in sales unnoticed. Organizations might only become aware of them because of increased employee absenteeism and lost productivity or get alarmed when they discover how much money they spend on the medical and pharmaceutical costs of their people.
Strategies for addressing mental health in sales
An organization should provide good support and mental health plans for employees. Your people should know that they can avail of professional help and other resources whenever they need it. Ensure access to professional help.
As a leader, strive to set a good example. Acknowledge the existence of mental health issues. Open the communication with your team. Listen to them, especially those needing help. According to Peter Drucker, the dean of modern management, who stated
Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.
As a team leader, take note of these tips to help manage mental health in sales teams:
- Be compassionate and empathetic about the struggles of your people. Acknowledge the existence of mental health issues.
- Have open communication with your team. Listen to them, especially those who need help. According to the WHO, supportive and confidential communication with management can help people with mental health issues continue to or return to work.
- Make sure every salesperson is aware of their roles and responsibilities. If there is confusion with their work assignments, clarify.
- Give feedback on how to better help your people meet their targets. Share constructive suggestions.
- Explore activities that address stigmatization and discrimination in the workplace.
Most importantly, set an example to everyone. You are the captain of the ship. Everyone else will move towards the course you set.
Towards a healthy workplace
Mental health in sales is as important as physical health concerns. They are, in fact, physical issues that need the attention of health professionals. For a business to thrive, it must take care of mental health of its employees so that they can reach their maximum potential.
As with any health concerns, problems with mental health in sales prevent people from doing the best they could. If left unaddressed, these issues can cost your organization serious money.
Create a healthy workplace not just for a healthier sales team, but also for your organization’s financial health.