"Each year, on average, 97% of salespeople do not hit their targets. I believe that sales leaders must be emotionally available."  James Ski

James is the Founder of Sales Confidence, a B2B sales community. Formerly a director at LinkedIn responsible for flagship enterprise accounts, James has deep experience building sales teams and launching go-to-market strategies in SaaS. He is passionate about connecting people, enjoys learning about the sales and marketing space, and speaks about supporting mental health in the workplace.


Why do you prioritize mental health and happiness in the workplace?

According to the Health and Safety Executive, 49% of days lost each year are due to stress, anxiety, or depression. One in four people will suffer from a mental health condition in their lifetimes. When you consider the typical pressure within sales organizations, that figure might increase by 2-3 times. Each year, on average, 97% of salespeople do not hit their targets. I believe that sales leaders must be emotionally available. You need to provide support, advice, and comfort in safe places so the people on your team can thrive. You need to be authentic, available, and trustworthy. So, when you're having one-to-ones, it's not just about focusing on performance, targets, or how the pipeline is progressing; you want to check in on how people are doing in their lives too.


Do you believe technology can help build great sales cultures?

Sales technology is becoming increasingly important to the happiness and attractiveness of sales organizations. However, in the UK and Europe, you must select sales tech that is simultaneously useful and easy to use. As consumers, we expect simple, accessible, and predictive interfaces for streaming TV and films, and for ordering goods online.

For a long time, developers have not given CRM and other enterprise software tools the same design considerations. Today, you need a CRM that integrates easily with existing infrastructure and upon which you can build new applications. Furthermore, the interface affects the day-to-day of your sales teams. If there are problems with the technology, it negatively affects mood and, in turn, the performance and happiness of users. 


What advice would you give to sales leaders looking to promote happiness with technology?

Involve frontline users. Involve them in planning, strategy, and early stages of implementation. The pressure is on them to perform, so they need to be the champions for whatever choice gets made. Champions are essential because they influence others to adopt and use your solutions. If the adoption fails, you don't earn expected returns on investment, and you don't create the right environment for happiness to thrive. 


When evaluating sales technology, what are your top criteria?

Number one is the ease of setup and use. Ease is vital because you want adoption.  

The second is the ability to integrate. To be successful, a CRM also needs to integrate with your sales process and other tools, such as customer success/management and marketing. The third is security. You need to be sure that your customer data is secure. If you can tick those boxes, you will be well on your way to implementing a successful CRM solution. 


Do you believe sales team happiness drives performance?

According to the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services research commissioned by Freshworks, happy sales teams are more likely to hit targets, overachieve quotas, and generate more revenue. Eighty-one percent of executives said very happy sales teams drove more significant revenues. That is why I have taken so much care and consideration around identifying champions who can work with our technology in ways that work well for them. Within my sales teams, we talk about focusing on your A game — that is, all the activities that drive more customer conversations, meetings, and revenue.

(The interview was conducted during the second half of 2020. It has been edited for brevity and clarity.)