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About This Episode
The statistics are clear: Every $1 you invest in mental health could yield a $4 return.
In other words, you could potentially 4x your sales team by raising their emotional literacy. How?
Jeff was a top sales rep, but… “Behind the scenes, I was not okay. I had really bad anxiety, I struggled with insomnia and had panic attacks in the middle of the night — all in response to the different stressors and the uncomfortable environment that sales can create for a new rep,” he said.
After hospitalization because of a panic attack, Jeff decided to learn about mental health, the brain, and anxiety.
Let’s dive into this important conversation.
Prioritizing mental health
Mental health and emotions are an endless cycle.
Jeff described the barrage of high or difficult emotions as leaving him with an empty, buzzing feeling. “You just know you feel really awful inside and really uncomfortable, and you’re really anxious and scared,” he said.
He shared that his coping mechanisms were the partying/drinking culture and video games because he wanted to escape his emotions. (Hint: That doesn’t work.)
Sales is an actively uncomfortable and stressful environment. To learn how to nurture the brain of a sales rep, we have to understand the brain during stress.
There are 2 parts of the brain that bear on this discussion:
- Prefrontal cortex, a.k.a. the “human” brain — responsible for making good decisions, problem solving, getting creative, making a good sales pitch, and listening to the buyer.
- Limbic system, a.k.a. the “monkey” brain — responsible for identifying threats in the environment and protecting the self from stress, hurt, and fear.
Well, when we push ourselves to sell-sell-sell, the human brain gets really tired and the emotional/monkey brain takes over.
From there, it can lead to an anxiety buildup that leaves no opportunity for the rest and recovery that allows the human brain to reassert control.
Addressing the stress
If you’re a sales rep, you need to learn about stress and the brain so that you can recognize the individual signs of when your prefrontal cortex is tired out.
Beyond that, Jeff suggests these 2 techniques.
1 — Bookend your day
Start and end your day with a self-care routine that signals the end of work. (To be successful at this, you should view self-care not as an occasional aspirin but as a daily multivitamin.)
Wake up and do 10 minutes of meditation or personal development. End the work day by going to the gym or making a gratitude list.
“There’s always going to be more work you can do, so have a hard shutdown routine to make sure that you are giving yourself time to unplug and unwind,” Jeff said.
2 — Be sure to HALT
Ask yourself the HALT questions several times a day:
- Are you hungry?
- Are you angry?
- Are you lonely?
- Are you tired?
Keep track of the key needs and energy levels in each of these important buckets. Pause to refill them as needed to keep your “human” brain on.
How to start
“Starting the conversation is often one of the toughest things to do,” Jeff said.
He built Sales Health Alliance to be full of resources for both reps and managers.
Ideally, a sales leader will share a mental health experience to become vulnerable to the team. “That’s the best place to start, because as soon as you open up, it sends that subconscious message to people on your team that it’s okay to be vulnerable if my leader’s being vulnerable,” Jeff said.
If you’re a sales leader, here are 3 things you can do to start your company focusing on mental health initiatives.
- Open up. Run a session where you as a leader share openly about mental health to create an atmosphere of awareness and encouragement about mental health and performance.
- Support others. Listen and learn from your team members about how they are suffering or what they need. Be full of resources, dialogue, and understanding.
- Make the case. The WHO says that every dollar invested in mental health gives a return of $4 in productivity. Persuade your company that this deeply matters personally and professionally.
“My goal is ultimately to get to a point where we’re seeing measurable improvements and sales KPIs based off of wellbeing metrics,” Jeff said.
Stress in sales is real and ever present. Burnout is a serious risk, especially for top performers.
For anyone who is in the midst of mental health struggles, you should explore both medical and environmental intervention. These can include: behavior changes, habit changes, sleep hygiene, and medication as part of an ongoing treatment process rather than the ultimate solution.
If you’re experiencing a suicidal crisis or emotional distress, help is available. In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Jeff’s parting wisdom
Jeff: Realistically, if you want to start thinking exponentially about your sales performance, it all routes back to the mind.
How do you give your team more ways to become more resilient, to improve their EQ, to help them take better care of their mental health? That’s going to have a direct impact on all of these traits and all of these skills and exponentially improve your sales performance.
“The mind comes before the craft. Focusing on the mind is going to improve all the areas that you’re trying to focus on improving anyways, so start there,” he said.