On our latest episode of Talk of the Trade, we sat down with Jeff Riseley to talk about mental health. Founder of the Sales Health Alliance, Riseley is a sales professional who started focusing on the importance of mental health in the work place when he experienced severe panic attacks because of his job. Now, he evangelizes the importance of better mental health policies for sales teams, not just because they are humane, but also because healthier teams achieve better results.
Listen to the episode here or get the highlights below:
What Is Mental Health?
While the term gets thrown around widely, it’s important to understand what we mean when we talk about mental health. Mental health, at its basic level, is defined as a spectrum of well-being that can fluctuate on a daily basis and is influenced by both external and internal factors. Riseley sees it and compares it to physical health: one day, we might feel fine, one week we might have a fever, one month we might have a broken ankle, etc. These are all on the same spectrum of health.
Riseley makes the distinction that mental health is not the same as mental illness. Just like you might have a runny nose without needing to go to the doctor, your mental health can slide towards illness without needing intervention. However, when sales people are anxious, burnt out, or can’t show up to work, then their mental health has already been compromised. This is important to remember because it is easier to tend to your health (mental or physical) when you and your employees are not in crisis.
Why Is Mental Health a Risk for Sales Teams?
It goes without saying that maintaining our mental health is important for all. When it comes to a work environment, sales reps are often put in high-pressure situations that increase the risks posed to their mental health.
As Riseley sees it, within sales, there is a lot of fear-based management. Compared to other departments, sales is very outcomes-based and outcomes-driven. Reps are measured by what they deliver instead of what effort they put in. They are compared to peers, often on electronic leaderboards that broadcast that comparison for the entire organization to see. Their jobs are not guaranteed against poor performance, which means the rep doesn’t feel safe in their job and therefore not mentally safe at work.
Ultimately, Risely compares sales to professional athletes. While athletes need to deliver outcomes like winning games, they aren’t fired after one bad game.
What Are Signs of At-Risk Mental Health?
As sales leaders, it is important to notice how your team members are feeling and doing. To help prevent burn-out, low morale, or worse, physical harm, you might want to know how you can tell if a member’s mental health is at-risk? Ask your team to do a self check-in every so often, and consider these questions:
- Changes to your thinking, often hooking around anxiety questions like “what if…?”
- Changes to what you are feeling emotionally
- Changes to what you are feeling physically
- Changes to your behaviors, such as engaging in bad habits to avoid negative emotions
Riseley calls each of these check-in questions buckets, to help conceptualize them. If the intensity, frequency, and duration of any of the above begin to change, it is important to take note. If you are experiencing higher intensity, frequency, and duration of any of those four buckets, then your mental health needs some tending.
As a sales leader, you are not privy to an employee’s internal experience, so you have to rely on their behaviors. The key is to pick up on microchanges in behaviors. Risely has checked in with people on factors as small as less frequent postings on LinkedIn, only to discover that in fact that person was dealing with something much bigger.
Therefore, as a sales leader, you have two main jobs: get to know your reps, and check in with them when they seem “off.”
How Can Sales Leaders Tend to Mental Health?
As a sales leader, you can tend to your team’s mental health by encouraging your reps to be open with you about their successes and struggles.
Riseley recommends beginning the process by sharing your own experiences with mental health. This could be by sharing, for example, how hard it was for you to tackle similar challenges, such as how nervous you got before cold calls at the start of your career; it could be opening up about your own behaviors, for instance, if you are short-tempered, it’s because you are dealing with some anxiety that day. By setting an example of vulnerability, you will set yourself up as a safe person for your employees to confide in when they experience burn-out or anxiety.
Keep Learning about Mental Health for Sales Teams
Listen to the full 30+ minute conversation on Talk of the Trade to hear more about mental health for sales teams [insert link to episode landing page]. Then, dive into Riselys book, The Guide to Better Mental Health in Sales, with promo code TALKOFTHETRADE at checkout.
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