According to recent research, sales is the largest business sector to experience high levels of work-related stress. This can come from working long hours, pressure to perform at critical moments, dealing with setbacks (or no’s), or from taking risks.
On one hand, a certain level of stress or anxiety can be a catalyst that creates a high-performing salesperson. On the other hand, constantly elevated stress levels quickly become a personal and team-widen hindrance when not managed.
We invited Ollie Sharpe onto the B2B Revenue Acceleration podcast to discuss stress management in the sales environment. He gave us his best practices from his years of senior sales management at LinkedIn and SalesLoft.
Ollie is currently the VP of Revenue for EMEA at SalesLoft. He recently took on this new role after 10 years LinkedIn.
When it comes to stress, prevention is the best medicine
Perhaps the best method of eliminating stress on your team as a sales leader is preventing from growing in the first place. “Our job as leaders is to ensure we understand mental stress and well being issues, so we can actually stop them from happening in the beginning.”
As leaders, our job is to ensure we understand mental stress & well-being issues so we can actually stop them from happening in the first place.
Ollie Sharp – VP of Revenue for EMEA at Salesloft
Here’s a few ways Ollie suggests setting up your team’s stress defenses:
As sales leaders, we need to:
- Be human — accept that you make mistakes, need time off, have hot buttons, etc.
- Be approachable — let people tell you when they need time off or when they have stress going on in their personal life.
- Be open — if you are open about your stress-level, others will often share with you.
- Lead by example — if you’re run down, just ask yourself: “Would I want anyone else on my team in this situation to come to work today?”
- If you have leaders or managers under you: Recognize that any stress you add onto a leader, will absolutely pass onto the rest of the team.
Understand your sales team, but don’t be a counselor
When it comes to stress coming from outside of work, there’s a balance between approachability and counseling.
The word that hits the middle (where you want to be as a sales leader) is understanding.
You want to have an open door for your team to air their concerns, and you want to understand their situation to an extent, but you also shouldn’t get stuck in the role of counselor.
An example of hitting this ‘understanding’ balance:
Let’s say you know an employee is having personal issues at home. Perhaps you don’t send that employee to an out-of-town conference, because you’re trying to be understanding that they need proximity to home to handle their situation. In the meantime, though, you also let your employee know you’re not the best person to give them extensive advice on those issues.
Your goal is to give them the space and time to take care of their home life and perhaps adjusting their work life; but you aren’t their life coach.
How non-diversity & stress are correlated
As you grow, you’re going to have a more diverse workforce, so if you build a non-diverse workforce in the beginning, it will be difficult for people to fit in.
Ollie Sharpe – VP of Revenue for EMEA at Salesloft
Another area of stress can come from feeling “different” or “alone” at work — in your demographic, cohort, or in the way you think. So, as leaders, consider adding in diversity early on in your team.
Diversity tends to happen naturally as your team scales, but if it wasn’t intentional at the beginning, you’ll likely build a non-diverse workforce when your team is smaller. Later, as employees with a range of thoughts and experiences begin to be added to your team, it may be difficult for them to adjust, if the team has a strong but non-diverse culture. So, the earlier you can build a diverse workforce, the better.
Set expectations early on
Ollie tells his employees upfront about his expectations.
While he expects everyone to meet certain goals and to follow the company’s values in their behavior, he tells them upfront that as long as they are hitting those benchmarks and behaving inline with the company’s values, they have a large amount of freedom within those expectations.
So if a high-performing employee leaves early at 4pm, they know Ollie’s OK with it — provided they are accomplishing their goals and consistently acting inline with company values.
Create happiness on your sales team to drive peak performance
People believe that successful people are happy. Bur research has been done and it’s the other way around: happy people are successful.
Ollie Sharpe – VP of Revenue for EMEA at Salesloft
We tend to think that when people are successful, they’re happy.
But the converse is true: When people are happy, they’re successful. So when you invest in your team’s happiness, you will reap performance benefits.
So build in ways to evaluate team members on your team, formally or informally. Ollie does a check-in with each member of his team at their weekly meetings to find out:
- Are you doing the things that make you happy?
- Are you spending time with people that you like to spend time with?
- Are you switching your brain off regularly?
A few resources on stress elimination:
Ollie had a few suggested resources on tackling stress on your team:
- The happiness advantage by Sean Acre
- The Game Plan by Dr. Steve bull
- The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge
- The Making of a Corporate Athlete, a Harvard Business Review article by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz