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July 12, 2021
9 min read
Welcome back to The Weekly Pitch! Our newsletter covers the stories and insights that matter most to the sales community.
Our Feature Story looks at the 2021 State of Mental Health in Sales Report (published by Sales Health Alliance and UNCrushed). Mental health for the sales profession is more important than ever, and research shows a positive correlation to performance when salespeople feel supported.
On the Leaderboard, we go right to the source and follow up with Jeff Riseley, founder of Sales Health Alliance. He shares why he started the organization, its mission, and best practices to promote better mental well-being. We think he's the mental health superhero of sales.
As a primer, let's open with our chart of the week.
As a lead-in to our Feature Story, this chart shows too many sales reps are struggling with their mental health. It now stands at 58% of all salespeople, up from 43% a year ago. A startling 22% rated their mental health as poor. Just as alarming, less than 2% rated it as excellent.
Let's look at some of the key findings and recommendations the report highlights for organizations, sales leaders, and individual contributors.
As awareness and support around mental health rise, so does sales performance. That's just one of the key findings from the 2021 State of Mental Health in Sales Report, where 770 respondents across the sales organization from leadership to individual contributor filled out a survey conducted in March and April of this year.
As the chart illuminates below, seven in ten reps who rate their mental health as very good or excellent score their performance just the same. The data is clear – when we support and care about our team's mental health, we're more likely to hit our revenue targets.
The far-left bar tells us just over one in five sales professionals think their performance is better than good when they also rate their mental health as poor. So what variables contribute to an unhealthy level of well-being?
Here's just a sample of why sales reps (and all people) might rate themselves with poor mental health:
Another study from Modern Health last year points out 24% are working more hours, and 45% now say it's harder to balance and set boundaries between personal and professional life. In fact, setting strong boundaries is the top mental health need for salespeople (see list below).
So what factors lead to higher levels of engagement, motivation, and mental health? Back to the 2021 State of Mental Health in Sales Report for some answers. Perhaps the most fascinating insight, when survey-takers were asked to reflect on a time in their sales career when they felt most engaged and motivated at work, they shared feeling supported by their manager, having autonomy, and being recognized.
Though these factors are certainly important, the data shows reps have seven distinct needs when it comes to better mental health.
Salespeople are more likely to rate their mental health as very good or excellent when these seven needs are met:
Leaders could also step up and establish an employee resource group. For example, Saleforce launched Soberforce and promoted an event called The Many Faces of Addiction. As leaders, think about hosting non-alcoholic events (or provide the option) as many of us come together again for team building. Advocating for platforms like Happify Health and Modern Health would also signal leadership support.
One final finding from the report is the impact leaders can have destigmatizing mental health. When salespeople felt there was no stigma in the workplace, 68% rated their mental well-being as good or better. When respondents said they felt the stigmatization, only 21% rated their mental health as good or better.
Commit to talking about mental health in the workplace, and lead by example.
Remember to download the full report here!
We had the privilege of chatting with Jeff Riseley, the founder of Sales Health Alliance.
The Weekly Pitch: You founded the Sales Health Alliance in 2019 to empower salespeople to reach peak performance through better mental health. What motivated you to start it, and what keeps you energized each day?
Jeff: It was born out of my own experience working in sales. I struggled with anxiety, insomnia, and panic attacks early on in my career but never felt safe having conversations about Mental Health in sales. The more I shared with others, the more I realized that anxiety in sales is not optional. It's part of everyday life. So I decided to do something about it.
I'm motivated by the millions of reps and leaders who are suffering unnecessarily. Organizations are putting salespeople into high-stress environments without providing them with the Resilience and Mental Health training they need to regulate stress levels and perform their best each day. We need to change this.
The Weekly Pitch: Tell us more about the HALT framework.
Jeff: We all experience daily stress to varying degrees. I find myself thinking about HALT 10-15 times a day. It stands for: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Our stress tends to fit into one of these four buckets. Simply pausing to describe my stressors in one of four ways positively impacts my Mental Health.
The Weekly Pitch: What's the one tool every sales rep needs?
Jeff: The WHOOP. It's like a Fitbit on steroids. You can measure and monitor sleep, the physical strain on your body, but most importantly, your recovery score. When I wake up with a low recovery score, I ask, "what can I move around on my calendar to dial it back today?" Recovery metrics are essential. Sometimes you need to slow down to speed up.
The Weekly Pitch: We like your analogy that sales pros are like corporate athletes. Could you expand on that concept?
Jeff: Much like professional sports athletes, salespeople need to perform in front of customers and compete to win every day. The difference is the sports world has acknowledged the importance of the Mental game when it comes to peak performance. Athletes understand how to protect their minds and use stress to fuel healthy growth. Sales organizations neglect the Mental game, which leads to burnout and teams severely underperforming.
The Weekly Pitch: What should sales reps look out for when it comes to burnout?
Jeff: Pay attention to intensity, duration, and frequency. Are your feelings become more intense, lasting longer, and occurring more often? Is your behavior changing? For example, are you spending too much time on social media or drinking more often? If so, seek an ally you trust to listen and offer support.
The Weekly Pitch: You're a big believer in the Wim Hof Method. How does that help sales reps?
Jeff: It builds resiliency. Popularized by the "Ice Man," one routine is taking 30 power breaths in the morning and doing it for three rounds. The method tricks your body into releasing adrenaline to get moving and start your day. Taking a cold shower or ice bath also works :)
The Weekly Pitch: We both ascribe to the servant leadership framework. How could that help sales pros no matter what "title" they have at work?
Jeff: It's human nature to be self-serving, but if you change the perspective to the buyer, customer, or someone more significant than you, it makes each task – no matter how small – more meaningful. When you shift focus to who you're serving, you work with more purpose.
The Weekly Pitch: What's your advice for promoting mental health awareness and support in the workplace?
Jeff: Start from an objective place. Studies show every dollar spent on Mental Health treatment leads to a four-dollar return. Share an article and ask teammates, "what do you think about this?" Build a buddy system and reach for safety in numbers (as the group grows).
The Weekly Pitch: You think reps should ask managers one question. What is it?
Jeff: How likely are you to be vulnerable when someone is judging your performance every day? Even if they only think it, the typical answer from managers is "well, not at all vulnerable."
The Weekly Pitch: What's your advice for sales leaders and managers?
Jeff: Position yourself as an ally and an ardent supporter of Mental Health. The "vulnerability paradox" – this idea that that being vulnerable is a weakness – is crippling sales teams. Leaders should lean into and share their vulnerabilities, as much as we expect our teams to do the same, and view it as courageous and a position of strength.
The Weekly Pitch: How else can sales leaders take action?
Jeff: Check out Sales Health Alliance for the training services we provide or reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reference The Weekly Pitch and I'll send a free ebook that helps sales leaders have more constructive conversations with their team about Mental Health in sales.
Alternatively, sign up for the only program designed to help salespeople improve sales performance, resilience and EQ through better Mental Health. Use the discount code WeeklyPitch for 50% off the program.
Before we go, here are a few additional mental health resources to check out:
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Start your week with the stories and insights that matter most to the sales community.