Managing Stress...and Sales

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Sat, Jun 14, 2014

sales and stress







 An interesting recent HBR article on stress.  
  Adapted from “ Stress Isn’t a Threat, It’s a Signal to Change” by David Brendel

Your job, my job, and the job of most managers, in any department, in any company is extremely stressful.  But nowhere is that impact more directly felt than with sales managers, and especially front line sales managers, who are on the street everyday, managing both personal accounts and a group of sales individuals.  Tough job in any environment, and a job where each month, each quarter and every single year, with the turn of a digital page in the calendar, it starts all over again.

  • quota performance
  • margin requirements
  • customer care satisfaction 
  • hiring and team building

...all of this in an environment of never having enough time, but yet understanding that the most important job of a salesperson today is not just to sell something.  That used to be the job back in the day, but in today's hypersensitive the-buyer-controls-everything-world, the responsibility of the best sales organization is to create long term customer value and trust.  All of which takes even more time, more process and more training.

With all of that responsibility, the increasing pressure of no-time-in-the-day, and the always present life/work balance thing going on, no wonder there's more and more stress!

In my experience, what I've found is that much of that stress is caused by our inability to deal directly and quickly with people management issues.  The job of the really tough stuff in Sales of creating leads, pushing and pulling prospects through the sales funnel and then managing key accounts is time consuming and difficult enough.  But too often, we compound our stess levels, and we squeeze our limited time even more by putting off dealing with difficult management and performance issues created by just one or two people on our team.

Performance issues that are blatantly negative are easy to deal with.  Where the difficulties occur are in the issues that are less than directly tied to performance on metrics or quantitative KPIs.

  • It's the "trying hard", but middle-of-the-pack performance problems 
  • It's the person with the negative attitude that needs an "adjustment"
  • It's "the showing up late and leaving early" issue
  • It's not proudly supporting the team or the company issue
  • It's the glass is half empty person
  • It's the "command & control" attitude issue

All of these and similar issues add to an increasing stress level on the part of the manager since it's often too easy to defer having discussions you know are going to be "difficult".  As a result, we don't find "the right time", or we just hope that the problem will quietly go away.  How many times have you heard the phrase?

"It would be great if he just came in Monday and resigned"

In reality, that never happens, and the problem, through avoidance, always gets worse. Your stress level goes up, more time is wasted, the problem gets worse, and the cycle continues to spin until there is the day of explosion...or implosion, and you're then forced to take action and pick up the pieces and repair the damage from the shrapnel. 

I would also add to this, you also put your health at risk as I recently found out in a failed cardiac stress test.  For someone who exercises all of the time, watches my diet and snowboards and surfs, being told about "heart disease" is life changing.  Life is too short, and business is tough enough without adding more unnecessary stress to an already complex work environment.

A couple of tactics to think about in order to address these issues.

1. Don't put off "The Big Boy Talk" any longer!

Plan it out.  Write out your thoughts and all of your specific concerns.  Discuss it with HR, with a board member or one of your trusted advisers.  And then schedule convenient time with the person.

2. Be direct, transparent and helpful

Get all of your points out on the table.  No accusations.  Go through examples, both quantitative and qualitative even if the examples are perceptions, since, after all, perceptions are often examples of realities.  

3. Ask for "a development plan" to review in 5 to 10 days

Toward the end of the discussion, ask the person what their own thoughts are?  Listen carefully.  Don't interrupt.  Take notes.  And then ask them to come back with a personal development plan in five or ten days.  Give examples of some of items that you just talked about that need to be addressed and set a specific date and time for the follow on meeting.

Simple, direct steps that in my experience work 90% of the time.  Not only good for your employee, but will be immediately effective in reducing your stress...and increasing the overall performance of your team since everyone else already knows that there's a problem, and there wondering when you're going to take action.

Keep Selling...and reducing your stress!  

Jack Derby 

Head Coach  

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Tags: Sales Optimization, Sales Management Best Practices, sales management, sales management effectiveness, sales effectiveness, sales enablement