Working in sales can be stressful.
From the pressure to convert, to meeting targets, to dealing with conflict, salespeople often feel the heat. An online Payscale survey confirms this, finding 73% of salespeople believed their job was highly stressful, making it the second most stressful job ranked in the survey.
A highly stressed sales team does nothing to help your results. But there are plenty of things you can do to bring stresslevels down to an acceptable – and even, productive – point. You’ll need to consider the different types of workplace stress, how to spot the negative form and what to do to help your most valuable asset (your salespeople) if they show them.
The Australian Workplace – A Stressed State
According to a recent beyondblue report, one in five Australians took time off work in the past 12 months due to feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy. This figure doubles if the employee considers their workplace to be a ‘mentally unhealthy’ space, i.e. toxic culture with lots of conflict, unrealistic work schedules or management who don’t view mental ailments in the same way as physical ones.
When it comes to the sale environment, high amounts of stress produce a number of negative flow-on effects. It’s likely you’ll see a jump in absenteeism and presenteeism (low productivity even though the employee is physically at work), and at worse, a high turnover rate. VicHealth figures show 40% of Aussie staff turnover and 60% of absenteeism are due to workplace stress or stress-related illnesses.
POSITIVE STRESS (EUSTRESS)
This type of stress is the good sort. It happens when we experience something exciting – perhaps it’s a promotion or a win by converting a prospect to a customer. Eustress has the following characteristics:
- Energising and/or motivating
- Relatively short-term
- Might improve performance
- Within your coping abilities
NEGATIVE STRESS (DISTRESS)
If felt chronically, this type of stress hurts. Distress has the following characteristics:
- Negative emotions (anxiety, concern etc)
- May be of a short or long-term nature (the longer it persists, the worst the effects)
- Reduces performance
- Is outside of your coping abilities
- Can lead to mental & physical ailments (for example, depression, migraines, insomnia etc)
There are a number of reasons why sales employees experience distress. Some examples are:
- Low or unfair remuneration
- Conflict with management or colleagues
- Job insecurity
- Excessive workload
- Lack of training, resources or support
- No advancement opportunities
- No autonomy to make decisions
- Challenging customers
Many of these negative sales stressors are situational, but they can also be personal. Sales employees who suffer with say, a fear of failure or perfectionist tendencies, are much more likely to experience debilitating effects of stress. In such cases, negative stress never leaves the employee. They take it home with them, stewing on the prospect call that went wrong or the target they’re in danger of missing. This impacts their ability to wind down and relax and in turn, their family and social life. It may also lead to destructive coping mechanisms such as binge eating or alcohol or drug abuse.
Spotting and dealing with workplace stress
There are a few tell-tale signs of negative stress amongst your sales team. A high rate of absenteeism is one, but another is low productivity at work. A dramatic and persistent slide in results might be an indicator, or perhaps the employee in question takes an excessive amount of breaks. They may appear lethargic, forgetful or irritable, and might even stop socialising with colleagues.
If you feel something is off with one of your team members, it’s important to address it quickly. It’s an extremely sensitive subject so requires you to tread lightly.
Speak to the staff member directly about what is bothering them. It’s essential you work out the root cause of the stress so you put effective measures in place to deal with it. They must know your conversation is confidential and is all about helping them, not berating or shaming them.
If you feel ill-equipped to have this conversation, perhaps speak to your HR personnel or a trusted colleague who has been through a similar situation. You can also contact professional bodies such as Heads up.
Putting preventative measures in place
As with so many things in life, the best way to deal with employee stress is to take active measures to prevent it from occurring in the first place. There are a number of actions you can take.