Sales is one of the most stressful professions out there.
You’re on the front line every day dealing with customer issues, pitching products, negotiating, presenting and submitting proposals – all while balancing the worries, objections, concerns and needs of your customers, colleagues, sales managers, and other stakeholders. It’s a very unique job with unique stressors.
But it’s not all bad news. Stress in sales can actually be a useful tool: it can give you the adrenaline to deliver an amazing presentation to customers, or the confidence to go out into a room full of prospects and network.
However, sometimes the stress can get too much. And that’s when you need some tools to help you effectively manage that stress so that you can be free to succeed in your sales role, without being hindered by sales anxiety.
In this article, we take a look at why sales is one of the most stressful industries to work in, and what you can do as a salesperson to reduce your stress and anxiety whilst continuing to succeed in your sales job.
Biggest contributing factors to sales stress
First, let's think a little bit about what actually causes sales stress and anxiety. More importantly, what we can do to reduce these levels of stress and bring about healthier ways of working? We’re going to look at several reasons why the sales profession is particularly stressful and give you some hints and tips about how to more effectively manage that stress.
Having to be always "on"
Salespeople are expected to be available for their customers 24/7, and this can create an immense feeling of stress and anxiety. It’s like ‘presenteeism’ multiplied by ten! Not only do you feel like you have to show up for your colleagues and managers, you also have to look like you’re working constantly for your customers, too.
This feeling of being always on doesn’t give your mind, or your body, the opportunity to relax and recharge from a busy, stressful day. And this constant stress can impact on your ability to do your job well, asresearch found that 38% of salespeople reported that stress had sometimes hindered their sales performance. Clearly, if being constantly available is affecting your ability to do your job effectively, then it’s not doing your customers any favors.
Maintaining a perception of sales success
Salespeople, in particular, feel they have to give an impression that they are always succeeding and crushing it, even when they aren’t. This disconnect between how a salesperson may actually be feeling and the image they think they have to present to customers, colleagues and managers, can be a huge source of stress and anxiety.
Because of the nature of their work, salespeople often feel that they can’t be honest about experiencing a particularly bad month or quarter, which may stop many people from reaching out to managers and teammates for support. Showing vulnerability in sales can be something that many account managers and business development reps may feel wary of doing, but it’s sometimes the only way to open up a wider conversation about work-related stress and anxiety.
Balancing short term and long term goals
Sales is all about…sales! But when the majority of your ‘worth’ at work is calculated based on last quarter’s revenue-to-quota performance, it can feel like you’re on a treadmill to constantly perform. Every quarter is important, and every quarter the quota increases, but you still have the same amount of time in a day to do your job.
To continue being successful, month after month, salespeople need to be consistently developing new leads for the next period, while still closing sales opportunities that are happening right now. It’s a fine balancing act between short term and long term goals, so having a plan in place for how you will develop new opportunities and manage existing deals is critical to maintaining a healthy sales pipeline.
Plus, using things like sales workload templates can help you manage your day to day sales workload. Feeling like you’re only as good as your sales results can be particularly damaging to a salesperson’s self-worth, so always remember that it’s just a number – it’s not always a reflection on how well you do your job.
7 ways to rid your mind of sales anxiety
So, now we’ve looked at some of the causes of sales stress and anxiety, we’re going to talk about some of the ways in which you can reduce your stress when working in sales. The good news is there are lots of ways to do it – and here we’ve highlighted seven simple options to get started better managing your work-related stress.
1. Determine your personal stress scale
Look at which particular tasks, activities or situations create the most stress for you in your day to day sales job and list out why these particular activities trigger stress for you. Is it because you aren’t comfortable with public speaking? Or, do you avoid cold calling at every opportunity?
For each activity, assign a ‘stress score’ to it, based on a scale of one to ten. For example, you could score an activity that really causes you huge amounts of anxiety a ‘ten’, and give a ‘one’ for an activity that is slightly worrying, but still manageable.
Once you have each of your activities’ stress scores, think about what you could do to try to reduce the level of stress you feel about each task, by either putting a set time into your diary where you have to complete the exercise (such as ‘every morning, I’ll do ten cold calls and get them out of the way first thing so that I can be less stressed throughout my day’) or investigate potential training courses to help you feel more confident about particularly stressful activities.
2. Openly discuss your stressors with teammates
If you’re feeling stress in your sales role, then it’s likely your teammates are stressed too. Don’t be shy to open up the conversation with colleagues, as it could probably really help out another colleague who has been struggling with an issue and has been too anxious to voice it themselves.
Maybe try asking your employers to create a regular space in the diary where you and your colleagues can openly discuss what’s bothering you the most in a safe, non-judgemental and supportive environment. More employers than ever are recognising the need to support their employees’ wellbeing and mental health, so investigate what your employer offers to support staff with managing stress and anxiety at work.
3. Get more sleep at night and leave work for the morning
Do you need to impose a curfew for your cellphone so that you aren’t tempted to check emails from customers after 8 p.m.? Do you need to have a frank conversation with clients to impose polite, yet firm, boundaries when it comes to expectations about response times to their calls and requests?
We often worry that because a client has emailed us they will be expecting an immediate response, but if they have been given clear SLAs (service level agreements) or even informal commitments as to when they can expect a reply, many clients are happy to wait for a response.
Where clients are unhappy about response times, it’s usually because a conversation hasn’t taken place early on in the relationship about communication expectations. More often than not, that really important email that you absolutely have to respond to right now can usually wait until the morning.
4. Try not to take things personally
Rejection in sales feels incredibly personal. But here’s the thing, it rarely ever is personal. A rejection from a client is a great opportunity to go back to would-be customers to find out why they didn’t choose you.
In the majority of cases, the reasons will be around budget, product or business value alignment between their company and yours. A deal loss review is a really good exercise to get into doing regularly, not only for your business but to give you some distance from a failed deal to see that losing the sale wasn’t down to you personally.
5. Meditate and take more breaks during the day
Salespeople are notorious for working around the clock and checking in with customers on the weekend. However, we can’t work at our best when we’re burnt out – so it’s important to take regular breaks to recharge; even a quick walk outside of the office or eating lunch away from your desk can make all the difference.
Many companies are now also offering well-being services to their staff in the office, such as meditation and lunchtime yoga, so investigate what services are available to you and try to incorporate these into your daily routine. If you can’t find the time to have a proper break away from your desk, even just five minutes of deep breathing and meditation at your desk can help if you feel stress building up.
6. Channel extra energy into hobbies outside of work
Try and find hobbies, activities and interests that can help you to unwind from work and take your mind off any stress originating from your sales job. We often think we don’t have the time for hobbies, yet, in fact, it’s just that we aren’t prioritizing our time effectively and we’re giving our job too much of our time in a day. It’s just as important to find some hobbies that calm and recharge you to ensure you’re feeling reinvigorated for the next day at work.
Perhaps a new hobby could even help you in your sales role. For example, you could join an amateur dramatics or improv group which could help you to gain more confidence when presenting to customers. Or, a creative writing class could support you in writing more compelling customer proposals.
7. Take time off when you need it
When things get too much, it’s important to recognise the signals and take proper time off. It’s better to have a few days off instead of burning out completely and feeling like you can’t return to your job at all.
Self-care in sales is critical, but just as important is being able to recognise the signals that you’re getting stressed. Could it be that you’ve been skipping lunches a few days in a row to work more, or perhaps you’ve had a particularly gruelling few weeks with early starts and particularly late nights?
If you feel like work is having an impact on your mental health, then it’s important to check in and ask yourself whether you can carry on, or whether it would be healthier and more sensible to take a day off to get refreshed and re-energized.
It’s unlikely you’re going to be able to eliminate all sales stress completely – after all, one of the things that drives a lot of salespeople to succeed is the ability to run on a degree of adrenaline and pressure, but there are ways to manage your stress if you feel that pressure tipping into being a problem.
It’s about taking the time to recharge when things feel like they are getting on top of you, and recognizing what your stress triggers are so that you can catch them early on before they become a problem.
Hopefully, this article has given you a few ideas about how to manage day to day stress in your sales role, but remember, if what you’re feeling is becoming unmanageable, it’s recommended that you speak to your general practitioner or doctor for professional advice and guidance.
Carrie Morgan owns Contemsa, a sales enablement website selling B2B sales templates and tools. After over a decade working in the world of corporate tech sales, she now lives on a farm in the UK and has a couple of pet sheep, dogs, and cats while running Contemsa from her home.