Your alarm clock goes off for the nth time this morning. Snooze button abused.
You’re late for work — so you miss breakfast and grab a coffee on the way – which, of course, you spill on your suit.
Arrive at the office, sit down and start calling customers who just aren’t too enthusiastic about your company’s offer. You try your best to strike up new leads, do everything you can to keep the sale on the line, and then all of a sudden, the client decides to go to your biggest competitor instead. You keep on going, mindful of the weekly, monthly and yearly quotas that you need to meet to keep your family well-provided for.
If you’re a sales professional, chances are you’ve experienced this scenario at least once in your career. While salespeople are often expected to be lively and energetic at all times, the long hours, the growing list of responsibilities and the pressure to meet quotas can all add up and take its toll.
In fact, sales professionals are considered by some experts as highly overworked.
“As technology automates much of the function, there is simply no need for a human interface,” said Roy, a career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. “Since the products are now not much more than commodities, sales people are seeing shrinking spreads and fewer opportunities to generate rich commissions.”
More stress= less sales?
We all know that too much stress is bad. It can make us overeat, sleep too much or too little, lose focus, and if left untreated can lead to diseases like diabetes, hypertension and other cardiovascular illnesses.
But did you know that apart from its ill-effects on your personal health, stress also has economic consequences? An article released by the Farleigh Dickinson University shows that “workplace stress costs U.S. employers an estimated $200 billion per year in absenteeism, lower productivity, staff turnover, workers’ compensation, medical insurance and other stress-related expenses.”
In particular, skyrocketing stress levels have detrimental effects on a company’s sales force. According to The Oxford Handbook of Strategic Sales and Sales Management, sales reps who experience stress on a regular basis “tend to be less involved in their jobs, less committed to the organization, and to experience lower levels of work and life satisfaction. These salespeople do not perform as well and are more likely to leave the organization.”
In short, high-stress levels among your sales team can lead to unmet targets and decreasing sales figures, which can trigger even more stress. Before you know it, you’ll have a burned out sales force and a company on the verge of collapse. It’s a vicious cycle—and decisive steps need to be taken to stop it.
Here are some proven stress-busting techniques for salespeople:
Stress often stems from feeling out of control—you become anxious or afraid because it seems as if you cannot control the situation or its outcomes. As such, the first step to beating stress comes from recognizing that you do have control—you can control how you respond to a problem.
Stress management experts from the Mayo Clinic suggest the 4A’s approach in dealing with stress, wherein you can choose to alter, avoid, accept, or adapt to any given situation.
Alter: Sometimes changing the situation is the most promising strategy. Let’s say you are always stressed when you are going to be late for a meeting. Change the situation by setting an alarm so you will leave five or ten minutes earlier, depending on the traffic. Your stress levels will most likely decrease once you’ve had ample time to prepare for your meeting, and are confident that you’ll arrive early enough to make a good impression.
Avoid: Believe it or not, sometimes avoiding a potentially stressful situation altogether is the way to go. For example, you might have a persistent caller who repeatedly calls to ask for unreasonable discounts or complains about the company’s services despite your previous attempts to resolve the issue. Avoid the situation by learning how to say no. You might say “I understand how you feel, but I will not [or cannot] provide you with a 70% discount off your monthly subscription rates.” Take note however, that avoiding the situation is only valid if there are no or limited repercussions to you and to the company.
Accept: There are things, like taxes, that we simply cannot alter or avoid. This is where the art of graceful acceptance needs to come in. For example, you need to accept that despite all of your efforts, there are always going to be leads that reject your offer or that there are always going to be clients who are fickle and extremely difficult to deal with. Learning to accept these as a part of your job makes it easier for you to anticipate and handle stressful situations.
Adapt: Wayne Dwyer once said “the activity of worrying keeps you immobilized”. Learn how to adapt to the situation by looking at the bigger picture. For instance, you might be worried about a particular caller that you had difficulty handling. Stop and ask yourself, will this matter to me in a month? What about a year? If the answer is no, and as long as you try your best to improve your call-handling skills, stop worrying.
2. Be flexible.
Good salespeople are resilient, in the sense that they are able to handle stressful situations, look for a silver lining and turn their mistakes into learning opportunities. One key aspect of developing resilience is by learning how to be more flexible—developing your ability to take a stressful situation and use it to your advantage.
Let’s say that after years of working on the day shift, your supervisor has suddenly decided to move you to the graveyard shift. Instead of resisting the change, look for positive aspects (you’ll be able to set daytime appointments, you won’t have to deal with rush hour traffic, you’ll most likely receive additional compensation), and make appropriate arrangements (look for a nearer place to stay, connect with others who are on the same shift, etc.) that will help you make the transition easier.
3. Live well.
Your overall physical well-being plays a huge role in determining your capacity to beat workplace stress. Basically, eating healthy food, getting enough sleep and taking the time to exercise can go a long way to making you feel refreshed and invigorated. Some tips to living healthy include:
- Stretch your muscles when you feel tired; use your chair or desk as a prop.
- Walk to the cafeteria instead of getting food delivered during lunch hour.
- Limit your coffee intake to two cups a day.
- Get enough sleep, 8 hours a day is ideal. Listen to soothing sounds or use blinds to help you fall asleep when you need to.
Avoid too much alcohol, sweets or carbonated beverages. Snack on fruits and nuts instead.
If you’re having trouble sticking to your exercise goals, find a buddy who can join and motivate you.
Busting stress in the workforce can only be successful if it’s done by the entire team. Cultivating a sense of camaraderie and cooperation among your sales reps can help in making them feel more relaxed and capable in handling stressful situations. For example, after a conversation with a difficult client, you might want to take a break and talk with some friendly colleagues. Having a consistent support group can help you gain perspective and reassurance and will lessen your stress levels.
5. Get organized.
Chaos in your physical space can contribute to your stress. Some of the things you can do to make your workspace more productive and less stressful include:
- Keeping your desk organized. Use file folders, baskets, or containers – whatever you need to do to keep things neat. It can also be helpful to group like items together.
- Clearing up clutter on your computer. Make sure your electronic files mirror your hard copies, and that you have a way of keeping things organized. Don’t just throw everything onto the desktop or into My Documents. Use tools to manage your email.
- Using to-do lists. Have a notebook or a document where you can list all of your tasks for the day and tick off those that you’ve accomplished. This will help you prioritize tasks and make you feel more productive at the end of the day.
The simplest way to kick out stress is by learning to sit back and relax. You don’t have to go on a three-week vacation to do this, there are some simple ways by which you can loosen up and unwind, even while sitting at your desk. Some of them include:
- Breathing exercises. One of the most effective ways to eliminate stress is by regulating your breathing via the 4×4 breathing exercise. This involves closing your eyes and sitting up straight while keeping both feet firmly on the floor. Inhale through your nose for four counts; hold your breath for four counts, exhale through your mouth for four counts, then wait for four seconds. Afterward, repeat the entire process for four times. According to psychologist Judith Tutin, “Deep breathing works by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.”
- Listening to music. Music has the power to soothe or to give us energy. Find a type of music that relaxes you and play it when you need to calm down. When you fell tired and listless, play some upbeat tunes, instead of drinking coffee, to give you a pick-up.
- Simple massage techniques. Holding a fingertip to the point of most pain or tension and pressing very hard into the offending muscle for up to a minute can avert a headache or relieve tension. You can also use aromatherapy oils to help relieve headaches and calm you down.
7. Take time off.
A vacation represents a time of well-deserved rest. Make the most out of this by unplugging yourself from social media or other electronic devices that can remind you of workplace stress. Taking the time off to do things that you enjoy (be it cooking, playing sports, fishing, or simply enjoying a glass of wine in your living room), spending time with people who invigorate and inspire you (mentors, family and friends), or just being by yourself, can go a long way towards providing you relief and helping you win the war over stress.