You’ve been there: The month is winding down, and your team is not hitting their mark. They have pitched their best deals to the customers, but they keep hesitating to buy. Maybe the customers are just not at that crucial junction in the sale cycle, or maybe they simply cannot afford to hit the “buy” button. Whatever the underlying reason, your team still has to keep going, in spite of the added stress.
As a sales manager, you have to maintain that impossibly upbeat attitude even if you are secretly wishing you’d chosen a safer career path – like dangling off the side of a skyscraper cleaning windows in high winds. The point is that a sales career has natural ups and downs. There is only one universal guarantee you can count on day in and day out: stress. In abundance.
Some studies have shown that as many as three-quarters of sales professionals have stress levels with a real physical and psychological impact. A 2013 study by Everest College, for instance, found that a full 80 percent of all employees deal with high stress levels due to job pressure and (no surprise here) income.
With compensation models tied to how much they sell, sales professionals are feeling it twice as much as traditional salaried workers. But stress can either be your team’s kryptonite or its rocket. Company sales culture and habits can quash your dreams or ignite a fire that causes you to rise. It is not the stress per se but how you deal with it on a team level that matters. Healthy behavioral adjustments can make all the difference in changing stress from a burden to a boon.
Business Crash and Burn: Locate the Black Box
The worst thing that can happen to any sales professional is losing a regular customer. And it happens every day to even the best performers. Maybe it’s a new purchasing officer with different loyalties. Maybe it’s a competitor undercutting your pricing to woo business away. No matter how good you are, it is going to happen to you at some point.
So how can you benefit from it? First, find the black box. Like a plane landing at sea, you need to know what preceded the crash. This process must be viewed as a systematic way to solve team problems. Make clear that it is not about assigning blame; it is about overcoming obstacles as a team.
Once you understand the forces that brought it all down, you can develop a better flight plan. See if you can salvage anything. Is there a way to regroup and regain even a percentage of the lost business with the client? Either way, now is the time to create an action plan. Simply knowing what you are going to do is a good way to lessen the burden of stress. If you know what works, build it into your team’s process.
Use the Power of Laughter to Go Higher
Make sure to allow for laughter. Not only does laughter lower stress, but it promotes team loyalty, helps build solutions and lessens down time due to illness.
If you have a process that doesn’t work, change it or dump it. Beating a proverbial dead horse may be tempting, but you need a forward-looking attitude that allows for flexibility and creative solutions. If you plan for downs with continual prospecting and qualifying, you are more likely to have many more “lucky” sales breaks.
Encourage Team Members to Relax and Play
One counterintuitive approach to sales is to take short, planned mental and physical breaks. You and your team members are human. Short intervals of stress, even intense stress, can propel growth if you handle them right. When stress is a constant drone, anxiety and burnout are more likely. Chronic stress causes all kinds of physical and psychological symptoms, which have a direct impact on missed work and sagging sales. Disabuse yourself of the tired, old philosophy that taking breaks translates to a lazy work ethic.
Adopt the opposite notion, which keeps your team’s stress low and makes all of you more effective partners to your customers. It makes you a better employee, too. Give your team a buffer between meetings to absorb what they heard and to prepare for what you’re about to present. Find small ways to keep them motivated and relaxed. Some of the best solutions can develop when everyone’s mind is free to think about innovative solutions.
The downfall of many sales professionals is that they try to be everything to their customers. If you have support staff to handle orders and manage communications, throw a few tasks over the fence to lighten your load and stay focused on selling and prospecting. Stress is a reality. Recognize it and take steps to manage it in a healthy way to meet your goals and still have a fulfilling life and a successful sales team.
Lastly, Be Open
Stress does not have to own you or your team. The best way to handle it is to plan for it. Talk to your team honestly about how they are doing. Simply opening up the lines of communication and being approachable will do wonders for morale and stress. If your people understand that you recognize them as individuals and not just cogs in the machine, it will make them more likely to want to perform. And when your team is pulling with you, rather than against you, everybody wins.