Today is R U OK Day.
So I wanted to draw attention to all the sales teams out there, who are navigating their way through the pandemic, and acknowledge that selling is a challenging career at the best of times, and COVID-19 has added a whole new level of pressure that can affect mental health and wellbeing.
I have found that, while some sales teams are thriving during COVID-19, many others are not.
Many are struggling, not just to meet their sales targets, but to learn how to adapt and handle a whole new world of selling.
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From learning how to prospect and sell remotely — including navigating technology, finding new markets, doing remote product demos and negotiations over Zoom or Teams — through to dealing with distressed customers, most salespeople are finding it tough.
They are finding themselves speaking with distraught customers who cannot pay their bills, or want to cancel contracts, close accounts or do a special deal.
Not only are salespeople dealing with someone else’s distress, but they are also potentially losing customers, which is adding to their own levels of distress.
Will I make budget? What will happen to my job? And so on.
The mental health load is real and present.
I’ve also heard from some senior sales leaders that many of their field salespeople, who used to travel on the road and visit people in person, are finding the lack of in-person contact and socialising that goes with their job tough and demoralising.
We cannot underestimate the impact all of this is having on salespeople’s mental health, especially when sales teams are expected to be top performers, as well as some of the most confident people in their organisations.
Showing any signs that they feel down, distressed or are not coping may not come naturally to most salespeople, so we need to keep an eye out, and ask them, ‘R U OK?’
We know it is perfectly normal to go through emotional ups and downs, to grieve over lost opportunities, to feel confused about our own feelings during times of crisis.
This is why it is even more important that we speak about this in the open and see that we are not alone.
I’ve spoken to hundreds of business and salespeople during COVID-19, with many sharing their feelings of vulnerability and confusion.
How to help sales teams navigate through this crisis
Rethink go-to-market strategies and sales budgets
Sales managers and teams need to look at what they can achieve during and beyond the crisis.
This means working out viable go-to-market strategies that provide a clearer pathway forward and give people direction and purpose, as well as setting realistic sales budgets that drive cashflow.
Regular sales coaching and support
People need to be able to vent, to share their frustrations and concerns.
They need someone to talk to who understands their situation.
This is where skilful and compassionate coaching by sales leaders is vital.
Regular team collaboration and a can-do culture
Getting salespeople together to brainstorm what they can do, how to find new markets, and help each generally is very helpful.
Knowing you’re in it together makes a big difference.
Create protocols that your salespeople can use to help customers in distressed situations.
Knowing they are doing what they can to help will give some form of agency to salespeople.
Health and wellbeing
We know that regular exercise and a healthy diet are key to good mental health. Let’s keep encouraging this approach.
So in the spirit of R U OK Day, let’s work together and find a pathway forward.
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.