Think about your early days as a salesperson. I’m sure you had to fight negative thoughts and frustrations each day and find ways to reduce your stress to keep yourself motivated. You also had to keep your belief in yourself high as you worked to achieve your goals. 

Years later, we can forget those days as we are given the responsibility for a team—a group of people that we do not know how to coach, and we especially do not know how to help with the extremely important and mental side of sales. We got through those days of sales, but we have not helped someone else do the same. Combine that with the fact that people are different, and we find ourselves in unfamiliar waters.

Our people’s backgrounds are different. We may be competitive, and they are not. We may be ego-driven, but they are not. We may not need what they need, because each rep is an individual. We have different backgrounds and present day life situations, and we do not know them well. 

Mental Health Problems Affecting Students and Employees

Salespeople, especially new ones, find themselves thrown into the fire of prospecting, selling face-to-face, and serving customers without adequate mental preparation. Their leaders, often promoted from being the best salespeople, do not recognize the thinking and belief challenges their salespeople face—how they get up in the morning with the hindering mental thoughts that dominate their minds and get them off course. 

It’s not just salespeople that experience these mental challenges. We all do—in sports, in business, at home, and in school for our children and grandchildren.

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center reports that, “Mental health problems can affect a student’s energy level, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism, hindering performance. Research suggests that depression is associated with lower grade point averages, and that co-occurring depression and anxiety can increase this association.  Many college students report that mental health difficulties interfere with their studies. On the American College Health Association 2015 survey, college students identified the following mental health issues as negatively impacting their academic performance within the last 12 months:”

  • Stress (30% of students)
  • Anxiety (22%)
  • Sleep difficulties (20%)
  • Depression (14%)”

In June of this year, “According to data supplied by the American Psychiatric Association, employees with unresolved depression experience a 35% reduction in productivity, contributing to a loss to the U.S. economy of $210.5 billion a year in absenteeism, reduced productivity, and medical costs.”

Let’s get back to the salespeople. “At least 60% of salespeople surveyed by The Uncrushed, a mental health awareness organization, said that their performance was poor because of mental health issues.”

Salespeople face these things each day resulting in an increase in the stress they carry:

  • Daily rejections
  • Rude responses
  • Quota and KPI measurements
  • Inadequate training
  • Adjustment to fast product changes
  • Complicated and inefficient point-of-sale systems
  • Internal and external compliance issues
  • Minimum standard responsibilities
  • Unrealistic social media expectations
  • Micromanagement
  • Fear of approaching strangers

Now, as we think of these, let’s add these as well:

  • No personal and meaningful goals for which to work to achieve
  • Low view of their own capability to achieve goals
  • No focus or understanding of customer benefits behind products and services
  • Lack of company passion toward its purpose toward the people it serves
  • Low confidence in how to sell to customers
  • Apparent lack of concern in them as a person

Coaching Higher Mental Strength

I went over these with a top rep today, and he immediately said, “Yes, all leading to turnover.”  And, for many lower sales and incomes, even sickness occurs.

So, how do we coach the higher mental strength for outstanding sales levels, salesperson retention, and high customer satisfaction?

First, recognize the mental challenges and issues that come from two sources—the external ones you and the company create, and the internal ones of handling negative thoughts and beliefs.

Second, listen to my discussions on getting to know your people. Learn the ways to monitor their mental well-being with questions like the following:

  • Which ones are ego-driven and try to prove their worth through their performance?
  • Which ones are competitive and want to win?
  • Which ones must understand your expectations with clarity in order to do the right levels of right activities to meet the right goals?
  • Which ones are sensitive to criticism and require kindness when receiving suggestions for changing behaviors and attitudes?
  • Which ones must be held within the lines and challenged with very direct language to respect your desires?
  • What level of stress do they experience at home?
  • Who needs public recognition often, and who needs praise given in private?
  • Who needs encouragement? Who doesn’t?
  • Who needs to be corrected or removed from the team for the team to do better?
  • What frustrating inefficiencies in company systems must be improved and taken from their working lives?
  • What teaching do they receive about how to handle customer anger and complaints?
  • How do you help them clarify their passions and goals? 
  • How do you help them feel significant and understand the important purpose they fulfill for others in your company?
  • How do you help them feel that they belong on the team and that you have their backs? 
  • How do they know you care about them?

Third, and perhaps most important, do they see you responding to what you learn by working to remove frustrations from their lives and helping them reach their goals? Do they know you care about them?


Years ago, my brother was a general manager of a Cracker Barrel. He had the lowest food costs in the nation, and the company sent some people to his store to see if he was shorting customers. What they found instead was a tenured staff with waitresses and others who had worked for him for years.  They heard stories about how he helped a dishwasher get his flat tire changed at one in the morning. And, on the production side, they discovered that everyone protected the food from loss by following the standards he taught them. 

Much of the stress people feel and the turnover teams experience comes from its leadership. Depaul University estimates this negative leadership effect to be above 60%.

But that’s not you. You can learn to prioritize the mental well-being of your people. You can make the working environment better for them. In doing so, you will actually change their lives for the better and the lives of the people they influence. Sales, profits, and incomes will increase while turnover will decrease.

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