With constant pressure to perform and hit targets, sales can be a stressful job at the best of times. The thrill of the chase is often counterbalanced by a fear of failure, yet there is very little support available when it comes to salespeople’s mental wellbeing. And with the majority of salespeople being extroverts, working from home during the pandemic has increased the difficulties that sales teams face.
Paul Owen, CEO of UK sales transformation specialist Sales Talent, has raised concerns around the lack of attention being paid to this.
“The problem is rarely immediately obvious but, over time, I have serious concerns about the mental wellbeing of work-from-home salespeople. We are extroverts, we feed off interaction with other people – a type of interaction we often don’t receive from prospective clients, so need to find elsewhere. In the office, we have plenty of places to feed the extrovert’s need for connection; at home, we’re alone. Very alone. And that can be very dangerous.”
Owen explains the conundrum at the heart of a salesperson’s DNA, saying that most people come into sales because they get on well with others, giving them a high sociability factor. Most good salespeople connect well with 90%+ of people they meet, often 95%+. However, when they start in sales, they fail for much of the time and that 90% is reversed: they might not be disliked by 90%+ of those they meet, but they are usually rejected by them.
In the office, a network of other salespeople means that there is plentiful support for those who spend most of their day ‘failing’ together. That communal work – the release valve of colleagues facing the same pressures and outcomes – plays a key role in keeping many salespeople motivated and balanced. Those working from an empty flat or house, however, have no banter, no jokes, no mickey-taking to help counter the near-constant rejection and see them through the day.
“It becomes increasingly difficult, when faced with that lack of support day after day, week after week, to maintain a positive mindset. Almost inevitably, those doing sales jobs from home see their productivity dip – and that adds to the pressure on their mental wellbeing as well. The fear of missing targets grows at the same time as that sense of being in it together is lost.”
Clearly, it is possible to do sales jobs from home. Salespeople around the globe have done a sterling work while confined to quarters over the past 18+ months. However, with increasing numbers of workers returning to the office, Sales Talent points out that is important for employers to focus on what will be best for their salespeople’s mental health. Just because a sales job can be done from home, doesn’t mean it should. Indeed, Owen details multiple reasons why the office is a better working environment for sales teams.
In addition to the sociability and support that the office provides, he asserts that it’s easier to stay on track and maintain focus and discipline when surrounded by others doing the same. That learning by hearing others in action and getting tips from them the moment you need them, not later when you don’t, is superior to at-home training sessions. That friendly competition can push colleagues on to perform at their best.
“Being in the office also means that salespeople have the chance to see the bigger picture – to interact with other teams within the company and better understand the product or service that they’re engaged to sell. After all, sales doesn’t exist in isolation. The more deeply it can be embedded within an organisation, the better.”
Yes, cutting out the daily commute can save time, but the considerations behind where it’s best to base sales staff run somewhat deeper than this. For employers currently wrestling with this decision, perhaps it is time to shine a spotlight on salespeople’s mental wellbeing.