While most sales leaders and executives tend to agree that mental health is important in the workplace, it’s not much of a surprise that most organizations aren’t providing the proper resources or initiatives for their employees.
In a new study by Sales Health Alliance and UNCrushed, nearly 58% of salespeople reported that they struggle with their mental health, an increase from 24% in 2019.
The World Health Organization (WHO) determined “Salespersons suffering from mental health issues in the workplace,” most often experience:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
While the term “sales burnout” is not classified as a medical condition, it is defined as the physical and mental well-being of salespeople and can include:
- fatigue and sluggishness
- high blood pressure
- anxiety and depression
With 3 out of 5 salespeople experiencing these issues, feelings, or having these reactions, it’s almost guaranteed someone on your team could use more resources, well-being initiatives, overall mental health support.
Managing Mental Health Costs
The National Safety Council (NSC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating the leading causes of preventable death and injury in the workplace, says that investing in mental health is critical for success in protecting both the employee and the organization.
“People are our most important asset, and for too long our culture has stigmatized mental health. That’s a serious problem for our families, communities, and workplaces,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, SHRM President and CEO. “Attention to the mental health and wellness of employees is crucial to employee retention, job satisfaction, productivity, and overall success.”
Sales departments that utilize mental health resources could see a significant increase in sales performance and save the company thousands in costs.
An analysis by the NSC and NORC at the University of Chicago revealed:
- Organizations supporting employee mental health could see a return of $4 for every dollar invested.
- Employees experiencing mental distress used nearly $3,000 more in health care services per year than their peers.
- The cost of days lost averages $4,783 per year per employee.
- Turnover averages $5,733 per year per employee.
One recent benefit?
Companies that have implemented or enhanced their mental health benefit offerings during the pandemic are already seeing their return with happier, more engaged employees, increased productivity, and better sales results.
A survey of 256 companies by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions found that since March of 2020, 53% of employers have started providing specific emotional and mental health programs for their workforce.
Free or discounted access to various health and wellness applications, video sessions with mental health counselors, and stipends for psychological or physical health-related services are some of the most popular benefits.
Mental Health and Sales Performance
As sales leaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure our sales teams have the proper tools, resources, and support needed to perform their role at the highest level possible. According to Hubspot, top-performing reps spend 40% more time working outside of regular working hours than lower-performing reps.
It may look great on paper, but in reality, it’s simply not sustainable over a long period of time, which is why some of the best salespeople experience such high levels of stress and burnout. There has to be a better balance for sales professionals.
Back to the report from the Sales Health Alliance and UNcrushed, when asked to rate their top 3 contributors that make them feel engaged and productive at work, salespeople said:
- Feeling supported by management
- Feeling recognized and valued by their company
- Having autonomy and free will
However, the report concluded that Salespeople were more likely to rate their Sales Performance as very good or excellent when these top 7 needs were being met:
- Felt metrics were achievable.
- Felt strongly connected to their peers and teammates.
- Felt like they were making a difference in the world
- Felt clarity and direction in their career path.
- Felt like they had job security and their role was safe.
- Felt financially secure.
- Felt confident in the direction and vision of the company
They also concluded that salespeople who said they maintained great mental health were 3X more likely to rate their sales performance as “very good or excellent, compared to those with the worst mental health.”
As our Mental Health starts to suffer due to these various stressors, we move down the mental health spectrum as our sales performance lowers.
Healthy → Coping → Struggling → Unwell
Sales leaders need to be proactive and acknowledge the stressors that can lead to negative impacts on mental illness in the workplace, and educate their employees that receiving help is not a sign of weakness. When salespeople feel recognized and valued by their organization, their mental health improves dramatically.
Managers are often the direct connection between the salespeople and the company, with the best opportunity for checking in confidentiality, 1-on-1.
Take a look at your team. What can you do to encourage or support those who seem to be struggling? What can you do to support those performing well?
Salespeople that “felt unsupported by management, had only 15% rated their mental health as good, very good, or excellent.” In contrast, when salespeople “felt highly supported by their leaders, 68% rated their mental health as good, very good, or excellent.”
But once again, when studying the full report, Sales Health Alliance and UNcrushed were able to determine 7 of the (actual) highest contributing factors that have a greater impact on employee mental health.
- Strong boundaries with work.
- Feel like they are making a difference in the world.
- Feel strongly connected to their teammates.
- Have clarity and direction in their career path.
- Feel their goals and metrics are achievable.
- Feel that they can be open about how they are feeling at work.
- Feel that they have job security.
It is important to provide that safe place for your employees by realizing it’s not about having answers, but just letting your sales team know you are there to support them.
Sales Roles and Stress
Mental health doesn’t discriminate. Especially in the sales industry. Almost every CEO, VP, Director of Sales, or Sales Manager has dealt with a mental health issue at some point during their career. But, not every sales job is created equal.
Some roles tend to have more internal barriers, unpredictability in pay, long working hours, low, or no base pay – all of which can have a bigger negative impact on someone’s mental state.
According to US News, being a Sales Manager is among the most stressful jobs an individual can have, with 67% of reps close to reaching burnout level. However, this same study also rated the Sales Manager position as one of the best positions on a sales team, due to having fewer micromanagement issues and more freedom.
Data from another study shows that 2 out of 3 “frontline Sales Managers and individual contributors, like Account Executives and Managers,” reported they struggle with their mental health. While Sales Development (SDR) and Business Development Reps (BDR) followed closely behind with 3 out of 5 reporting the same issues.
No matter what sales role you are in, the Sales Health Alliance says “autonomy and free-will” are two of the most important contributing factors to mental health issues.
Among salespeople who strongly agreed they had autonomy and free will within their role, 60% rated their Mental Health as Good or better. (That’s 47% higher than salespeople who felt like they had no autonomy and free will in their role.)
And it wasn’t just their mental health that improved.
Their sales performance increased as well.
Among salespeople who strongly agreed they had autonomy and free will within their role, 85% rated their sales performance as Good or better. (That’s 34% higher than salespeople who noted they felt like they had no autonomy and free will in their role.)
This study from the Sales Health Alliance and other previous studies on job roles show an interesting connection between stress, demand, and responsibility.
They found that work-related stress is NOT caused by more responsibility, pressure, the actual demand, or the effort of doing a job
Stress was associated with the degree of control workers have throughout the day.
Less Control = More Stress
Obviously, more senior roles have more autonomy and free will than less senior roles when planning their day-to-day activities.
This gives a partial explanation to why front-line salespeople struggle with their Mental Health more than other sales roles. It’s because their leadership rarely gives them enough autonomy and free will to control their day effectively.
There’s no doubt sales is a stressful occupation, no matter what type of role you are in. As a sales leader, it is extremely important to listen and encourage an open culture so that your sales team feels comfortable enough to speak with you about their stressors and ways to improve your processes.