By Karri Perez
If you ask almost any professional in the workplace, they will tell you that their job is stressful and that it has a negative impact on their quality of life. This is especially true if the employee is in a sales-related position, including account management. People tend to forget that in business, everyone is in sales, whether the job title has sales in it or not. Business is about selling products, services and ideas.
Most positions in business have some product or service sales–related functions, even in departments that do not exist specifically for the sales function — for example, human resources. When I tell students that human resources is sales-related, most are confused. But, the human resources recruitment professional has to sell the company to candidates as a potential place of employment.
Business students generally do not major in “sales,” yet most find that their first job in a professional capacity is in sales, and they are unprepared for the stress and pace of being in a very high-pressure environment. Quotas are not always realistic, and there is a lot of stress to “make the numbers,” yet most companies do not take the time or make the effort to fully train employees in sales, much less work with sales employees on how to handle stress and actually make it work for them as a catalyst versus an anchor that drags them down.
Most people end up in direct sales at some point in their careers, where their success is determined by how much revenue they can generate based on their ability to convince people to purchase products, services or ideas. Many people take a sales job to get their “foot in the door,” and they are not excited about the pressure and anxiety that accompanies the drive for achieving goals and making their sales quotas. Most will take the first opportunity to move from sales into management or operations positions where performance is expected, but the pressure may be less. Salesperson is not one of the top 10 jobs listed by children at their school’s career day.
So it becomes important for salespeople to develop a “stress for success” strategy. One of the keys to doing this is to tailor one’s approach to sales to his or her strengths as a salesperson. Stress may not be able to be avoided in a sales environment, but sales professionals can be taught to “upgrade” their response to the stress and make this a strength that not only makes for a happier sales team, but also contributes to the bottom line.
Here are two basic ways to “upgrade” your stress management skills.
1) The best salespeople are like the best parents; they take care of themselves first. Your number one customer is actually you. The best salespeople care about their customers and develop positive relationships with them. Imagine the stress of having 20 children that you have to monitor to ensure they are taken care of; welcome to major account management. Upgrade your customer care by starting with the internal customer who will stick with you throughout your career and personal life — that’s you. Accounts may come and go, but impacting your health with negative reactions to stress can harm Customer Number One — you — forever.
2) Change the external reward sales mindset. Salespeople are rewarded with commission, salary and bonuses, all of which are extrinsic rewards. After years of working to maximize your income and “get the money,” it is really difficult to reach inside to discover the benefits of being able to relax and experience calm when you are not getting paid to take the time to do it. Because the emphasis is on reaching outside for solutions or rewards in the workplace, many professionals tend to reach externally for stress management activities, some of which can have positive benefits — exercise, arts — but others can lead to health issues and even a downward spiral into self-destruction: smoking, alcohol, bad diet.
Professionals can upgrade their reactions to stress by using internal self-soothing techniques that most consider appropriate for the under five-year-old category but are extremely useful for addressing stress in adults as well. These activities can include meditation or envisioning. These are not expensive solutions that involve access to equipment and materials; they simply involve taking the time to care for Customer Number One. n
— Karri Perez is associate professor of global resources at the University of Guam as well as a business consultant. She holds professional certifications in human resources, marketing and project management. She may be reached at email@example.com.