Stress is a highly personalized phenomenon and can vary widely even in identical situations for different reasons. While stress is different for each person, a good majority of people all share one common stressor: work. A recent survey by Northwestern National Life revealed that about 40% of workers reported that their jobs were extremely stressful, and mirrored in a separate report by Yale University, 29% of workers reported feeling extreme stress because of their jobs.
Stress is an important thing for managers to watch for. Overstressed employees are often subject to burnout, reduced efficiency, and physical or mental health issues. To help you reduce pressure in the workplace, this is everything you need to know about identifying and reducing tension for your sales teams.
Good vs. Bad Stress in the Sales Workplace
More often than not, stress is considered to be a negative situation that should be avoided at all costs. However, contrary to popular belief, not all stress is bad for your health. There are two common types of stressors that determine whether or not professional strain is beneficial or detrimental to your health–eustress and distress.
Eustress (Good Stress)
Eustress, also known as positive stress, can be beneficial to your health in small doses, and it is believed to boost immune system function. According to Gulf Bend Center, positive stressors and eustress occur in situations that:
- Motivate and focus your energy
- Are short-term
- Are perceived to be within our coping abilities
- Feel exciting
- Improve performance
For example, positive stressors might include starting a new job or receiving a promotion/bonus, getting married or having a child, taking a vacation, or celebrating your favorite sports team winning a title game.
Distress (Bad Stress)
Negative stress, or distress, is what most commonly comes to mind when we think of stress. Both short- and long-term forms can be harmful to your health if it is not resolved. Bad stressors include situations that:
- Cause anxiety or concern
- Are short- or long-term
- Are perceived as outside of our coping abilities
- Feel unpleasant
- Can lead to physical or mental health issues
Examples of negative stressors may include the death of a family member, divorce, losing a job, illness or hospitalization, or being overworked in the workplace.
Recognizing Workplace Stress in Sales
Each job has its own stressors–both good and bad. Sales, in particular, can be a demanding job with long hours, drawn-out sales cycles, and high quotas. As a sales manager, it’s important to recognize workplace stress early on to help sales reps alleviate the situation before it becomes a serious problem. A work environment high in negative stress can be detrimental to the success of a company. Some of the most common effects of workplace stress are:
- Increased frequency of employee sick days/absenteeism
- Friction between colleagues and team members
- Decreased work output and efficiency
- Decreased team and company morale
- Increased employee turnover rate
There are several things sales managers can do to help reduce workplace stress, but one of the easiest ways is to check in with reps.
You should definitely take time to address the team as a whole, but it is also important to meet with reps one-on-one periodically. This creates an environment where each individual rep can speak their mind freely and discuss any issues they are facing in their position.
Reducing Workplace Stress for Sales Teams
Regardless if you recognize signs of workplace stress on your sales team, it is important for managers to take measures to reduce the likelihood of it occurring. These are six things you can do to reduce and prevent negative stress in the workplace.
1. Watch for Signs of Stress
As mentioned above, take time to check in with reps and talk about how things are going in their job, at the company, and overall. Getting to know your reps on a more personal level will help you more easily identify changes in behavior that may indicate stress is impacting their mood or performance.
2. Encourage Breaks and Wellness Time
Ensuring employees take time away from their desk and the office is important. You should encourage sales reps to take breaks throughout the day. A simple 10-minute walk or break chatting with a coworker about non-work things can help avoid burnout and keep team morale high. In addition, ensure that employees take time for themselves by using their vacation days. Long-term breaks (even a long weekend) help employees destress and come back to work with a fresh mindset.
3. Help Reps Stay Fit
Regular exercise has been shown to improve overall physical and mental health. Consider offering sales reps an incentive or reimbursement program for gym memberships. An investment in your team’s health encourages them to live healthier lives, take a needed break during the workday, and helps increase morale and workplace efficiency.
4. Invest in Professional Development
LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report found that 94% of employees would stay with a company longer if it invested in their career. Learning new skills is one of the best ways your employees can continue advancing in their careers. If they do not feel challenged or excited by their work, they’ll start losing their motivation and become less productive as a result.
Reducing stress can be as easy as giving your employees the power and encouragement they need to take their careers into their own hands by seeking additional development opportunities. This allows employees to feel stable and secure in their field by gaining a competitive advantage, increasing personal efficiency, and expanding existing skill sets.
5. Say Thank You (Even if it’s a Small Gesture)
Sometimes it’s the small efforts that can make the biggest difference. Take the time to say thank you to your sales reps to let them know you appreciate their hard work, especially if they have been putting in long hours on a tough deal or working under strict deadlines.
Your thank you doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It can be as simple as a shoutout in a company-wide email or in a conference call, a thank you note with a gift card, or even a company-wide lunch celebration for end-of-quarter (check out this list of 100+ non-financial incentives).
6. Set Reasonable Standards
Ultimately, it’s important to realize that the reps you manage are human. There will be mistakes made, deadlines missed, and other problems that arise, and as a sales manager, it is important to make sure that in every failure a lesson is learned for the future. Start by ensuring each rep’s workload is not over-demanding and deadlines and expectations are within reason. There may be circumstances where this isn’t always possible, but it is important to alleviate any negative stressors as quickly as possible.
Moving Forward Without Stress
As a leader, one of your most important jobs is ensuring that your team is motivated and has the tools to perform their job successfully. Stress is a natural part of life, especially in demanding workforces like sales; however, it doesn’t have to be at a level that makes a rep incapable of completing their day-to-day tasks. Be an incredible sales leader and take time to meet with your team and create a workplace that encourages innovation, diversity, and room to succeed.
Want to learn more about how you can navigate and adapt to the new era of sales as a team lead? Download the "The Enterprise Leader’s Guide to Success in the New Sales Era."