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Like ketchup & caviar: Is mental wellbeing incompatible with B2B sales?

October 7, 2021

In the movies, sales and mental wellbeing don’t exactly go hand in hand. 

I mean, let’s face it: 

You’d be scratching around for household sales names in the sales space if Jordan Belfort, Gordon Gekko, and Patrick Bateman suddenly achieved emotional equilibrium.

And while these characters got the Hollywood treatment, there was a kernel of truth in some of their habits and attitudes.

But now, times are changing. And the old school ways no longer fly. 

Ollie Sharpe, VP of Revenue (EMEA) at Salesloft, is one of the biggest proponents of this shift, which he hopes will result in a happier, healthier B2B sales workforce. 

We spoke to him about where sales is at with mental wellbeing right now, how leaders’ own habits impact their teams, and the steps they can take to entrench empathy in their sales cultures. 

Scroll to read the full Q&A 👇

When did you become concerned with mental wellbeing in B2B sales? 🧠

Working for leaders who disregarded mental wellbeing helped shape my thinking around the issue for sure, as I realised how unhappy that stance made me. 

I’ve also been fortunate enough to work in businesses that prioritise mental wellbeing within their sales cultures, witnessing the value of it first hand. 

But my commitment to helping improve mental wellbeing in the sales teams I worked in was really crystallised at LinkedIn

At the time, my wife was undergoing cancer treatment, and I sat down with my boss who laid out my priorities:

First and foremost, he said I should be focused on my wife. Secondly, I should be focused on my kids. Thirdly, I should be focused on myself. And finally, I should be focused on work, if I had the time to dedicate to it. 

The whole experience changed the way I viewed life, and my wife and I made a commitment to each other to only do things that made us happy.

That made me think I should be doing the same for my team too.

What is the current state of play with mental wellbeing in B2B sales? ⚖️

We’ve come a long way from where we used to be as a sales industry but we’re still nowhere near where we should be. 

Old school sales was about dedicating yourself to doing long hours culminating in a stressful end of month and quarter. The historical way to manage that was with a stick. 

You can still find these attitudes in sales organisations and sales leaders today, but as society opens up about the issue, salespeople are following suit.

Now, they expect their sales leader and organisation to have clear stances on mental wellbeing before they take a role.

This should mean employers continuing to neglect the issue will be weeded out, and more empathetic companies secure the best sales talent.

Why should B2B sales leaders be invested in the mental wellbeing of their teams? 🤝

The quality of a salesperson’s work depreciates the more stressed they get. And the more stressed they get, the more likely they are to be laid up with a cold, and out of action for a few days. 

So by not investing in the mental wellbeing of your teams, at a base level, you’re losing lots of people hours. The results of this are self evident: 

Less pipeline, fewer sales, and tanking revenue. 

By contrast, as Shawn Acher notes in his book The Happiness Advantage, the more content your team is, the more likely they are to be effective, efficient, and committed in their roles. 

And what sales leader wouldn’t want that?

What challenges do B2B sales leaders still face when addressing the mental wellbeing of their teams? 🧗🏾‍♂️

Turning words into action on mental wellbeing is the single most challenging step for sales leaders to take.

Given how important standards on the issue are becoming when it comes to securing talent, you can’t afford to rely on platitudes. 

Salespeople will realise quickly whether or not you’re true to your word, and look for pastures new if your culture falls short of their expectations. 

What practical steps can you take to support the mental wellbeing of your B2B sales team? 🪜

The most important thing any sales leader can do is lead by example.

To do that, they need to be outspoken about their own mental wellbeing, in order for it to filter down into their teams.

For example, if I’m feeling run down, I’ll let my team know that I’m taking the day off to prioritise my mental wellbeing. 

A step as simple as this can completely change how the issue is perceived within your culture.

I also try to be vocal about having a good work-life balance. So when I’m in the office, I occasionally leave at 4pm to spend time with my daughter. As a result, my team knows that I respect their lives outside of work.

More structural steps you can take include: 

    • Adding rest days into your company calendar - At Salesloft, we take one Friday every month to recharge.
  • Hosting standups focused on mental wellbeing and culture - We dedicate one session per week to this.
  • Focusing on mental wellbeing in 121s - Over emphasising the importance of hitting target can be unhelpful.

Loehr and Schwartz’s Peak Performance Pyramid is useful when considering the second and third points above; particularly the MEPS check-in.

This helps encourage your team to put mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical rituals in place in their daily routines. 

When each aspect of MEPS is in balance, you’ll find that your salespeople perform the best. 

But inevitably, certain aspects fall by the wayside, which can be addressed in weekly standups or 121s. 

How do you see the future of mental wellbeing in B2B sales? 🔮

Now people are spending their time between home and the office, it’ll be challenging to ensure sales cultures are inclusive.

The best way to mitigate this is for sales leaders to become more outspoken about mental wellbeing, and open up the door to having more holistic conversations about performance with their teams. 

The impact of this can only be positive, helping attract more of the brightest talent to our industry. 

Take your reps to new heights with The 2021 Sales Enablement Playbook 🚀

Get access to Cognism's interactive sales enablement guide by hitting the image below 👇

mental wellbeing b2b sales

In it, you'll find: 

  • Management plays
  • Hiring hacks
  • Tech stack tips

And a bucket-load more of actionable resources!