Mental Health in Sales: More Than 40% Struggle

Last Updated April 14th, 2020

Jeff Riseley, Sales Health Alliance, mental health in sales

 

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Think of five salespeople you know. Did you know that at least two of them are likely struggling with their mental health?

Survey research shows the more than 40% struggle with mental health in sales. Yet, we don’t talk about it.

This is likely due to the competitive nature of the job, as well as some social stigmas around mental health in general. Obviously, ignoring the problem does more harm than good.

Because if we want to provide an exceptional customer experience, we first need to provide an exceptional employee experience. To do this, we need to take the health and well-being of our team members into account. We need to value and support the whole person.

To tackle the silence linked to mental health in sales, our guest on this episode The Customer Experience Podcast, Jeff Riseley, founded the Sales Health Alliance. His goal: to bring the conversation out into the open, end the stigma, share best practices, and navigate stressful situations effectively.

Jeff has been a sales consultant, outbound salesperson, account executive, and sales manager at companies like Indeed.com and Crowdbabble.

Now, he wants to generate awareness for mental health in sales, as well as encourage sales professionals through the stressful components of the job “in a mentally healthy way to increase performance.”

In this episode focused on mental health in sales, we talk about:

Where mental health and CX intersect
How the Sales Health Alliance originated (a personal story)
Why you should rethink what it means to feel lucky
How to overcome the fear of failure in sales (and embrace it, instead)
Why we need to treat salespeople as corporate athletes (hint: ROI)

 

Mental Health in Sales: More Than 40% Struggle

Hear the entire conversation with Jeff Riseley right here:

 

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Jeff Riseley, Sales Health Alliance, mental health in sales, customer experience

 

Full Transcript: Mental Health in Sales – More Than 40% Struggle

Ethan Beute:
If you’re a regular listener to this show, you know that an exceptional employee experience is a necessary precursor to an exceptional customer experience. So, we should be talking about the health and well-being of our team members. Plus, from an ROI standpoint, the World Health Organization reports that every $1.00 invested here provides a $4.00 return on improved health and productivity.

Ethan Beute:
Today’s guest has been a sales consultant, an outbound salesperson, an account executive, and a sales manager at companies like Indeed.com and Crowdbabble. To address this mental health issue that he saw in his sales roles, however, he decided to found the Sales Health Alliance, to bring this conversation out into the open, to end the stigma, to share best practices, and to navigate stressful situations effectively.

Ethan Beute:
Jeff Riseley, welcome to The Customer Experience Podcast.

Jeff Riseley:
Thanks, Ethan. Really excited to be here, especially in this time, and everything that people are going through. So, thanks for having me on. I’m really looking forward to it.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, let’s start right there. We’re recording this on Thursday, March 19, and I’m in Colorado Springs, you’re in Toronto. Just from a general standpoint, what’s going on with regard to the Coronavirus pandemic in your world? How is it affecting you or your community, or your business?

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah, it’s crazy right now. My business, specifically, has all been primarily focused on doing in-person, leading in-person workshops at companies, and helping working salespeople hands-on, help them navigate stressful situations in a mentally healthy way.

Jeff Riseley:
But when everything is moving to work-from-home, and social distancing is really key important, the key thing that everyone needs to focus on right now, yeah, I’ve been spending the last week trying to pivot, and reposition on our more virtual offerings.

Jeff Riseley:
But then, there’s also really great and awesome things happening as well, like getting to spend more time with my girlfriend. She’s worked from home, that’s really exciting to see. I probably normally talk to my parents once every week, now, it’s once every day or two, to check in, to make sure they’re doing okay.

Jeff Riseley:
So, it’s a lot of change, but there’s also so many really positive things that are happening, that’s really exciting to see at the same time. So, it’s good and bad at the same time, if that answers your question.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, absolutely, it does. I’ve seen a lot of the same thing, and I think, as we get into this conversation, people are going to understand why you immediately see the silver lining in this situation. I think it’s part of what you teach, part of what you’ve learned, and certainly, it’s just a healthy way to go about things in general, to see the positive in it. I know I’ve experienced the same thing, just spending more time with my wife and my son, because we’re all just around a lot more often.

Ethan Beute:
So, let’s start where we tend to start here on the show, which is, customer experience. When I say “customer experience”, what does that conjure for you? What are its thoughts? What thoughts do you have about it, what characteristics does it have?

Jeff Riseley:
I think it’s very similar. I did a UX class as well, part-time, and I think UX user experience and customer experience, it’s everything that the customer is going to be thinking, feeling, and doing, at every step, at every interaction that they’re having with your brand and your business.

Jeff Riseley:
That can be with a salesperson, or with someone from your company present, or, it can be even them just exploring a piece of mail that they get, or exploring your website or an ad. It includes everything, and that’s how they’re experiencing your brand from their perspective, looking at you from their perspective, which is going to be different for every single person. There’s going to be no “one shoe fits all”.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, really good observations there. Of course, it is every touchpoint, including some that you just put out into the world, like a direct-mail piece, or even something physical that’s sitting on a shelf, that gets picked up six months later. That’s part of it.

Ethan Beute:
And a key piece that you really offered there, that I love, and that I don’t think we emphasize enough is the fact that the customer gets to define it. They own it, they get to say what it is, and what it isn’t, and all we can do is do our best to guide them to what we want it to be.

Jeff Riseley:
For sure. I guess the one other thing that I’d add to that as well is, when a customer is experiencing your brand and going through your process, their emotions are going to be changing due to their own environment. So, if it’s a phone call from a salesperson after the potential prospect of a customer has had a really bad day, you need to be considerate of that, compassionate to their situations and their environment. And that’s one thing that’s going to be changing, no matter who’s experiencing your brand, and it’s going to be different for everyone based on their own external environment.

Ethan Beute:
I love it. It conjures a word that we use often. I feel like it’s a very positive thing, that it’s bubbled up in popular business culture. Things like empathy, meeting people where they are, and having the emotional intelligence to assess it, and start the conversation, meeting them where they are, so that you can move forward in a productive way that honors their situation in an immediate sense.

Jeff Riseley:
Definitely.

Ethan Beute:
Let’s build a bridge, then. So, this mental health issue that you’re spending a lot more time focused on, learning about, teaching other people, guiding other people, where do you see the intersection of customer experience and this mental health issue, specifically in sales?

Jeff Riseley:
To put it simply, this overlap is right in the middle. If your salespeople, if your customer success people, whoever it is that’s working at your company, any employee, if they’re emotional, if they’re not able to take care of their mental health, if they’re struggling with anxiety, depression, what have you, that’s going to have a direct impact on the customer experience that they’re delivering on a day-to-day basis.

Jeff Riseley:
So, my work is really focused on, how do you improve the input that’s going into your organization every single day, when you’re working with different salespeople and different sales leaders? Everyone is so focused on things like, how many dollars a rep makes, how many meetings they’ve booked, how much revenue they’ve closed. These are all output metrics. They used these leading and lagging indicators to measure a healthy pipeline.

Jeff Riseley:
But what they’re failing to remember is that all of these metrics are being driven by, how anxious is the rep? Did they sleep well? Are they eating right? Are they depressed? When they do encounter a negative situation, a stressful situation on the sales floor, do they know how to navigate that in a mentally healthy way, where they can respond positively?

Jeff Riseley:
And all of these did input metrics are going to have a direct impact on not only their daily KPIs that salespeople love and hate, but also the real metrics that are important. How happy is the customer experience that they’re delivering on a day-in and day-out basis?

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, emotions are absolutely contagious, which I’m sure you’re acutely sensitive to. And so, we do confer our state of being on the people that we interact with.

Ethan Beute:
And the vision I had as you were sharing that is, just this idea of doing what we can as organizations and as leaders and as managers, to make sure that we’re bringing whole people to work, and that we’re supporting whole people. And by “whole”, I just mean, complete and fully-healthy, physically and mentally and emotionally so.

Ethan Beute:
And the work that you’re doing is really important. I think what I would like to do in this conversation, I read this really nice piece that you wrote called Start Talking, 40 Thoughts, Tips and Ideas, to start talking about mental health in sales. And so, I think what we’ll do for the conversation is to just go through. I picked out six or eight of them. I’ll include the link.

Ethan Beute:
When people go to bombbomb.com/podcast, I have overviews and video clips and the embedded audio from all these conversations. So, I’ll obviously link up the PDF there. But, I think before we get there, I introduced a little bit the scope of the problem. So, if you want to just do a high-level overview of what led you in this direction from a personal and professional standpoint, and any context you want to give to this situation before we get into maybe some particulars.

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah, absolutely. So, it’s always best defined when people ask this question, to go back to the beginning, how this all started. And that was just over 10 years ago. I’d just taken my first sales role. I was a fresh grad at a university, and the sales role I happened to take was in the classic, boiler-room type of sales environment.

Jeff Riseley:
My worth as an employee and as a human being was essentially being measured every single day, on whether or not I could make $200.00 a day, achieve two-and-a-half hours of talk time. If you weren’t closing deals, if you weren’t selling effectively, you were let go pretty quickly. So, it was a revolving door of salespeople.

Jeff Riseley:
That’s when I really first became familiar with what mental health actually was. I struggled from really bad anxiety. I had, in the middle of the night, really bad panic attacks. Suffered from insomnia, drinking and partying way too much. And it was after the third time I had a panic attack in the middle of the night, where it led me to the hospital, where I had to think, “Wow. I need to do something about this.”

Jeff Riseley:
So, I went to see my doctor, he prescribed me some anxiety medication that I tried for two or three months. Didn’t really like how it made me feel in terms of how numbed my emotions, disconnected me from my intuition, things that I felt that I really needed to be successful within sales.

Jeff Riseley:
And back then, going to therapy was still highly, highly stigmatized. It just wasn’t something that anyone talked about. So, I was in this position where I had to have an honest conversation with myself, where I loved the camaraderie of sales, I loved everything about it, in terms of the rush you get from a closing deal, the high commission checks, everything. But at the same time, I would need to figure out a way to make myself more resilient, to take care of my mental health, if I wanted to be in this career long-term.

Jeff Riseley:
And that’s where I just started reading and learning, everything from habits to neuroscience, how do you redesign your environment to set you up with success, and over the last 10 years, without really knowing it, I just started to do these things, to make myself more resilient, to protect my mental health.

Jeff Riseley:
And it wasn’t fully realized what I had done, until summer of 2018. I had just launched my first sales consulting website, and three days later, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which was just a huge curveball out of left field. And what I realized was, during this new stressful experience in my life, I naturally started to execute on the same mindsets, the same habits, the same behavior that I would to keep myself healthy within sales, and protect my mental health in sales, during this other stressful time, going through this cancer treatment.

Jeff Riseley:
Thankfully, I’m okay right now, and all good. But that’s when I had that “Aha” moment, where, wow, I’ve learned a lot without realizing it, and I can feel the pain salespeople are going through every single day. And it’s just not a conversation that gets talked about.

Jeff Riseley:
That’s when I pivoted to launch the Sales Health Alliance, and I do my best to start more conversations around this topic, but, too, try and share some of the things that I’ve learned to help salespeople remain healthy and remain positive, and keep their performance at a high level. That’s what got me here today.

Ethan Beute:
Well, the work that you’re doing is obviously really important. I appreciate it, and I’m really glad to be able to host this conversation with you, and share it with other people.

Ethan Beute:
I guess this led to one more pair of questions prior to getting into some of the specific ideas in this really great guide that you put together. For you, it was this slow build, and you had this realization, this is not right, this is not healthy, but it resulted in … A panic attack that sends you to the hospital in the middle of the night isn’t exactly the rock-bottom experience that a lot of people experience, but it is a very significant, dramatic and acute event.

Ethan Beute:
For people who are short of that, what advice do you have for salespeople who are listening, where some of what you offered sounds familiar. They maybe haven’t had that really big, “Aha” wake-up moment, the splash of cold water, the slap in the face, or whatever that acute event is, that lets them know that they’re not okay. What are some warning signs? If what you’ve offered so far sounds familiar to someone listening, but they haven’t had that big moment yet, what are some things to watch out for?

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah. Within sales, I think a huge piece that doesn’t get talked about enough is, there’s a huge drinking culture and party culture that comes along with working in sales. And salespeople, it becomes okay to use drinking as your crutch in a lot of situations.

Jeff Riseley:
Whether it’s celebrating a big deal that has just closed. Whether it’s a work event, where there’s open bars. Or, whether it’s just after a really tough month, where you’re burned out, you’re fearful. Everything seems to go back to, at least within the sales teams and the environments I’ve worked with, everything seems to be going back to, “This is the best coping mechanism for the situation.” Everyone around you is doing it, your sales leaders or sales managers are supporting you, even encouraging you, with the team nights out, that involve heavy, heavy drinking.

Jeff Riseley:
And it’s really important in those situations to be mindful of, what are you actually saying? When you say “yes” to a night out, or going to the bar after work or that extra drink, what are you actually … Rather than focusing on what you’re saying yes to, what are you saying no to?

Jeff Riseley:
And what you’re saying “no” to, when you’re heavily involved in this culture is, you’re saying no to your mental health, you’re saying no to waking up the next day and being productive, and actually being effective on the sales floor. You’re saying no to developing good habits, anything that you’re trying, whether it’s losing weight, whether it’s spending more time with your family, all of these habits that you’re trying to build become extremely difficult, and you get caught in this bad-habit cycle that’s really tough to break when you’re in this kind of culture.

Jeff Riseley:
That’s something my girlfriend told me a while ago, and it’s really resonated, is really being mindful of what you’re saying no to, rather than focusing on what you’re saying yes to.

Ethan Beute:
I love it. Staying mindful and keeping your priorities straight is, I guess, my language to capture that. What are you saying yes and no to? It’s really good.

Ethan Beute:
So, let’s get into this. You created this really nice guide. I took it as something that is meant to be digested over a 40-day period, although I took it all down at one time. You did a nice job closing each of these 40 thoughts with things to think about, things to practice. And so, it’s meant, I feel like, to be a reflective exercise.

Ethan Beute:
I don’t want to minimize any of it by treating it the way we’re going to in this conversation. Again, I encourage people to read it, and practice it. It’s just a really, really nice piece of work, regardless of whether or not you’re in sales, and regardless of whether or not you feel like you’re experiencing any anxiety or depression, or any of the other maladies that you might. I found it very, very useful, even though I feel pretty healthy and whole right now in my life. And so, it’s just a really good piece of work.

Ethan Beute:
So, I want to start with Number Three, and I’m just going to quote you here. “Luck doesn’t exist, but feeling lucky does.”

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah. It’s true. I know there’s a lot of people on LinkedIn, a lot of professional coaches, that are really focused on, “You need to hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle. You got to be up at 4:00 AM. No sleep, no rest and recovery. That’s how you become successful. That’s how you create luck.”

Jeff Riseley:
I disagree with a lot of what they say, and it comes down to leading a balanced lifestyle, where you’re checking all of your buckets. Things that make you happy, things that make you emotionally resilient. Making sure that you’re filling all those buckets each day.

Jeff Riseley:
And a key piece of that is, seeing, is perceiving the lucky things that are happening every single day, that always tend to get forgotten about, or hidden behind these massive weights of negative emotions, or negative experiences. Even something small, like someone cutting you off as they’re commuting home, or in traffic, and you get stuck on that one thought, and that one thing that happened, that you totally miss your kid running up to you at the end of the day to tell you what happened in their day in school, because you’re still busy processing. You’re missing all of the cool things you saw on your drive home, all of these really unique things.

Jeff Riseley:
So, that’s what I believe feeling lucky is. It’s being able to re-train your brain through practicing gratitude, and building that muscle, to be able to notice these tiny little bits of things that happen every day. And the more you do it, the more you start to notice those things, the more you’ll start to feel lucky. And as a result, start to create more positive experiences for yourself.

Ethan Beute:
Really good. From the seventh tip, you offered a couple of stats, and I’m just going to pair these two together, and then, I’d love your thoughts and reaction, or some context around what this means in this conversation.

Ethan Beute:
So, a 2018 report from Salesforce said that 57% of sales reps were expected to miss their quotas. And in a separate survey, 41% of salespeople said missing target has one of the greatest impacts on their mental health.

Ethan Beute:
So, more than half of people are expected to miss their targets, and yet, it’s a significantly negative experience for sales reps. Just talk about how that came to be, or, how to resolve that.

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah. It’s crazy. It’s absolutely crazy to me, that sales teams don’t embrace failure. And there’s this fear of failure in sales, when all of the best tech companies in the world, all of the best companies in the world are built on failure. They’re built on failing hundreds of thousands of times.

Jeff Riseley:
And I’m sure you see this in the customer experience, how you align the different departments within the team. They’re all failing consistently, and they’re falling forward. If you think about any good tech product that’s been built, it’s built on micro failures that take place over and over and over again.

Jeff Riseley:
And for whatever reason, within sales, there’s this mindset, and there’s this perspective from organizations and from leadership, that salespeople just aren’t allowed to fail. And it’s totally backwards, because I think one of the best ways to learn and on-board is through failure.

Jeff Riseley:
And if there’s this aspect of fear around it, what happens is, the emotional part of your brain, the Limbic System, gets in fight-or-flight mode. It’s constantly firing. And that totally shuts down your Prefrontal Cortex, which helps with all of the learning and digestion.

Jeff Riseley:
So, if you have that part of your brain consistently firing all the time, you’re not going to be learning. The ramp-up speeds are going to be way longer than they should be. So, really embracing a fear of failure, making sure that it’s okay for everyone to fail, provided they’re doing it in the right way, is a critical part of developing not only at a personal level, but accelerating at an organizational level as well.

Ethan Beute:
It’s great. Yeah. We have some of that tension here at BombBomb. We set very aggressive goals for ourselves. We’re beholden to no one. We’re a bootstrap company, but we still set very aggressive goals for the year. And it is this fail for … I think we do a nice job of accepting it, but we do set goals that are sometimes beyond reach, even through our own best efforts. And it’s just a challenge. You just need to maintain a respectful environment.

Ethan Beute:
From Day 18, you offer this idea that I love. I think it’s absolutely true, but I’d love to hear your take on it, is that, more complex tech stacks in our sales teams are product features. They’re easily replicated. If you and your sales team buy and incorporate these two new pieces of tech, so can your competitors.

Ethan Beute:
And so, it’s this arms race, but functionally, product parody. Right? If some company releases a feature, another company can knock that feature off. And so, what you point to is that the real differentiator is the people. Just riff on that a minute.

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah. It’s been a crazy 10 years. When I started in sales, you can’t see my chest, but I was sitting at a table, I was calling off a stack of paper leads that were probably this high, and I would just literally burn and churn, burn and churn, go through and move the dials.

Jeff Riseley:
And Salesforce at the time was roughly worth $15.00 a share. Now, it’s worth … I don’t know what it’s worth today, with everything that’s going on, but it’s worth $185.00 a share, whatever it was when I last looked. It’s just been this crazy arms race of sales enablement technologies exploding into the sales world, all in the mindset of, how do we increase efficiency and generate higher revenue?

Jeff Riseley:
And it’s given organizations a few things. It’s given them the opportunity to build things like a machine. As much as I love our engineering brothers and sisters, and books like Predictable Revenue, I think their influence has gone a little too far into, how do we build sales organizations, and treat people the same way that we build machines and build products?

Jeff Riseley:
And as much as building code is perfectly logical, salespeople are messy and emotional. And they’re being forced into these sales machines that are a mix of complex tech products, with growing sales targets, and being whipped harder and harder to perform, with no break, no rest and recovery built in. And they’re on this highway of high performance, and they’re never being given the opportunity to rest and recover, and be given the training and the tools to stay healthy while they’re sprinting.

Jeff Riseley:
So, yeah. Especially with what’s happening right now, the companies that are going to win out, the sales teams that are going to win out, are the ones that remain mentally healthy, and remain positive, and remain engaged and productive, so that they can use all of this great technology that’s entered the market in the best way possible.

Jeff Riseley:
And the ones that are fearful, the ones that aren’t supported, it won’t matter if you have a brand-new technology. It’s just not going to be effective.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. Really good. I think the people are the differentiator, employee experience begets customer experience. Customer experience ultimately is the great differentiator for all of this kind of parody that we have.

Ethan Beute:
So, it reminds me. We don’t need to discuss it, but for people listening, Day 20 is specifically about the workplace experience, which is this employee experience piece, that the theme runs through our entire conversation here.

Ethan Beute:
So, let’s go to 36, only a couple more here. Let’s go to 36, where I already mentioned one of the World Health Organization’s stats, but, just speak to the ROI of addressing this. I feel like there might be a sales manager, or an executive listening, who’s saying, “Yeah, this is interesting. I think maybe we should pay more attention to our people.”

Ethan Beute:
But in terms of formalizing, and your guide does a great job offering some ways to formalize and operationalize this respectful approach to humans and things. But there’s an opportunity cost of, if I’m going to get people’s attention, and take people’s time, what am I going to do with it? If I’m going to take some financial resources and invest them.

Ethan Beute:
But there’s very obviously a return on investment. I think people that are relationship-oriented and human-oriented already see the benefit and know it intuitively. But for anyone that’s sitting on the fence, “I don’t know if it’s worth my time to invest time and money into this,” talk about the ROI side of taking care of our people in this way.

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah. It’s a good question, and it’s one that I’ve been asked a couple times. And I have to be transparent. This is a new frontier for organizations. Mental health has been so stigmatized, that conversations and the reporting and the data around this stuff is just starting to become more apparent.

Jeff Riseley:
At a high level, when you look at all the mental health data, the number you quoted, every dollar invested in leads to a $4.00 return on improved mental health and productivity. There’s organizations that are seeing, I know … Bell Canada is seeing … It’s been a longer cycle, but they’re seeing this type of return on their mental health programs that they’re built in.

Jeff Riseley:
But to be honest, it’s a new frontier. And the best way that I can describe it to people that are on the fence is, you want to start thinking about salespeople as corporate athletes. When you think about the best athletes in the world, that know how to use stress to their advantage, they go to the gym, they put their muscles under stress, they let them recover. So, two days later, when they’re pushed into overtime, or, they land a little funny and tweak their ankle, they’ve used stress to build their muscles to support them under these unforeseen circumstances down the road.

Jeff Riseley:
And similar to athletes that take really good care of their physical body, the most important thing that a salesperson has that they need to take care of is their mind. They’re not out there playing basketball, playing football. They need their mind to be sharp, to be able to pick up on those really tiny cues that buyers are offering, customers are offering, and figure out ways to support them as effectively as possible.

Jeff Riseley:
And that’s a mental health play. That’s how doing things at an organization level, doing things at a leadership level, helping people on an individual level to learn the skills to be able to navigate and manage stress, these are things that are going to help them perform and deliver a better customer experience, build a better culture, which is going to lead to all of those other things that can improve health and improve productivity, and improve engagement retention.

Jeff Riseley:
I don’t have right now, that’s my goal to get to, is to find those one or two companies that are saying, “Jeff, I love what you’re saying. Let’s explore this together over a longer two-to-three month pilot,” or something. But right now, it’s still unknown. But I believe to my core that the organizations that prioritize this stuff are going to see huge, huge returns on any money they invest in this area.

Ethan Beute:
I think you’re exactly right. And even if we only focus on retention alone, and the cost of re-hiring, re-onboarding, the lost revenue and ramp time of a salesperson, a new salesperson, compared to the person that you lost, because we didn’t invest in them, I would point you to, and I’d point listeners to the service profit chain.

Ethan Beute:
I read it as a book years ago. It’s currently available, if you search “The Service Profit Chain Harvard Business Review”, it’s written by three or four Harvard professors. And what they do essentially is, they take revenue growth and profitability on the right side of this model, and they back into essentially, customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and then, they anchor that in external service value, and then they back into employee productivity, employee … Essentially, internal service quality, how well we treat our employees is the precursor to external service values you’ve already been arguing.

Ethan Beute:
So, this idea of selecting well, hiring well, onboarding well, developing well, training well, promoting, coaching, investing in letting these people know that they matter, and really investing in people, to watch them flourish within your organization, they proved quantifiably, that those two targets that we always focus on is sales teams and is companies, are the outcome. They’re the result of an investment in our people. And so, it’s there. Some of it’s there for you. I’m excited for you to put together a formal pilot.

Ethan Beute:
And now, I hate to end on the one that I’m really curious to hear about, because it’s not so positive and constructive. I recently had a guest on named Ben Smithwell, and he did a TEDX talk in the UK on bullying in the workplace, and why it persists, how it persists, et cetera. And so, I took it of personal interest, because I watched his TEDX talk before interviewing him, and it was just really eye-opening.

Ethan Beute:
And so, in Day 39, you talk about sales bullying. Speak a little bit about that problem, but, I guess, maybe, to honor the fact that it’s the last one I’m going to ask you about here, give some rays of hope around it as well.

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah. So, the best way I can think about, at least my perspective on bullying, and I think a lot often times, bullying gets paired up with micromanagement, pretty frequently, and creating this culture of fear.

Jeff Riseley:
I believe that humans in general are just not inherently bad people, and I find that when bullying is taking place, the bully is usually struggling with something themselves, whether it’s buried trauma, whether something in their environment is just triggering them consistently to behave in this way.

Jeff Riseley:
And I think that when bullying occurs, it’s a clear warning sign and a clear symptom that there needs to be more conversations around mental health at the workplace. Because when it’s being done at the leadership level, that’s not just impacting one person, that’s impacting the entire team.

Jeff Riseley:
And the best way that I know how to talk about bullying and connect it to micromanagement is, I see it as not negative. I just see it as a loss of perspective. When a sales manager and a sales rep are … The goal is to keep them in the present, and they’re vertically aligned. You have the sales leader up here, and the rep down here.

Jeff Riseley:
But what I see happen is, a sales rep might have a fight with their spouse, or, encounter a negative experience on the sales floor, whatever it is. And as a result, they move to the past. And the sales manager sees this and says, “Hey, how do I help this person? They’re underperforming. Let’s get them more training and coaching so that they can ask better questions, or close more deals.”

Jeff Riseley:
They try to do that, there’s no improvement back here because it’s not where the rep is struggling. So, then, they get frustrated. They start to worry about their own targets and their team’s targets, and what happens is, they jump to the future, and what you’re left with is, you’re left with this huge space in-between where one person is struggling, is stuck in the past, one person is struggling, worried about things from the future, and there’s this friction and this conversation that just can’t take place.

Jeff Riseley:
So, again, part of what I try to do is, help sales leaders that might be bullying in this situation, understand that, and see the symptoms when a rep is falling back in the past. Acknowledge that, and what can you do to help the rep get back to the future, work through these negative experiences, so they end up in the present together, where they can see the opportunity, and they can see creative ways to grow their business and sell more effectively.

Jeff Riseley:
That’s the ultimate goal with leadership from my perspective is, people aren’t inherently bad. It’s just two different perspectives that are having trouble talking to each other.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, really important there. First, I’ve often seen bullies as just people who are not whole and healthy themselves, and they just don’t have, for some reason, don’t have it in themselves to deal with a situation in a healthy way, and so, they wind up bullying. In some cases, it’s structural. They’re allowed to bully because they’re the supervisor.

Ethan Beute:
I also really like what you did there with going to the past, going to the future. I can see that in a wide variety of scenarios, and what it points to is just staying aware and cognizant, and having the patience to stop, pause, think about what’s happening, and maybe see where that gap is before reacting, whether you’re the manager or the salesperson in that situation.

Ethan Beute:
And for folks who are listening, and could not see what Jeff was smartly doing with his hands, I do put up video clips at bombbomb.com/podcast, not of the entire conversation, but of key passages, including that one.

Ethan Beute:
And so, you can also check out other great sales episodes, like Episode 49, with Scott Barker from Sales Hacker and outreach, where we talk about marketing tactics that salespeople should be stealing from their marketing brothers and sisters.

Ethan Beute:
And Episode 51 with Joe Caprio, the VP of Sales at Chorus, where we talk about sales enablement and sales readiness. When you have tackled your own well-being and focused on that for your team members, there’s some other great sales tips, of course, here on the Customer Experience Podcast.

Ethan Beute:
Jeff, as we wind down a little bit, I always love to give you, just out of appreciation for your time, and to honor our Number One core value of relationships, I’d love to give you the chance to thank or mention a person who’s had a really positive impact on your life or your career. And I will, only because she’s already come up, I’m going to exclude your girlfriend from this one, because it sounds like she’s been really good along your journey, and she even offered a couple pieces of advice that you’ve offered here in this conversation.

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah. No, I think there’s two people, specifically. And going back to that first sales environment that I was working in, I would have had a totally different experience. I would have been one of those reps that was out the door, and wouldn’t have been in sales. I would have burned out, and would have been doing something totally different that I am right now.

Jeff Riseley:
But there’s two. I had two managers at the time. There was a guy named Ryan Austin, who’s doing really awesome things at a company called Synapse right now. And another Ryan, named Ryan Hiscox, who is the Director of Sales over at Vend right now. And both of them were just so incredibly supportive.

Jeff Riseley:
Ryan Austin was one of those leaders that would get on the phone and coach and lead from the front. And Ryan Hiscox has been one of those people, both of them good mentors of mine, but Ryan Hiscox was someone that really helped me connect to the human side, helped me learn ways to keep perspective and get to that understanding that hitting your sales target isn’t always going to be the most important thing. It’s going to be the relationships that you build with the people and your colleagues. That’s what’s really important. And, how do you foster that and develop that in others?

Jeff Riseley:
So, both of them are huge mentors of mine, good friends of mine today. And two people that have an absolutely incredible influence on my life, and again, I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them.
Ethan Beute:
Wonderful. And here you are, taking so much of what you’ve learned from them, and were encouraged by from them, and sharing it with other people. So, the goodness that we give out is exponential, and you never know how far, or even where it’s going to go. So, thank you for that, and how fun that they’re both sharing the same name.

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah.

Ethan Beute:
How about giving a shout-out to a company that you really enjoy or appreciate or respect for the way that they deliver for you, Jeff, as a customer?

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah. I think I’ve got to go with one of my local favorites here in Toronto. It’s a company called Imperfect Eats, and they primarily, they source all of their food locally, and they provide really healthy options by sourcing imperfect vegetables, or the ones that the stores might not necessarily want, or, might have a bruise on one side.

Jeff Riseley:
But I love what they’re doing because it’s not only looking for ways to be more sustainable, but one of my biggest pet peeves personally is, I think a lot of us are going to need to change our diet in the near future to be more environmentally-friendly. But I find that there’s also this barrier between a lot of higher-end healthy eating options that are just obnoxiously overpriced.

Jeff Riseley:
So, I always respect, and always appreciate businesses and restaurants that are trying to make eating a healthy lifestyle more accessible, and easier to do on a consistent basis, and be mindful of that whole customer experience.

Ethan Beute:
I love it.

Jeff Riseley:
I’ve got to give them a huge shout-out.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. I’m going to have to check out Imperfect Eats. I forget the name of … I had Dan [Gingiss 00:40:58], a customer experience expert on the show, I think back in the episode in the 20s or 30s by number, and he mentioned a company here in the states that does similar, and I really appreciate your observation that the environmental consequences of our diets are very, very, very significant. It’s something I’ve been attuned to and aware of for years, and I think we have a lot of kinship around that topic.

Ethan Beute:
And of course, what you have here with Imperfect Eats is also that you’re dealing with food waste and hunger issues as well. I don’t care where you’re listening right now, there are a lot of people, as many as one in seven people in your community, who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. And so, this idea that this wonderful, healthy piece of produce, that just doesn’t look quite the right way to put on the shelf, to display for purchase, is going to go to waste, is just absolutely obnoxious and sad, and terrible. So, big ups on Imperfect Eats. I love that recommendation.

Ethan Beute:
Jeff, I really appreciate your time so much. As I already said, I really appreciate the work that you’re doing. I think you’re helping a lot of people. I think by focusing on being whole and healthy people, not just our work is going to be better, but our relationships are going to be better, and our lives are going to be better. I think we will be more effective team members, no matter our seat in the organization, if we follow some of the guidance and advice that you offered, and encourage people to do the same.

Ethan Beute:
So, if folks want to follow-up with you, Jeff, and connect with you, or the Sales Health Alliance, or any other work that you’re up to, where will you send people to connect?

Jeff Riseley:
So, the website is saleshealthalliance.com. There’s a lot of longer pieces. I’m always looking for stories that people can share anonymously, or not, that highlight when we get mental health right, and when we get mental health wrong. So, the website has a lot of those pieces.

Jeff Riseley:
But, also connecting with me on LinkedIn. I try to post once a day, every weekday, around a different observation that I’m seeing, that turns into these longer e-books. Again, I’m more than happy to be accessible. So, if you want to drop me an e-mail, you can reach me on jeff@saleshealthalliance.com, I’m more than happy to connect that way as well.

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah, looking forward to it. I like the position that says, as an alliance, because since I started doing this alliance of salespeople, sales leaders, mental health experts and tech providers, it’s just really started to be picking up steam. And it’s cool. It’s a grass-roots movement, and I see it working. So, I’m excited to connect.

Ethan Beute:
Good. I will drop all of that contact information, those links, into our post. You can find that at bombbomb.com/podcast.

Ethan Beute:
I want to thank everyone for listening, and Jeff, I want to thank you again for your time, and for what you’re doing in the world.

Jeff Riseley:
No, thanks to you, Ethan. I think you’re doing something amazing as well. And I think, like I said, the customer experience and the employee experience is going to be more important than ever, with what we’re dealing with right now.

Ethan Beute:
Cool. You know I agree with that.

Jeff Riseley:
Yeah. Thanks, Ethan.

 

Video Highlights: Mental Health in Sales

Check out the top five video highlights from the discussion with Jeff below…

 

1. The Intersection of Mental Health and CX

 

 

2. How the Sales Health Alliance Started

 

 

3. Rethinking What It Means to Feel Lucky

 

 

4. Setting Up Salespeople to Fail

 

 

5. Salespeople as “Corporate Athletes”

 

 

More from Jeff Riseley:

 

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Please Subscribe to and Rate The Customer Experience Podcast:

 

 

Jeff Riseley, Sales Health Alliance, mental health in sales

 

 

Ethan Beute

Ethan Beute | About The Author

Chief Evangelist at BombBomb, co-author of Rehumanize Your Business, and host of The Customer Experience Podcast, Ethan collects and tells stories of clearer communication, human connection, and higher conversion with simple, personal videos. BA: University of Michigan. MBA: University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Fresh air & clean water.