E40 - The Call for Improvement in the Mental Health of Sales Richard Harris, The Harris Group

Over the last couple of years, much has changed in our understanding of mental health in the workplace. These days, thinking about the mental wellbeing of employees is no longer optional for leaders, but a requirement.

To take that first step in cultivating a healthy work environment, business leaders must create an environment that allows their staff to thrive. This can start with leaders being open and encouraging in matters of mental health.

For Richard Harris of The Harris Consulting Group, this is crucial, especially among salespeople.

In this episode of Tech Sales Insights, Richard talks about his work in UNCrushed and the importance of taking care of your mental health while doing sales. He also gives tips for job hunting and the need to learn how to be a manager.

Richard’s first sales job was with the retailer, Gap. Then he sold classified ads where he missed an opportunity to work at Yahoo during its early days. He found himself in technology sales after, but when the company he was working for was acquired, he was laid off. He then became a sales consultant. This role is what would eventually lead to the formation of The Harris Consulting Group.

Destigmatizing Mental Health Issues in Sales

UNCrushed is a platform and community for mental health awareness. Richard previously worked with them to conduct a mental health survey among salespeople. Despite the results not being statistically significant, it was still important in shedding light on the mental health struggles salespeople face today.

One of its findings was that 60% of salespeople underperform because of mental health issues. A cause for this is the environment where salespeople work.

Quotas are part of life for people working in sales. Due to this, many salespeople feel the need to go above and beyond their targets. This creates a stressful working environment for most salespeople. For them, to overperform is the status quo.

Richard says that managers and executives need to create a safe space where people can talk about mental health issues. This makes employees feel supported and empowered to openly share their concerns. Another way is for leaders to lead from vulnerability. Leading from vulnerability, or opening up and relating with your employees in a more personal way fosters loyalty and empowers employees to do the same.

The survey also showed that salespeople who consider themselves with good mental health are three times more likely to rate their job as very good or excellent. This is a consequence of having a conducive environment that allows them to perform well while being able to take care of their own well-being.

Mental health is as important as physical health. People should put the same amount of care and effort into their mental health as well as their physical health.

How to Job Hunt

For Richard, people should never be afraid to look for a new job. When you feel that you aren’t getting the support you’re getting in your current workplace, it’s not wrong to leave.

It’s important to remember that people leave leaders, not companies. So when you feel that your manager isn’t managing you well and is unable to help you professionally, it might be time to update your resume.

That, incidentally, is the first step in job hunting. Updating both your LinkedIn profile and physical resume should take priority. It is important to clearly indicate your accomplishments. For salespeople, you also need to be clear on the companies you’ve sold to.

After that, just apply to any available jobs. After doing so, it’s not enough to simply wait for a call. Be proactive and reach out to the HR manager and hiring manager. Mention that you’ve applied to the role and would like to schedule an interview.

An important step before the interview is to list what you’re looking for in a company and in a job and build your questions around these qualities. This will help you find the right culture for you.

Lastly, remember to send out thank you letters to the people who have interviewed you.

Job hunting is like the sales process–only this time, you’re selling yourself and your experience.

Why People Need to Learn to be Managers and Leaders

Sales managers and leaders are instrumental in the success of their salespeople as well as their well-being. As such, they have a tremendous impact on the working environment and welfare of salespeople.

However, because of this responsibility, sales leaders are typically the ones that face the most stress, especially those in the frontline manager role. For Richard, this is especially concerning as, in the technology sales space, the frontline manager role is usually the first or second management role a salesperson takes up.

New frontline managers want to prove their worth but typically has no guidance on how to perform well in that role and be an effective manager. For Richard, it is equally important that salespeople develop key soft skills as early as possible. These skills include managing conflict and motivating people. These skills are as important as hard skills, like closing and negotiating.

For Richard, the challenge is that those currently in leadership aren’t usually skilled themselves to teach the necessary soft skills. To address this, it’s important that companies have some sort of education fund for employees to use to educate themselves on being stronger leaders and managers.

Even for salespeople who might not be interested in managerial positions, the soft skills of leadership and management are also key skills to succeed in sales.

Ultimately, a good manager and leader has a profound impact on the careers, performance, and well-being of salespeople. Especially in a period where mental health has become an open topic, a good manager can create an environment where employees feel valued and empowered instead of purely put under pressure.

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