How you (and others) deal with stress – Part II – Sales

Earlier this week I posted an article that discussed measuring how prospective job candidates handle stress. The next area I wanted to focus on was sales people and sales situations. Sales is a really amazing field – in theory, something everybody can (and should) be able to do, and yet the chasm between good and poor salespeople is significantly wide.  I’ve blogged a bit about tactics that sales people can employ to be more successful, but have not focused much on the emotional tools that a sales person needs to bring to the table.  Sales is a highly stressful job.  Typically, a good portion of your salary is tied to “performance” or “success”.  So, you don’t get paid unless the customer buys. Second, you hear “No” more than any other role that I have come across – so handling objections and rejection is a must.

But many a great sales person has failed even though they have all the right attributes and attitudes – and that is because they let stressful situations take them off their game. There are many examples of stressful sales situations:

  • Legal Negotiations / Review – bringing several people together with different goals and objectives and getting them to agree on legal terms is exceptionally hard.  Many times, your customer will change their mind, flip/flop, and generally be unwilling to compromise. It’s very easy to lose your cool in these situations, and I see it happen all too often. This is where cool composure is a must.

  • Cold Calling – there is a good reason people don’t like this! It’s highly stressful. You will be told No 80-90% of the time. You will likely be hung up on.  You will be called names and/or degraded. And yet you have to keep smiling and keep dialing!

  • Internal disagreements – my personal pet peeve.  I used to joke earlier in my career that I always had to do two negotiations for every deal – one with my customer, and one with my internal legal/finance team.  The internal discussions are harder to manage, because emotionally you feel like you should not have to negotiate, that you’re on the same team and that your goals should be aligned. But the misunderstanding of sales people causes internal friction – legal/finance will typically assume that the sales team will do *anything* to close a deal, including agree to bad terms. So you wind up dealing with two different adversaries in your negotiation, and losing your cool with internal team members can be even more fatal than doing it with your potential customer.

These are just a few, but tying this back to hiring, I like to see how sales reps specifically address these three items during an interview, and also watch it closely once they are an employee. A sales person that lets these stressors get to them will have a dramatic drop-off in success, even if they are doing all the other things well.

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