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Podcast: sales stress levels

How To Manage The Stress Of Selling

Feeling stressed? This week on sALES with ASLAN®, VP of Marketing Scott Cassidy chats with ASLAN President Marc Lamson on what you can do about end-of-quarter anxiety and sales stress levels (hint: It starts with a nice beer on Friday afternoons). 

Scott Cassidy: Welcome back to another episode of sALES with ASLAN where we are your weekly therapy session for anybody that sells for a living and I’m back with my good friend Marc Lamson this week. We have a really interesting topic, I think given the time of year we’re at or the time of the quarter Marc, we’re going to talk about stress and I think there’s a lot of different types of stress. We’re going to get into all of that. Good stress, bad stress, sales stress levels, but something that helps me relieve stress is to crack something cold and frosty on a Friday afternoon. So let’s get started with something. What do you have there? I can see it’s a pretty can.

Marc Lamson: I have a gift from a friend of mine who … they were leftovers from a little outing that we had through a local brewery in Providence, Long Live Beer Works, Providence, Rhode Island. I was in the mood for something a little meaty this afternoon here. It’s a double IPA, hopped with simcoe? S-I-M-C-O-E?

Scott Cassidy : I don’t even know what that is.

Marc Lamson: Had a taste of his, it was good. Then it’s 8.4% ABB in a 16-ounce can. So you math people out there can know that I’ll be drinking this slowly. Looking forward to it.

Scott Cassidy : You are going to be looking sloppy.

Marc Lamson: Oh, that was a little messy. Sorry.

Scott Cassidy : Yeah. Got that on the microphone there.

Scott Cassidy : Sorry. Oh my goodness. Well, and I want to thank you for my beer from your same friend, I assume, because it’s also from Long Live Beer Works, but mine is something a little fruitier. I’ve got a Pale Ale hopped with Pink Boots Society. I don’t know what even that means, but it looks fruity. It’s a hop blend and I’m going to crack that and see what I can find here. Oh, let’s see. Let’s pour that in there and it looks good that this color, nothing says Friday afternoon than that sounds right. I’m loving it. That’s really good. That is really good. Thank you, friend of Marc’s, for bringing that wonderful beer to us and thank you, Long Live Beer Works. So today, stress, Marc.

Scott Cassidy : I mean it’s end of quarter, right? Couple of weeks left in the quarter, people are starting to feel maybe the pressure and stress of the end of quarter. Let me tee us up with like a definition of stress. Right? Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. And so I think, let’s talk about, maybe we start with the positive. When is stress a good thing in our lives?

Marc Lamson: When you’re getting ready to die, that’s it, stress is a good thing. Is that a starting point?

Scott Cassidy : That is a starting point.

Marc Lamson: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve heard stories of people doing superhuman feats, lifting cars off of people, swimming for hours and hours and hours and treading water. There’s a fire, they’re up and escaping, getting people, so stress is a good thing. You mentioned in your definition, it can help our body get prepared to deal with an important heightened situation.

Scott Cassidy : Yeah. True. Very true. Let’s put it in the business world. Is stress good at the end of the quarter? I mean, should we feel a little bit of stress at the end of the quarter?

Marc Lamson: You know, we definitely, yeah, we should feel some stress. We should feel the need to kind of work at your best and need to do your best, but when the sales stress levels become too much, we all work differently under pressure. Some people say I work great under pressure. Yeah. Just not sure if that’s always sustainable. Certainly not a healthy thing. And you know, I think a lot of the pressure and stress and the bad stress is self-inflicted.

Scott Cassidy : Yes, totally agree. Most pressure comes from within. I think it’s inappropriate to think pressure comes from outside. And so let’s talk about maybe ways to enhance or embrace the good stress and how we might do that in our business world.

Marc Lamson: What’s good stress? You get ready to make a big presentation, go on stage, get ready for an important meeting. You feel nervous. That’s okay. That’s your body. It’s stress. It’s your body’s saying, pay attention. Wake up, make sure everything is good. Embrace that. You know, don’t, when someone says, are you nervous? Yeah, yeah, I feel nervous, anxious. You want to go do a good job that helps. So embrace that. Don’t try to avoid it. There’s people that try to do things to not think about something. Embrace it. You’re in a big stage, you have a big meeting, there’s something going on. It helps you prepare better. It helps your senses to be on your A game. And that’s okay.

Scott Cassidy : You know, it’s funny because even in our lives, when we do a lot of presentations in our world and when you’re getting ready for something big, that stress or that, I don’t know if it’s the right word, but fear of failure that I’m not going to be at my best, motivates you to maybe over prepare sometimes, and when you over-prepare most likely that doesn’t turn out to be a bad thing. You are more than ready for any situation. So I think that kind of stress can be very, very healthy for us. Now, bad stress, pressure that we put on ourselves, how do we maybe avoid that or figure out ways, methods, tricks that might allow us to reduce that? Because I think over time that can be very unhealthy.

Marc Lamson: Well, you’re right. Why do we want to reduce bad stress? I mean, there’s a couple of reasons. One is there’s plenty of research that proves that stress on your body is physically bad for your health. It releases too much cortisol. It affects your weight, your mood, your actions, your behavior, just lots of things. So it’s bad from a physical perspective and it’s bad because too much stress, it makes you a desperate salesperson. It makes you do things, you start discounting prices, you start saying things in a way that just show you’re desperate and it just is a bad spot to be in. And candidly, I have found over the years and some input from some other people and preparation for this, I want to share maybe four or five things that I think we can do to just avoid or avoid getting in stressful situations all together to begin with.

Marc Lamson: I think, yeah, that makes a ton of sense. I mean, for example, one of the things we talked about in preparation for this is that your job doesn’t really define you, right? As a salesperson, your quota doesn’t define you. I think we both had examples in our careers where, you know, I, when I was selling copiers in the early 1990s and was 9% of my quota in September, that was stressful. That made me think I wasn’t very good at my job. Yeah. And you know, that could have been the end of my sales career, but because I gave it another two weeks and used some of the tricks and ideas that we’re going to talk about, I was able to stick with it and have built a career in selling, and so I think having ways to deal with that are important. So tell us some of the other things that you think we should avoid. What are these four or five steps people can take away?

Marc Lamson: I think they call it the serenity prayer that’s written in a lot of different ways, but it’s basically knowing the difference between what you can control and what you can’t control. And choosing to focus on what you can control. The weather is a great example. We’re in Rhode Island, we fish, we use the boat. There’s a lot of things that are very weather dependent. You plan a party, it’s outside. Oh my God. And God forbid you plan an outdoor wedding. You want to look at stress? Talk to brides preparing for an outdoor wedding. It’s stressful. Is it going to rain? There’s nothing you can do about it. So you just, you just have to avoid that. It’s airplane delays. It’s all those things. In your job, it’s the same thing. Yeah. We actually look at ASLAN.

Marc Lamson: We say, “Hey, for every four opportunities,” and just to be transparent, we said, “When we get four opportunities, half of those are going to go away and have nothing to do with us.” Or sales execution. Budgets change. Companies get bought. People get fired. Things change out of our control. So we don’t set those up. That’s not our deal. That’s not our pressure or our stress. Focus on the 50% that are in our control and now you’ve just reduced half of the stress. So you can control, what, productivity stuff. We talk about something that Tom, our CEO says, who’s been here plenty is, you know, living daily, not monthly, not quarterly, not yearly.

Marc Lamson: It goes down to just breaking your business down. If you’re a salesperson, you should know certainly at a weekly basis, but at a daily level, what do I need to do to be successful? Whether it’s a number of calls or to a number of meetings, or here’s my goals, here’s two or three things for today. Breaking it down to baby steps and say, yes, I made three discovery meetings happen today. Yeah, perfect. That’s a good day. And if you’re doing the right things over time, good things will come. So focus on when you can control live daily, live in shorter cycles. Yeah, those are a couple, I think starting points.

Scott Cassidy : Yeah, those are, those are great. Those are great. You know, something else we kind of have talked about is, and you said it earlier, when when you feel stress or pressure from your boss or from yourself to make quota, you might start to do things that are not very other centered, that are not focused on the customer. And so at this time of year, end of second quarter where we’re really trying to make a number, we really want to avoid that and stay focused on leading the customer to help them answer their questions and get what they need out of it. And if we do that, we’re going to win more often than not. Right? And so I think this idea of focusing on serving others versus focusing on ourselves in our quota is something we really have to avoid in these stressful times. Right?

Marc Lamson: Well, it’s a good tactical example of changing your focus, what you can control versus you can’t. So if you just change your end game, you just change success and the definition of that to serving your customer versus winning the deal. Serving is completely within your control. Winning is not. You can argue whatever salesperson you want, but it’s not completely in your control. So if you say, my objective is to serve customers, you can achieve that goal a hundred percent of the time and relieve stress. I mean, I had a customer called me up recently and long story short, I did a freebie a few years ago for them. I do freebies all the time. Go out and speak and do something. And that’s serving. You know, that’s really going to clients and doing something because it’s going to help whether or not it’s being paid and whether or not it’s going to directly lead to a piece of business.

Marc Lamson: And I did a bunch of work and we didn’t get any more business and that was okay, but I didn’t feel any stress because that wasn’t my job to win. It was my job to help. And guess what, a couple of years later it comes back and says, hey, we never really did any business but we want to do something and now we have a deal and now you’re going to earn our business because of something you did two years ago. So if you have a long-term view but you focus, this is what I can control. And it just really helps.

Scott Cassidy : Well, in your timeline as a sales rep because you’re quarterly driven or monthly driven in your quota, it does not necessitate that that’s the customer’s timeline. Right? So to your point of being out of your control, budgets might shift, people might change, you might have to start over. Some of that stuff is just going to happen. And to put that stress on yourself is probably misplacing it. But when serving the customer at their time and doing the right things to try to help them make a decision that’s best for them, that’s a much less stressful way to go through the sales process. So any other sort of ways to avoid bad pressure and bad stress?

Marc Lamson: Yeah, I think in general, and this is sales and just in general, I’ll plug a book that I read not too long ago. Eat That Frog. Eat That Frog. Kind of weird. Brian Tracy. Everyone knows Brian Tracy. The quick synopsis is imagine every day to survive you have to eat a frog and that would not be-

Scott Cassidy : I wouldn’t enjoy that very much.

Marc Lamson: Yeah. So that stinks. But you have to eat it and if you don’t eat it, you won’t survive. So you wake up in the morning and your brain starts going, so what do you do? Do you eat the frog in little pieces? Do you wait at the end or do you just shut up, get up and just jam the frog? If you get up and jam the frog, what happens? All the stress goes away. Have you done this? This happens at work.

Marc Lamson: We all have a frog. It’s like, I’ve got to write this proposal. And so we start to come up with all of the other little things we’re going to do to get ready to write the proposal. We’ll, I’ll do it when I’m done this and it sits and it’s on our mind and it’s on our mind. Get up. Start … most of these things. By the way, once you start eating the frog, once you start eating your frog, it’s really not that bad and you can get it done. You start to have fun and you finish it, and the rest of the day you’re like, God, I got so much done today and your head is clear. So that’s a good read. Pick it up. And the point of avoiding the stress, the pressure is just eat your frog. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re preparing for a meeting in a hotel room the night before. That’s stressful. And that’s not your A game.

Scott Cassidy : You know, we used the term big rocks and little rocks when we set our goals for the quarter. And I think probably a lot of people know that analogy. And what you’re describing there and makes sense because if you hit the biggest thing early in the day, that really does set you up for a successful day. Because you know, I got the biggest thing done. Everything else I get done is going to be gravy and that’s going to be awesome. If you procrastinate, the end of the day comes and you’re like, oh I’ve still got to write that proposal. That is stressful. That is stressful. Especially if it’s due the next day. So that’s a good one. All right. So we’ve talked about avoiding bad stress. What about the invariable possibility that stress just, it does exist. How do we manage it? Let’s talk a little bit about, and I know there’s several ideas and several ways that those listening out there can probably learn from our years of experience.

Marc Lamson: Yeah, we’re going to have it, you know, we try to avoid it, but it comes, especially in the life of a salesperson, it just, something happens. For me, one of the things where it hits me is I’m going to be late for a meeting. Yeah. This is something that just happens. We get in the car, we have a couple of hours drive. There’s an accident or something. I allowed plenty of time, but whatever happened, what do you do? You’re stressed and you just are. It’s just, it’s just in front of you. Oh my God. If I’m late for this meeting, I’ll refer it to another book, but more of a of an author that I’m a huge fan of. Dale Carnegie and Dale wrote this great book in the thirties this is a, this is a 1937 copyright.

Marc Lamson: Yeah. 37 copyright and it’s still a relevant book. Yeah. It’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and there’s a section there talks about stress, when we feel, and he has a three step process, so I’m going to share from reading the book the three step process. He says determine what the worst, whatever stressing you, determine the worst case scenario. Step two, accept the worst case scenario. And third is focus your energy on just avoiding the worst case scenario or just improving and making it a little better. So what’s the worst case scenario? I’m driving in the car. I’m heading to a meeting. There’s a presentation. It’s an hour presentation to sell something. I’m late, I’m going to be late.l I think I’m going to be late or I’m stressed about it. Yeah. Sweating. Speeding, on the shoulder of the road.

Marc Lamson: Right. Risking my life. Risking a ticket. What’s the worst case? The worst case is-

Scott Cassidy : You missed the meeting.

Marc Lamson: I missed the meeting. That’s the worse thing that happens.

Scott Cassidy : That’s really bad.

Marc Lamson: Yeah. I missed the meeting. Yeah. So, what happens? Can I accept that? I mean, I have to. I have to. I mean, you know-

Scott Cassidy: To your point earlier, it’s out of your control. You didn’t plan, I mean, you planned for travel-

Marc Lamson: Likely, the people in the meeting have missed meetings before. They have traffic. They live here, they get it. And so then I just say, look, I’ll just call and say, Hey, I’m really late and I may miss the meeting so we could reschedule or maybe 10 minutes late. And you know what happens? They say, oh my God, no problem. We’re kind of running a little late anyway.

Marc Lamson: A few minutes later would be better for us and don’t worry we have time on the back end. I mean I literally had that happen to be a couple of years ago. And so I [inaudible 00:17:27] all the stress and I just stayed focused on making time. I arrived at 9:12 for a nine o’clock meeting and we went until 10:30 we had more than enough time to go over the deal versus sitting there and stewing and doing stupid things.

Scott Cassidy: So I love, I love the Dale Carnegie Methodology. That book was excellent. I think we both read it around the same time many, many years ago and we can learn a lot from that. I do think accepting worst case scenario, first determining what it is, accepting it and then building your battle plan from there will reduce an immense amount of stress. What are some other ways? What’s another couple of clues and hints?

Marc Lamson: Yeah, there are physical, I mean that’s more of a mental sort of approach to deal with the stress that’s in your face when it’s unavoidable, but then there are some physical approaches. I like to meditate. Whether you meditate, whether you pray, whatever it is, just take it out of gear for a minute. You know, we sit here and our brain is revving and our mind is revving. Is brain/mind the same thing?

Scott Cassidy : It really kind of is.

Marc Lamson: Yeah. I, I was trying to come up with a-

Scott Cassidy : Are you going to try to confuse people?

Marc Lamson: I’m going to try, I’m trying to come up with an opposite of your mind. But at the desk, my body is not really revving right here. I wouldn’t say so. So if you’re a desk jockey, your mind is revving but your body is pretty un-revved. It’s in neutral.

Scott Cassidy : Exactly right.

Marc Lamson: But your brain revs and it doesn’t shut off and you have to stop it for a minute. And so there’s lots of things you can do. I’ll speak specifically to Calm, C-A-L-M, Calm. It’s an app. It’s a free app. You can pay for better versions of it, but it’s a … go to Calm, download it and you can just set it and every day it’ll give you a seven minute meditation exercise. Get out of your chair, go find somewhere else to sit quietly, close your eyes and just hit play and just listen to her. Just do what she says. She’ll talk about your breathing and if you really let your … and she’ll say, don’t worry. I know you’re thinking about things right now and don’t feel guilty that you’re thinking about other things. Just come back to center, come back to breathing. And I know that sounds a little corny in some words. It’s amazing. And I’ve done it where I’ve like looked at my blood pressure and my pulse just for fun. It’s ridiculous. The impact seven minutes of just stopping has.

Scott Cassidy : Yeah. I do something similar. I bookend the day with it and I’m thinking maybe I need to do more in the middle of the day. Maybe we’ll talk about a few ways to interrupt your day too. But at the beginning of the day I read, I get up before everybody else and I read devotionals or different ways to just get my mind sort of centered. And at the end of the day I try to do yoga a couple of times a week, exactly what you’re talking about, where you just are, you’re trying to put everything out and it’s hard. It’s hard to just take everything out of your mind and focus on yourself or on you body or whatever. But the better you get at that, I think the lower your stress rate can go. You just start to really focus on the things that are important.

Scott Cassidy : Your health, your breathing, the way you feel, the way you treat others. Right? I mean, stress appears in a lot of ways in our personal lives, right? If we’re stressed about quota, making quote at the end, that can come out in the most awkward times over dinner with someone that has nothing to do with your quota and you really want to avoid that. Trust me, as someone that’s been bad at that over the years. You want to avoid taking the stress of work and putting it on your families and your friends. So you know, having little ways to sort of meditate or read or have little podcasts that sort of help clear your mind. I know you want to … even exercise, right? So even taking breaks during the day, our president went out and bought a new health plan this year and forced us to get out and walk six times a day.

Scott Cassidy : And I want to thank him personally for that cause he’s sitting right across from me. And he’s bigger than me.

Marc Lamson: Oh, it’s not forcing, it’s encouraging.

Scott Cassidy : But it’s really been awesome. And I talked about this, I was a guest on another podcast not long ago, and I said, I love when my watch goes off and says time to move. Because you know what? Otherwise I don’t think about it. I just keep working. I keep plowing, I keep going from meeting to meeting. I keep doing what I’m supposed to be doing and I never take a break. And now six times a day at least I take a break and it forces me to get out and just … I usually don’t put in headphones or anything, just go out in nature, clear my head, come back refreshed. And so I think getting out and going for a walk … maybe, and I think you go to the gym during the day sometimes.

Marc Lamson: And to be clear about going for a walk. We’re not talking about the 30 minutes, Literally the plan we have is five minutes. I know exactly what I know that walk out of my office and I know where I go. It’s five, six minutes and it’s just everything changes. Everything gets clearer. Just in the five or six minutes of work time you lost, you did not lose anything.

Scott Cassidy : No. When you walk out, you see birds and animals and kids playing and it just kind of recenters you. It just sort of reduces the stress.

Marc Lamson: Yeah, so there’s that exercise. But there’s also, you know, I’m a believer of slowing your mind down, which slows your body down, meditating. But then there’s the other way to just sort of rev it up. Go crush your body, go exercise, go for a vigorous bike ride or go to the gym or go lift or do something intense, you know? Yeah. It’s during the day, you don’t have hours to do it, but everybody’s got 30 minutes. And not every day, right? Not every day, but most days you have 30 minutes. And if you’re in a job where weeks go by and you don’t have 30 minutes, you’re in a bad job you’re in a job that you have to learn to take 30 minutes.

Marc Lamson: And then maybe it’s before, maybe it’s the end, maybe it’s not some big lunch, but there is a, and I’m not a runner but there’s other forms of exercise where that runner’s high. People talk about it, it’s there. Your endorphins get released. It gives you all this energy. You just feel better, you feel better. Just like the frog. You feel better because you’re like, oh, I exercised, I felt good. And you physically feel good for exercise and just a bunch of things. So lots of ways to exercise. So calm your brain down, but then go rev your body up. Those are just easy.

Scott Cassidy : Yeah. I mean a lot of people like to listen to podcasts while they’re exercising. Right? And so I think it’s a great way to sort of combine maybe some additional learning. Maybe some ways that you’re doing some self improvement or maybe it’s just listening to a devotional or you’re listening to your sports podcast, whatever relaxes you and sort of keeps your mind stimulated in some way while you’re working out is a great way to do that. And you know, maybe this podcast is a-

Marc Lamson: Well I would just add, my closing thought was I would just offer that this is part of what we’re trying to do. We’re giving you tips to improve your, what did you say to master your craft? Whether you’re having a good week, celebrate. Have you ever had a tough week? You’re feeling … if you haven’t embraced all the good stress and you haven’t avoided all the bad stress and you just have some stress and it’s a Friday afternoon, well, I feel less stressed now that I’ve been drinking this 8.4% ABV. So this is not a journal of medicine endorsed podcasts. I don’t think. We’re not in that channel, are we?

Scott Cassidy : No. No, no.

Marc Lamson: I mean, I know we talk exercise and walking and healthy, but we are a balanced, we try to give balanced news. Is that what we do here?

Scott Cassidy : Wee do and a little bit of better living through chemicals just a smidge. It’s not-

Marc Lamson: Well alcohol is natural, it’s not a chemical. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Scott Cassidy : No, it’s water soluble and it flushes right out. It’s all good for you.

Marc Lamson: So yeah, good. A good cold frosty one on a Friday afternoon to not remove your stress but to just give thanks for what you have and your blessings and realize that if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably pretty lucky. You’re probably employed and you’re a salesperson providing for your family and just to back up and just take it all in and be thankful and realize there’s so many others that are less fortunate. And what’s your stress about? I have a buddy of mine that says if you have a problem that can be solved with money, he said it’s not a problem. And by the way, even if you don’t have the money, so if it’s anything related to your job, it’s anything related to sales can be solved with money. The reason you want to sell more is you want to make more money, so if you just had money, it wouldn’t be any pressure. Even if you don’t have the money, that’s not truly a problem. There’s problems that can’t be solved with money in life. And those are the problems that drive stress. The problems we’re solving here, not really problems.

Scott Cassidy : Yeah. Well, very good. Just to summarize, this whole discussion has been all about stress, right? How to embrace good stress, how to avoid bad stress, and then how to manage those moments where stress is inevitable. And, and hopefully we’ve given you some tips and some tricks that we’ve found to be successful over the years and hopefully you will too. So thanks again for another great discussion on sALES with ASLAN. We’ll see you next week as we uncover another great topic. Have a great week everybody.

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