Sales Hustle is now Sales Transformation
April 4, 2022

#278 S2 Episode 147 - FEEL WELL BEFORE YOU SELL! Improving your Mental Resilience and Wellness with Jeff Riseley

Today’s episode of Sales Transformation is about a topic that is barely being discussed but is very important for the development of sales people that needs to be addressed, and we are talking about mental health. Collin will be joined today by Jeff Riseley, the founder of Sales Health Alliance, a company that focuses on multiple ways to get involved and start improving your Mental Health, Resilience, and Mindset in sales.

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  • Jeff’s Sales Story
  • Experiencing the pains of working in sales
  • Discovering the importance of mental resilience
  • Misconception of mental health as mental illness
  • How sales leaders deal with their mental health


Jeff: “I started to realize that anxiety and sales are not optional. It's really part of everyday life, and when teams start to become anxious, depressed and burnt out, their performance really starts to suffer.”

Jeff: “Salespeople are corporate athletes and need to help them provide them with tools to help them navigate these unique stresses in sales in a mentally healthy way.”

Jeff: “I always say sort of the mental health strategy that too many sales organizations implement is Having a really fun drinking culture as a way to kind of blow off steam. But that really just perpetuates the ability to take care of yourself and lean into what these emotions are trying to tell you and sort through them in a healthy way.”

Jeff: “Many people are still defining mental health using a definition closer to mental illness, where mental health is, in fact, the spectrum of well being that we fluctuate along, based on what's happening in our internal environment, like our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, as well as our external environment.”

Jeff: “No one's immune to it, and leaders kind of overcome that vulnerability, vulnerability paradox, they absolutely need to share first to create that safe space and it doesn't happen in one massive swing, like leading a wellness initiative or bringing me in to kind of leave a little one hour session with your team.”

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#278 S2 Episode 147 - Jeff Riseley

[00:00:00] In the world of sales, you either sink or swim or breakthrough to the next level. My name's Colin Mitchell. And this is sales transformation, a new kind of sales show designed to bring you through the epic life-changing moments of elite sellers. So you can experience your own sales transformation.

[00:00:29] Hey, before we start today's episode, I wanted to bring you in on the best kept secret in B2B sales. If you're serious about social selling and your only strategy is cold DMS through LinkedIn, you're missing the mark big time. Learn how I fully manage revenue generating podcasts can change your life and your

[00:00:55] All right. Welcome to another episode of sales transformation. I'm very excited to have Jeff Risely on today. He is the founder of the sales health Alliance and helps salespeople improve their sales performance through better mental resilience, mindset, and stress management training. Jeff, welcome to the show.

[00:01:13] The spirit calling always pumped when there's an opportunity to talk about this topic. So I'm grateful for the opportunity to chat. It's a topic that. Still doesn't get talked about enough, right? Like even if I just think about our show alone, you know, 270 plus episodes, and we definitely have not even scratched the surface on, you know, what we're going to delve into today with, with you.

[00:01:37] Um, and I think it's, you know, there's people like you and some others that are doing some good work and sh you know, shining a light more on this topic, but there's still plenty of work to be done. So, um, thanks for coming on. And I really just, if we can kick it off and just kind of take us back to. A little bit about your story and then, you know, talk more about, you know, kind of the topics that we have laid out for today.

[00:01:59] Yeah, totally. So I started working in sales. I've been in sales for probably the last 11, I guess, going on 12 years now. So started in the classic boiler room type of sales environment as being measured on whether or not it can make $200 a day cheap, two and a half hours of talk time. If you weren't hitting your metrics, you're let go pretty quickly.

[00:02:16] So. Very much that sink or swim type of sales environments. And on the service I managed to do really well from an individual contributor level, went on to be one of the top reps in the organization, all putting all sorts of cool incentives and bonus checks, all those things that we love about sales, but behind the scenes, I was not okay.

[00:02:33] Had really bad anxiety, really bad insomnia. And then I have these really nasty panic attacks in the middle of the night. Yeah. It was after the third panic attack in the hospital. When I thought, oh, this is no good. I should probably do something about this. So first thing I did was I went to see my doctor.

[00:02:49] He prescribed me some anxiety medication, which I tried for two to three months. Really hated how it made me feel. I felt like I lost touch with my intuition and my emotions and going to therapy 10 years ago was still highly stigmatized. So I stopped taking the medication. I was like, look, I'm at this point in my career where I found something, I really enjoy the learning, the growth, the rush.

[00:03:06] When you get any close, a big deal. If I wanted to maintain this career, I need to figure out a way to make myself more mental resilience. I started learning everything that he possibly could around. What has mental health, how does the brain react to stress? What are all the different habits, routines, and leavers that you can pull within your own body to show up and perform your best each day.

[00:03:24] So I started implementing this stuff for myself and fast forward to July of 2018. I hadn't really shared it with anyone, but July of 2018 and just launched my first sales consulting website. And it was like, here we go, entrepreneur life. And through to that three days after that, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

[00:03:39] So life through this crazy, crazy curve ball, I was not ready for. But it was through that experience where I realized the same strategies I was using to take care of my mental health and sales and naturally executed on during this next stressful period of my life. And that's when I started to realize that it looked like anxiety and sales is not optional.

[00:03:54] It's really part of everyday life. And when teams start to become anxious, depressed, and burnt out, their performance really starts to suffer. So my work and my journey to this point is how do we shift the. Shift the kind of mood of this topic away from this like doom and gloom type of idea around mental health and sales to really start looking at it as look, salespeople are corporate athletes and need to help them provide them with tools to help them navigate those unique stresses in sales and the mentally healthy way.

[00:04:21] And that's where we are now. And what I've been working on for the last three over three years. Wow. Okay. There's a lot. There's a lot to unpack there a little bit, but, uh, so I'm curious, I want to know, you know, before some of those, you know, anxiety and panic attacks, had you experienced anything like that before being in your sales job or did that really trigger that?

[00:04:47] Uh, I, I think it definitely. Because of sales. I obviously had some anxiety in university or in school with taking a test, but that's the thing with sales that a lot of people don't recognize is, like I said, if you have maybe a little bit of heartbreak, when you sort of break up with your first girlfriend or your boyfriend or your partner, or you have that stress before an exam or an exam period in university or school, and then.

[00:05:13] You get you learned to kind of navigate this over time, but the thing was sales is you handle so many difficult emotions on a daily basis, whether that's guilt, embarrassed. Shame feeling disconnected, combined with huge highs and rushes of closing a deal and confidence booming to then suffer a major setback the next, next second later.

[00:05:36] And it's really this whirlwind of emotions that makes it really, really difficult. If you haven't had sort of any training or support to navigate these difficult emotions, they can really take a toll on you. And I always say sort of the mental health strategy that too many sales organizations implement is having a really fun drinking culture as a way to kind of blow off steam.

[00:05:59] But that really just, uh, perpetuates sort of the ability to take care of yourself and lean into what these emotions are trying to tell you and sort through them in a healthy way.

[00:06:11] Yeah. I mean, so it's like all of the stress that you deal with in a sales role, you know, people are a little, you know, accustomed to dealing with like that much. Pressure and stress and rejection, um, on not that high of a frequency. Right. And throw yourself into an environment like that. Um, it can really accelerate, you know, any sort of things that you may already have going on.

[00:06:40] Yeah. But I would also say the part of it as well as, um, There's a concept called emotional literacy and a lot of people are emotionally illiterate. So what that means is a lot of people are emotionally literate and can label and understand what really powerful emotions feel like, like maybe happiness or joy or feeling sad, but they have a really difficult time identifying and labeling and being literate.

[00:07:08] And a lot of the more sensitive emotions. Feeling connected to someone, or what does shame feel like or guilt feel like? Or what does jealousy or envy feel like when your partner beside you close the deal or a lead that you were working on six months, six months before, like all of these things pop up and if you're not aware of what those feel like, they're really uncomfortable emotions that can bundle together.

[00:07:32] Stuck inside of you. And for me, the, how I was navigating it for a long time early on in my career was by trying to avoid them. I'd have this buzzing sensation at the end of each day, and I'd often turn to heavy partying, heavy drinking and hours of video games. But the more you try to run away from your emotions, the stronger they get.

[00:07:50] And they'd always come roaring back every Sunday night and lead to this very sleepless sleepless night and very stressful start to that. Um, okay. And so then we were, what was the first thing that you did when you started to like, try to seek out resources or get some help with these things that were going on?

[00:08:15] Yeah, I mean, for me, it was always about, uh, it was always about if I could sort of just get a better understanding of what was actually going on, like mental health was. Talk about a lot back then still not talked about enough today. And it was more getting a better idea of understanding how the brain actually works under stress.

[00:08:37] I think one of the biggest issues, one of the biggest things that we have a problem with in society today and within sales specifically as far too many. People are still defining mental health, using a definition closer to mental illness where mental health is. In fact, the spectrum of wellbeing that we fluctuate.

[00:08:56] Based on what's happening in our internal environment. Like our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, as well as our external environment, like the deals we're encountering or buyers, the people we interact with on a daily basis. So a mental health spectrum is very similar to the physical health spectrum, where people are going to be healthy.

[00:09:12] They're going to be thriving. They're going to be sort of out of shape or average, or might be overweight and unhealthy. And a lot of people are still defining mental health, mental illness, which is really only applying to those people who are very. Very anxious, very burnt, headed, very depressed, as opposed to like understanding like we're all at different parts of the spectrum applies to every single person that we interact with.

[00:09:36] And we can learn different ways to whether that's through proper sleep, proper nutrition, proper exercise, different mindset, strategies, different things we can start doing to make herself more resilient, to change your mood and take actions to shift our, our internal kind of feeling towards a more positive direction.

[00:09:54] Uh, yeah, I've never heard it explained that way. Right. But I love the sort of example of like, you know, somebody who's physically fit or somebody who's mentally fit, you know, by doing these things to take care of yourself, almost like you would do go to the gym. Right. And I think that, I mean, and, and you said something interesting there where a lot of people refer to like mental, you know, wellness to like a mental illness.

[00:10:20] Right. And so. Do you think a lot of people sort of avoid it because. They don't want it to be sort of labeled in a way that they may be seen negative or that they would be, um, looked at differently from their peers or, um, you know, maybe it's something they would not want to their boss or their manager to know about.

[00:10:41] What are your thoughts on that? I mean, you, you know, do this work every day. And so I'm sure you're in the trenches seeing, you know, what people are saying and getting feedback from folks I'm interested to see your thoughts. Yeah. I mean like it's sales is a performance driven role, so, and a lot of organizations aren't prioritizing things like psychological safety.

[00:11:00] So a lot of perhaps feel the need to. Hide any sort of weakness because any sort of weakness that they might be showing, even that is a day when they're struggling with anxiety, they haven't slept well or whatever, whatever it may be like, there's there, there's, there's an exposure and emotional exposure in that sense, the way I kind of talk about it as soon as a vulnerability paradox that exists within sales and the best way to understand the vulnerability paradox is part to ask you right now, how likely are you to be vulnerable with someone.

[00:11:32] Who's judging your performance every single day. And I'm guessing your hands would probably be not, not at all. Right, but that's the thing. Sales leaders need to have those vulnerable conversations to be able to support that rep who's who is struggling on an ongoing basis. So there's this weird kind of dynamic where like leaders need to know about this, but.

[00:11:54] There's a lot of fear around opening up and sharing that they might be struggling. Um, and that's what stigma is like. We, that's why a lot of the work I do is around awareness and educating and supporting kind of organizations, having these conversations internally, because we're not yet at a point where.

[00:12:13] If we go back to that idea of like the physical health spectrum, for example, when you say you're sick or your, if you get COVID, for example, society has accepted that you're in a sick role, you adopt this sick role temporarily. And when you're in this sick role, There's expectations or there's less expectations you receive support, you get time off and it's accepted as part of society.

[00:12:37] When you're in that sick role, responsibilities, expectations, change that doesn't really necessarily apply when you're feeling anxious or you're feeling burnt out society. Hasn't caught up to say, oh, you're in. Unwell you're in a sick role. How do we offload quota? How do we reduce expectations for a week or for a quarter and work with you to get that mental performance, that mental health back to a point where you're thriving.

[00:13:04] So you can be challenged. You can use stress to your advantage and you can perform at a high level on a daily basis. So we're not there yet, but we're trying to, trying to work towards that. Yeah. I'm curious. Um, sales leaders, right? Like, do they deal? I mean, not all, but a lot of sales leaders were sellers at some point.

[00:13:28] And so they know what the people on their team are dealing with on a daily basis. Um, and they're probably dealing with their own pressure and stress from, you know, investors, you know, um, and I'm curious. You know, if they have similar issues, have you seen like sales leaders having similar issues as well?

[00:13:49] And can they lead by example by just talking about it and being a little bit more vulnerable with their team? Yeah. Like it's, you're, you're absolutely right. Like it's, it's not a. It's not like the, it's not just a rep issue only. And, and sales managers are immune to this, uh, and sort of the latest research that I've done with on crutch on crushed and Richard Harrison, Harrison salting group, we put up this mental health and sale 2021 mentality and sales report.

[00:14:17] And it came back at about 58% of salespeople are struggling with their mental health. And if you look at a as account managers and frontline sales managers, they were all the ones that were struggling the most. Um, all around. I think just north of 60% of within those roles were struggling with their mental health, which is huge.

[00:14:35] Think about that. That's three out of five of your sales team is underperforming because of this because of declining mental health. Um, C-suite executives did a little better. I think they were around third sort of 35%. So there is some separation, but that's still a large portion. Leaders that aren't sort of prepared to sort of navigate the stressors within, within their own role.

[00:14:57] So you're absolutely right Mike it's, it's no one's immune to it and leaders to kind of overcome that vulnerability, vulnerability, paradox. They absolutely need to share first to create that safe space. And it doesn't happen in one massive. Like leading a wellness initiative or bringing me in to kind of believably to one-hour session with your team.

[00:15:21] That is obviously a good way to get the ball rolling, but it starts in those sort of micro interactions where you're saying when you're kicking off meetings, Hey, just a heads up team. I have a newborn baby at home. I didn't sleep that well last night. So if I'm short with you today, or I don't respond to your slack message in sort of a quick fashion, that's why it's not, has nothing to do with you.

[00:15:45] I'm not upset with you. I'm just struggling with that today. And doing that consistently on a daily basis helps normalize the experience makes you look like a human versus a judge. And again helps kind of build that shared compassion, understanding that this is, this is all stuff that we're going through, but I'm curious, what have you seen from, from your perspective in terms of like leaders?

[00:16:06] I know you're in a leadership position right now, but what are like, what are, what have you experienced on. Yeah. I mean, I think that, um, you said something really interesting, right? Is leaders need to sort of lead by example and share first. Right. Which is what you said. And I think that's absolutely right.

[00:16:24] Is, you know, showing that you're willing to be vulnerable is going to create a safe environment for people on your team to be willing to speak up and share about what's going on or be vulnerable, or feel safe, to be honest with you as a sales leader. Um, and so. You know, a lot of sales leaders, I think often want to be viewed as this position of power.

[00:16:47] Right. And to share these types of things you would think might make you look weak. Right. Um, which is, I think the kind of stereotype, typical, um, situation in a lot of sales org, but it actually doesn't, it's the opposite. Like you said, like it makes you. Viewed as more humid, like you're not immune to this because you're a sales leader or an executive.

[00:17:11] Um, we're all humans and we all have things that are going on and caring more about the people on your team as human beings than just people that are, you know, cranking out numbers for you, um, is gonna serve you well in so many ways. I mean, your team is going to perform better. Um, they're going to, you're going to have more loyalty.

[00:17:30] You're going to have a better culture. I mean, there's so many benefits to just being a little bit more transparent and vulnerable with your team. Yeah. And I think that's again to the stigma piece and like there's so much strength and vulnerability and saying, and as a leader saying, Hey, I don't know this.

[00:17:46] Feeling unwell today and sharing that with your team. Uh, I love sort of how, I think it was Brittany Brown that talked about it. And one of her books, uh, dare to lead. I think, where she was literally in a room full of, I think it was like 200 us Marines or something that had just gone back in combat and she was giving a vulnerability, talk to a group like this, and you can imagine how sort of nerve wracking that might be.

[00:18:09] But the way she positioned that was, she said she addressed the room and said, Of Navy seals and said, Hey, if you think about the most, a time in your life, when you were being the most courageous you've ever been, and they all thought about that. And she said, during those moments where you being vulnerable and every single person put their hand up, and it's true, when you're being, being a Marine, then they're putting themselves into harm's way to help them help their friends in the battlefield.

[00:18:37] It's a vulnerable experience that takes a lot of courage. It takes courage to open up and share those inner struggles that you're going with. But it's through sharing that you normalize, you be a leader, you position yourself as a leader through strength that is unmatched. That can not be matched by someone who's just staring at a Salesforce dashboard and managing to metrics every day.

[00:18:58] It just doesn't work that way. So how can. Sales team sales leaders get started. Right. And you know, like you said, it's not gonna, it's not something that's gonna happen overnight. Right. It's something that's going to have to, you know, you're gonna, there's going to have to be a bit of an initiative. And, you know, I mean, if you're coming from a place where.

[00:19:20] This stuff doesn't get talked about at all to then go to where, like it's a totally comfortable place for people to share and be vulnerable and, um, you know, tell their managers what's going on. Like, what are some things that sales leaders can do today to start to create an environment and go in a more positive direction and provide proper support to their team?

[00:19:41] Yeah. So a couple of things to what we've been talking. And start sharing start talking about the times when you struggled in sales, if a rep is struggling in projection or they just missed their target, engage with that rep by starting off the saying, Hey, I get what it feels like. This is a time when I miss target and here's sort of what I experienced and how I got through it.

[00:20:01] Step, very easy things on a micro level. Um, I've also written a book called the guide to better mental health and sales 220 strategy. Uh, support betterment, health and sales, and it's a way to have consistent talking points each day as a team, different aspects of stress, of mindset, of resilience and stress management things you can start doing to start having more productive conversations around this topic.

[00:20:24] And I guess the last thing is you can always, always check out sales, health lines, then a resource first and business second. So there's tons of articles on. Um, usually sort of my, the way I work with organizations is I lead one hour session. That's all around. Why mental health and sales is important, um, followed by different best practices that teams can implement has been really productive in helping getting this conversation, going with teams like outreach or DoorDash or Shopify.

[00:20:52] Um, just feel free to ping me and happy to kind of deliver something to your team and, and support you in this because I know it can be pretty scary, never done it for the course. Yeah, no, thanks so much. And where's the best place for people to connect with you directly? Yeah, probably on LinkedIn or through sales, health

[00:21:10] You can use the contact form. I'm the solo entrepreneur. So everything comes to me anyways. Um, so that would be sort of the best for sure. Awesome. We will drop the links there so that people can reach out to you. Thanks so much, Jeff, for coming on and talking about this, really appreciate it. If you enjoyed today's episode, please write us a review, share the show with your friends, and we're always listening for your feedback.

[00:21:30] You can go to sales,, drop me a voice DM, and I will get back to you. Hey, you stopped. That tells me you're serious about your own sales transformation. If you're tired of doing things the old way and want to get started in your journey with other people on the same path, head over to sales,, and crush your numbers on your leaderboard.

[00:21:51] Yeah. It's free sales cast, doc community. Send me a DM with your best pitch and mention this ad. And I might even give you free access to our best templates.