Your Sales Superhero Might be Depressed. How Would You Know?


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We love a sales superhero! A well-dressed polished professional wearing a starched white shirt, accessorized with a Mont Blanc pen clipped to a conspicuously stain-free pocket. Winning smile! Proud! Confident! Fit! Resilient! A deal closing quota-buster!

What about the other end of the spectrum? The sales professional who has lost his or her momentum, zeal, and motivation?

I see some nervousness accompanied by uneasy shifting in the chair. “Oh yeah,” you think. “Like . . . (mumble) Steve. He hit a rough patch—he was a great rep who got put on a Performance Improvement Plan. I wonder what happened to him?” I understand the discomfort. Sales underachievement is an issue few of us enjoy discussing, particularly when it’s riches to rags.

Maybe Steve got depressed, and his boss and colleagues weren’t aware. Steve never talked about it. No one knew because his most apparent symptoms were confined to red numbers in the Revenue-to-date column on an Excel spreadsheet.

Close! Close! Close! Sales culture doesn’t afford the luxury of taking a nuanced view of low sales achievement. After all, Steve’s boss has a number to make, and he’s hell bent on achieving it. Who can blame him? Sales organizations can be described with many positive adjectives, but nurturing is not one of them. When Steve’s revenue performance is “on target,” Steve “justifies his existence,” as one former manager compassionately explained it. But when Steve’s performance hiccoughs, he’s a bum. It doesn’t matter how many Achiever’s Club plaques adorn his cubicle.

Sales isn’t for wimps. When revenue numbers go south, a salesperson’s send-off ceremony can be limited to a terse handshake in the 6th floor break room. “Sorry we had to let you go, but don’t let the door hit you in the rear on the way out.”

Sales management ranks are not saturated with compassionate people. One leader I spoke to about her decision to lay off her company’s sales force told me, “I’m not worried about it. Salespeople can always get jobs.” If she had added “let them eat cake,” I didn’t hear because of the steam blasting out of my ears.

The stereotypical image of the salesperson as eternally resilient, thick skinned, and owning a tough, suck-it-up attitude presents a great mental health risk. Add to that myopia the prevailing sales culture that lauds exceptional salespeople as superheroes, and “flushes” under-achievers, and you have an environment where the inevitable disappointments that come with the territory can slide into demoralization and ultimately depression. Oh, did I mention that men in particular aren’t often regarded as fountains of information in discussing their own health concerns?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “depression is more than the blues or the blahs; it is more than the normal, everyday ups and downs. When that “down” mood, along with other symptoms, lasts for more than a couple of weeks, the condition may be clinical depression. Clinical depression is a serious health problem that affects the total person . . . it can change behavior, physical health and appearance, and the ability to handle everyday decisions and pressures.” The superhero image must make mental health professionals go bonkers. Why do we invoke it so frequently for salespeople, and not for CFO’s, scientists, and truck drivers?

If you know someone who displays a combination of any of these symptoms . . .

loss of energy
difficulty falling asleep or waking up
appetite problems
unintentional weight loss or gain
chronic headaches or stomach aches
excessive irritability
frequently asks to be alone
drinks alcohol excessively
talks frequently about death

. . . contact the National Institute of Mental Health.

It might be the best way to rescue someone’s career, and more.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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