How a Business Development Executive at American Express Manages Mental Health in Sales

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Ofer Zak is a Business Development Executive at American Express, spoke with the Sales Health Institute. Below he shares his story and best practices for managing Mental Health in sales.

American Express was recognized by the American Psychological Association for “outstanding efforts to promote employee well-being and organizational performance.” To read more, click the link at the bottom of the post.

What is your role at American Express?

I am a business development executive. My role consists of cold calling companies to give them access to business working capital through our credit card programs.

Typically I’m speaking to C and V level executives and pitch them for the sale. Also, I manage the account after signing, for customer experience and full card usage.

Why do you think more awareness is needed around Mental Health in Sales?

Sales is one of the most difficult jobs out there. Quotas, rejection, the grind of calling, things not going your way in a certain account. Ugh!

Without properly taking care of your mental health, all of this can build up inside until you’re filled with anger and resentment towards your job.

Your performance takes a serious dip, which affects your numbers, as well as how you get paid.

In the past for me personally, this has lead to a downward spiral. When my income is affected I often have anxiety  about other things in my life like supporting my family and paying for rent.

Over the course of my career, I’ve also noticed a lot of organizations want more for less from their sales reps. It often seems like salespeople can be treated like a number and there is little understanding around what’s going on in their personal lives.

Creating more awareness around Sales Mental Health would help sales professionals out a lot in terms of performance. In an ideal world, it would be great if entire companies were open to discussing Mental Health in the workplace and had programs in place to help salespeople deal with the pressures of a sales role.

What has been your experience with Mental Health throughout your Sales career?

I have had anxiety since as long as I can remember. As time passes I’ve learned to deal with it, or find tricks to help (both take a long time to develop).

Some of the challenges that I have faced in a professional sales role would be things like, not being sure if I said the right thing at the right time and how that could affect my relationship with a prospect. Maybe they thought I was weird or something. Or being super anxious when a prospect ghosts you for weeks.

When numbers are down it can be hard to stay positive and happy – depression hits. I have found that there are ways of alleviating some if not most (will not say all) anxiety.

Stay busy. If you keep cold calling, and emailing, and researching new companies to call, you won’t have time to be anxious. Walk away from your computer or phone. Just walk away.

Go for 20 minutes elsewhere. Chill out, fresh air. Go talk with co workers about irrelevant stuff. Coaching from teammates and managers has helped me overcome the talk track issues on the phone with prospects.

Who have been your biggest workplace influences around positive Mental Health?

I don’t really have an answer to that question. But because of the Sales Health Institute community and discussions on LinkedIn I have become more aware, and have become interested in the subject.

During a typical day, week, month or quarter working Sales – What events impact your Mental Health the most?

This one is easy:

  1. Being ghosted by a prospect.
  2. An account delaying the spend they promised.
  3. Missing targets.

I pride myself on being genuine and honest in all of my interactions with clients, however it affects me the most when those values aren’t reciprocated by the client or prospected.

Sure – business can be hard and clients shouldn’t have to, but I genuinely try to help all of my clients. I wish sometimes they understood, how much pressure I was under and how much it would help my Mental Health if they returned a call a call or email.

What are some of your Best Practices for maintaining your Mental Health while working in Sales?

These have definitely been the most helpful for me to use in the workplace.

  1. Walking away from my phone or computer for a few minutes every hour or two. It’s common sense, but not enough people do it.
  2. Talking with coworkers about silly nonsense. Keeping things light and humorous in the office is so important.
  3. Listening to music.
  4. Reminding myself that things always work out, because they always do.

It is so easy to lose perspective on the things that are important to you while working in sales. These four best practices really help me stay grounded and keep my anxiety at bay.

How do you talk about Mental Health at American Express?

I have told my manager that I suffer from anxiety. He has been awesome, and has coached me to manage my bad days when they pop up. As well, he has been instrumental in keeping me on track with targets and numbers.

What is the number one thing you would change about working in Sales that you think would improve Sales Rep Mental Health the most?

More transparency around why individual sales targets are raised would be a big one for me. I’m all for reaching bigger revenue targets, but sometimes the “why” is lost in top down messaging.

I work hard for my money and if targets are going to be raised, I think they should come with more training and coaching to help me achieve the new target.

Also more sick days. Or even manager approved stress days off. We spend 40+ hours a week in the trenches and companies should be taking more responsibility in helping employees gain access to mental health services.

The Sales Health Institute would like to thank Ofer for sharing his story and best practices around Mental Health.

You can learn more about how American Express is improving workplace Mental Health and view Ofer’s LinkedIn profile by clicking the links.

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