Christopher Robin is currently the Founder of Sweet Leads and Managing Partner at ExIP. He spoke with the Sales Health Institute to share his story and best practices for managing Mental Health in Sales.
Sweet Leads is a boutique firm that helps companies with their marketing and sales related activity. ExIP is a specialist in helping companies establish presence in foreign territories. This includes compliance, recruitment and sales and marketing needs.
Why do you think more awareness is needed around Mental Health in Sales?
Primarily because I’ve seen so many people crash and burn. In some ways it’s not an awareness but more of a responsibility.
Managers know it’s their responsibility, directors do too but they choose to close the door on it. It’s easier to hide from the reality that your working environment might be making people ill, in the pursuit of sales than it is to accept, make changes and open the door to a positive attitude and acceptance.
I’ve seen people sacked and bullied into resigning because of mental health issues. It’s very easy to find ways to get rid of people without mentioning it and even easier to be so toxic that they have no choice but to leave. It’s happened to me before and other people I know too.
What has been your experience with Mental Health throughout your Sales career?
My first experiences of mental health were outside of work. I was 15 privately fostered and spent my mid and late teens living in hostels and supported accommodation. Mental health issues come with the turf.
The people I lived with were often unwell or fresh out of prison. Suicide was very common, mostly in men and it never really came as a surprise. These were homeless people with no family, often unemployed or struggling to manage their emotions. Nobody wanted them.
The same issues that affected those people, I noticed affected people I worked with as part of the sales teams I was in. I worked door to door sales for about a year. If you were having a bad day, the boss would say you were ‘having a pity party’ and proceed to mock you. This happened in other sales roles too.
I feel like I’ve spent most of my working life surrounded by alcoholics that drink to manage the stress of hitting target and smother mental health issues so they don’t have to feel it anymore. I totally relate to this but I don’t do it myself, at least not anymore.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever really be able to manage my own struggles. I usually try to face them and have some kind of routine. When it comes to a difficult patch, I can form terrible habits very quickly so I avoid alcohol – the taste of smothering emotions can be too sweet for me. I also try to avoid caffeine and focus on getting enough sleep.
Who have been your biggest workplace influences around positive Mental Health?
To be honest, I’ve experienced so many toxic environments it was one of the main reasons I started my own business. I decided it was time to take control and take no more nonsense from inflated egos and the sociopaths that often work as sales managers.
There are no positive mental health experiences that I can recall or positive influences in other workplaces. Maybe I chose some bad companies to work for?
During a typical day, week, month or quarter working Sales – What events impact your Mental Health the most?
I find that managing my tasks with Trello helps. Exercising early can have a positive impact on the rest of the day. I don’t work to quarters at this moment in time, it’s all one day at a time over here and that works for me.
Time wasters and nasty competitors can sometimes get me down and if I look too far into the future, I find it overwhelming. When I was in sales working for someone else, I found end of quarter, month and year were incredibly challenging. What might have made that easier is camaraderie and a manager that didn’t march around the office threatening ‘performance improvement’ for anyone who didn’t make target.
What are some of your Best Practices for maintaining your Mental Health while working in Sales?
Mindfulness – not in the ‘roll out a matt and aum’ kind of way, but having little ways to bring focus to the current moment. What’s going on at that time and place. It can be as simple as feeling the breath in your nose or your hands on the desk, nobody even has to know.
Exercise – I’m a power-lifter these days, it’s a big thing for me and I’m getting very good at it. 4 times a week I go to the gym to lift heavy and mindfully. If you’re not lifting mindfully, you’re probably going to get hurt, so this extends into mindfulness practice. It’s taught me so much about myself.
Usually these sessions are followed up with 30 minutes of cardio a day and 5 miles of walking.
Patience with yourself – nothing happens overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Empire took over 50 years to grow. If you’re having a bad day, maybe give yourself a break?
Humour – post something ridiculous on LinkedIn, watch something that makes you laugh, work with people you can joke around with, call someone hilarious. This is a huge one for me and I refuse to work with giant egos.
Forgiveness – Allow yourself to make mistakes, they’re good ways to learn and if they’re really that big a deal, they’ve already happened, the future lays ahead.
Food – good food can change everything. Because of the power-lifting, I have a strict food regimen. It’s not the Coco Pops I often joke about but a highly nutritious balanced diet that I run from a spreadsheet. It’s not as bad as it sounds, I had a bowl of ice cream at the cinema the other day….
How do you talk about Mental Health at Sweet Leads?
At my own company, I sit and discuss matters with my cat, Stimpy. He’s much less judgmental than humans.
If I had an employee, I’d always hope to come across approachable and would really want them to tell me if there was a problem. Tell me about the challenges they were facing because I know what a difference that might have made to me.
What is the number one thing you would change about working in Sales that you think would improve Sales Rep Mental Health the most?
Businesses accepting responsibility for it. If every work place was accepting and understanding of it, imagine the impact on society?