Rebuilding our Mental Wellbeing in Sales


Sales Trend 11 from the Barrett 12 Sales Trends Report for 2021 is about the toll that the pandemic is having on our mental health and what to stop, keep, and start doing to restore it.

blog-number-10-sales-trends-2021Not long after the pandemic had taken grip of the world and we were all feeling unwell and out of sorts, an article came out in the Harvard Business Review that helped us understand what we were feeling. We had a name for it, it was grief [1]. Now we know that was only the tip of the iceberg of the emotions and states of mind we would go through on the months to come.

The pandemic and all its consequences -on our health, way of living, work, how business operate, on our livelihoods, etc.- affected everyone in different and similar ways. This sales trend focusses on how to rebuild our sales teams with mental health in mind.

For business owners, boards, CEOs and their executive leadership teams there was no choice but to work through an unprecedented time of chaos and uncertainty. Many having to make critical decisions about the viability of their business, grasp the impact of gaps and changes in supply chains, customer behaviour, public health, employee welfare, and face the fact that some people’s livelihoods would be lost.

Staff, employees, freelancers, and any kind of worker, really, had to adjust to work from home, home-school children, the uncertainty and chaos, and in some cases the reality of no longer having a job, sickness, financial distress, childcare, parent care, to name a few consequences of the pandemic.

Research also showed that people are now working longer hours because it’s difficult to put in place boundaries between personal and working time,[2] they spend more time reporting to managers and clients so work doesn’t seem invisible, and many are burning out due to the sustained concentration needed in video meetings.

The lack of in person social interaction has taken a toll on many teams, too. This is particularly strong in field salespeople used to visit clients.

All this (plus more) has brought to the fore discussions about mental health in businesses like never before. So, what do businesses and sales leaders, and salespeople need to stop, start, and continue doing regarding our mental wellbeing in 2021?


Toughing it out by yourself: Sales has long held onto the myth of the tough sales professional who can go it alone and survive. We all have our limits. 2021 will see a shift to collaboration and a raised collective awareness about mental health, asking people how they are, and holding space to listen. Seeking help for any issues we may be experiencing will be openly encouraged by those organisations that understand that mental health is key to teams’ wellbeing.

Pretending everything has to be positive all the time: COVID has made everything very clear, starkly so. For many people, while challenging, this candour was also refreshingly salient. 2021 will see us moving away from the sugary coated, super positivity hype often inflicted on sales teams – to keep them ‘motivated’. Seriously, we already know this stuff does nothing for anyone’s short, medium, or long-term success and is a waste of time, effort, and money. Instead, expect to see more candid, real and constructive conversations and communication about ’what is’, ‘what’s possible’ and ‘what we can do’ moving forward. These kinds of conversations will tap into the intrinsic motivation of people, giving them substance to work with and agency to take real action even if it’s tough going. This approach will be far more enriching and long lasting for our sales teams’ mental health and wellbeing than any hyped-up motivational speech.


Acknowledging salespeople as more than just closers of deals: A number of sales leaders of large field sales team in the industrial and building products sectors are reporting that some of their field sales team members were really lost and experiencing, in essence, existential crises during lockdown because their day-to-day interactions with their business community were taken away. It has become increasingly apparent that for many salespeople, their daily interactions with their markets, clients and competitors is a vital part of their social life, their community, their identity. The nature of relationships – the deep business and social bonds of trust, reliability, and friendship – that effective salespeople develop over the years are more than a sales transaction, a closed deal. No wonder many found themselves cut off and feeling lost and anxious during lockdown. This is where businesses, especially sales leaders, need to acknowledge the way salespeople may be feeling and help them process these feelings -when it’s appropriate- in constructive ways that help rebuild connections for salespeople back into markets and their business community.

Find new ways to stay connected: effective salespeople understand the vital importance of staying in touch with clients and markets. In 2021 workplaces will have much more stringent COVID safety on-site work standards in place so salespeople won’t be able to ‘pop in’ like they used to. To give salespeople some degree of agency and take the worry out of staying connected, smart businesses are already rebuilding how their sales teams can keep selling, stay connected, and create a sense of  ‘office vibe’ and belonging to a team. This includes collaboration software, help with setting up functional home office space, safe and flexible in-office working arrangements, and regular communication with each other to show support, share ideas, and find ways to be successful together. Even if we are apart, we can find ways to stay together.

Providing mental health support: organisations that are yet not providing some sort of mental health support will have to look into this. Support can mean raising awareness and guiding people to where they can find professional help, tips and tools, and activities to promote better wellbeing.


Collaborating and communicating: 2021 will see smart business leaders collaborating and communicating with their people and teams on a deeper level and more often. Creating open communication where collaboration, sharing ideas, sharing the challenges, and working together is not only worthwhile but essential for future success. This is where we are likely to see the sales profession really become a collaborative team sport as we find better ways to stay in touch and maintain relationships internally and externally. Humans, after all, are pro social and rely heavily on interactions with each other to get along and work together, especially when things get tough. This is our true nature and so it can be with sales.


Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

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