Sales is a particularly stressful job. How many times a day are your reps put on hold or ghosted? Cursed at? Hung up on? Flat-out rejected? Does their sales quota weigh on their minds? Are they pulling long hours to hit their numbers? Do they feel like the proverbial pushy used car salesperson every time they pick up the phone?

Now add on the changes we’ve seen thanks to COVID-19. Businesses moving to a partially or fully work-from-home model. Staff cuts. Slowing sales numbers. Delayed contracts. Even cancellations.

It’s totally natural to feel overburdened with sales anxiety – especially at a time like this. Even your top reps will have days when they struggle to make a sale. So how can you support them when they’re feeling low and help them overcome their sales anxiety?

Handling rejection:

No one hears the word “no” more than a sales rep on a cold call campaign. It’s why resiliency is one of the most sought-after traits on sales teams – bouncing back and hopping on the next call is a key to sales success. But some have a tougher time recovering when no fish are biting.

You can…

Share calls that go badly alongside calls that go really well (with permission, of course). It’s important for reps to see both sides of the coin, and for rejection to become normalized on your team. After all, it is normal to hear, and those “no”s can be a valuable learning experience for everyone. 

Reps can… 

Try to end negative calls on a positive note – after all, many “no”s are “not right now”s. Even if someone’s not interested in your product or service, reps can walk away with some control if they ask for a potential referral, schedule a follow-up in six months to check in on future needs or even glean information that may uncover where a competitor won out so your team is better armed next time. 

Meeting quotas:

It can be a vicious cycle: reps get so afraid of not hitting quota that – you guessed it – they don’t hit quota. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it’s real and it happens. A healthy amount of pressure can help motivate reps to achieve more, but if it weighs them down rather than drives them forward, it’s time to figure out why.

You can…

Start by making sure your quotas are fair, especially when circumstances change. Your sales goals should be realistic ones that challenge your team to reach just that little bit further, but don’t discourage them from believing they can hit those numbers. Pull from past data to get a good idea of what’s possible, and help reps understand the why behind the quotas they have.

Reps can…

Set individual targets and goals for themselves that they can own. Having ownership over their performance and an actionable plan to get them to their goals can turn paralyzing pressure into a healthy push. Maybe it’s a certain number of calls a day – and maybe they need to set aside a certain chunk of time out of their day to make them. 

Feeling unprepared:

Knowledge is power. But if your reps aren’t arming themselves with the right knowledge before making their sales calls or sending those messages, they won’t feel very powerful. It’s like showing up for an exam without studying – if they don’t know your product, the marketplace and the prospect before they sit down, they’ll be scrambling during their calls.

You can…

Arm your reps with tools that will help them feel confident when they make that call. A sharing-enabled playbook that outlines your best sales tips, scripts, and templates along with all your organizational nuggets, in micro-content form, in an easily searchable and findable place is a good place to start, so reps aren’t scrambling at minute zero.

Reps can…

Do their homework. Before every call, they should know:

  • What the company does
  • Where it’s located
  • Who they’ll be talking to 
  • Who makes the decisions 
  • Who their customers are
  • The latest company news
  • The industry in which they operate
  • How your product or service can help

Some reps prefer to block off time at the end of the day to do research for tomorrow’s sales calls so they can knock them off back-to-back the next morning; others set aside 15 minutes before each call so information is fresh in their mind. Either way, reps should be able to check these boxes before picking up the phone.

Feeling alone:

As much as sales is a team effort, it can feel lonely sometimes – that goes double for sales teams that are working remotely. Competition between reps can be fierce. Reps might feel like a cog in the revenue machine. They may feel abandoned if they don’t get the training they need to succeed. It all adds up, making the next call that much harder to make.

You can…

Show reps you support them by investing in a culture of sharing and development. That means providing meaningful onboarding when they first join your team, mentorship opportunities that forge strong team relationships, team goals that require everyone to work together, knowledge sharing that pools your best resources for everyone, and career pathing to provide that renewed sense of purpose.

Reps can…

We can’t say it enough: share, and be intentional about it. Knowledge hoarding doesn’t help anyone on your team. Getting social with that knowledge means sharing proven sales tactics within your team alongside genuine experiences that reps have while on-the-job – good and bad. It turns everyone into teachers and students, invested in each other’s success.

“Better together” is the best approach

“Sales anxiety” is an actual phenomenon that describes reps who sweat picking up that phone and making their next call. That’s bad enough. Add uncertainty from COVID-19 into the mix and it’s no surprise that even the best sellers might miss their quotas. 

And there’s no one-size-fits-all cure to those jitters. These are just some common stressors that set off the panic alarm. 

In large part, overcoming fear is an exercise in practice: figuring out what you’re most anxious about, stripping away the mental baggage we attach to it and facing it with a clear mind. Lather, rinse, repeat, until we feel more comfortable.

The best way to find out what’s going on in your team and help your reps reach that level of comfort? Ask. Be open, honest and transparent in your team meetings, one-on-ones and conversations. Then, address those issues directly, together. After all, everyone’s after the same result, so there’s no point in pushing reps towards burnout – or worse, turnover.

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