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The State of Mental Health in Sales, with Jeff Riseley and Howard Brown [Episode 831]

Jeff Riseley is the founder of the Sales Health Alliance. Howard Brown is the founder and CEO of Revenue.io.

Today on SEP we continue a conversation we started a few weeks ago about the importance of mental health in sales. Both guests bring unique perspectives. Jeff speaks to his own experience with mental health challenges and that many sellers are facing today. And Howard, a former clinical psychologist and licensed therapist, shares his personal perspective from working with patients that struggled with the same anxiety, depression and additional challenges.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Jeff and Howard. Welcome to the show.

Jeff Riseley: It’s good to be here. Thanks for having us, Andy.

Howard Brown: Great to be here.

Andy Paul: Excited to have you both on the show. Uh, Jeff is head of the Sales Health Alliance and Howard is founder and CEO of Revenue.io and, uh, trained as a mental health professional, which is obviously germane to what we’re going to talk about today. So Jeff, tell us a little bit about your background and how the Sales hHalth Alliance got started.

Jeff Riseley: Yeah, I, it might be best just to go back to the beginning because it was really formed out of my own experience from working in sales and managing my own mental health. So, yeah, I’m the founder of the Sales Health Alliance, and I created it to empower salespeople, to reach peak levels of sales performance through better mental health.

And if I think about my own experience, I started in sales just over 10 years ago. Um, it was a classic boiler room type of sales environment. I felt like my worth is as a, as an employee and a human was being measured on whether or not it can make $200 a day achieve two and a half hours of talk time. If you weren’t hitting your metrics, you were let go pretty quickly.

Andy Paul: What were you selling?

Jeff Riseley: So we were selling, uh, conferences and workshops to oil and gas executives. So think of a fresh grad straight out of university pitching senior VPs and CEOs of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world. It was a pretty wild, wild experience.

Andy Paul: And these, these are conferences for what?

Jeff Riseley: Conferences for like best practices in the oil and gas industry. So like supply chain management and things like that. So yeah, it was, it was a wild experience. Um, but yeah, it was, it was, I did really well. I was, again, one of my first sales jobs and I was one of the top performers in the company for a few months and behind the scenes I definitely was not doing okay. I was struggling quite terribly with my mental health had really bad anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks in the middle of the night. And it was after the third panic attack that put me in the hospital in the middle of the night when I thought, well, I should probably do something about this and went to see my doctor. He prescribed me some anxiety medication that I tried for two to three months, but I hated how it made me feel. I don’t know if any of you have experienced this, but. anxiety medication for me, I lost touch with my emotions, my intuition, the things that I was relying on to be one of the top sellers. I’d pick up on those micro buying signals and be a top seller. I felt like I lost that and going to therapy 10 years ago was still highly stigmatized. So I felt like I was on an Island and said, okay, well, what else can I do? And I just started reading and learning everything that I possibly could from a mental health standpoint, the neuroscience, human behavior, habits, and  I started implementing this stuff for myself and my own sales career.

And I didn’t realize how important this stuff was until, fast forward to July of 2018 and I just launched my first sales consulting website and I was diagnosed with testicular cancer three days after the website went live. So it was a huge curve ball that play through it throughout me but that’s when this whole idea really started to form around sales, health lions, and mental health and sales, because the same strategies they use to take care of my mental health and sales, I naturally started to execute on during this next period of my life.

And then it really started to become clear that anxiety and sales is not optional. And it’s really part of everyday life. And when sales teams start to become anxious, depressed, and burnt out their sales performance suffers. So my work is really focusing on changing the conversation around mental health from doom and gloom to really treating salespeople like corporate athletes and helping them improve their mental game and the resilience. So I hope that helps give a little background on why I’m here.

Andy Paul: So well, so how’s, how’s your health with the cancer?

Jeff Riseley: Health is great. Um, no cancer free today caught it, caught it very early. So it was a quick recovery, but it was definitely, uh, a blindsiding experience at the age of 30 when I thought it was in the best shape of my life.

Andy Paul: Yeah, well, especially that particular cancer too, for men. Um, so Howard maybe talk a little bit about your background because you have very unusual combination of backgrounds. Cause you’re trained as a mental health professional before getting on entrepreneurial route.

Howard Brown: Yeah, absolutely. So, uh, yeah, trained as a therapist, worked with a variety of populations from substance abuse to dual diagnosis, early, uh, early release, uh, convicted felons who suffered from dual-diagnosis, uh, went on to start a private practice and treating families, couples and teenagers, and really, really fell in love with helping people. Um, but part of the challenge for me was I felt like I needed to do more. At the same time, I had leased out a bunch of office space to a bunch of therapists. And while they may have been great counselors, they were awful business people and simply-

Andy Paul: So bad tenants-

Howard Brown: Yes, bad tenants. Uh, I was also, they’re doing a lot of research around behavioral health care disorders, mental disorders. And this goes back to 1997-98. And talk about stigma of finding help. It was rampant. Outside of Los Angeles, of course, the idea of finding help was essentially correlated to your crazy and having studied through a lot of information, um, than the American psychological association of discovering that two thirds of the American public at some point in their life had suffered from some debilitating form of behavioral health care disorder. Um, and I was a programmer as a kid. I decided that the internet was the perfect vehicle for a marketplace issue. Number one, how do we reach out to those people who need help, who feel like they’re totally alone in the anonymous vehicle, which was the internet. And in some ways still is, hopefully. And then two, how do I help therapists grow there portfolio of customers by using this online network of websites to find patients in their geographic area. And it was a fascinating journey. I started with the therapist and we were able to recruit roughly a thousand therapists in a four month period to pay us $99 a month to be part of the service.

Uh, it was great only I only had one half of the marketplace, so I have to quickly figure out how to find patients for these therapists or else they were not going to continue to pay for the services. Um, and at that point we empowered the therapist to really write about their specialties. Write about behavioral health care disorders, right about treatment. And over a period of seven years, we actually were able to generate close to a million pages of unique content that we aggregated over 400 websites from drugaddiction.com, eating disorders, anxiety, um, and on that site we had. Um, tens of thousands of users on a daily basis looking for resources so that they did not feel so alone so that they could find free resources in their community. And most importantly, if they needed the help, whether it was a therapist or a drug and alcohol treatment center, they could find. A fully accredited licensed professionals had been vetted and, uh, it was great. It was a wonderful service. Um, I was able to run that service for seven years and then we were acquired by the largest behavioral health care provider in the world and my job became filling 33,000 beds on a daily basis.

Andy Paul: Wow. So, and I said, you bring a really unique background to the sales profession, uh, especially a CEO of a sales tech company that I thought was so valuable to add to this conversation. So, you know, we’re we’re at this point, we’re seven months into this pandemic, uh, which, you know, we know is completely, so 180, uh, change in the lives of so many sellers, Jeff, I mean, what are you hearing in terms of what are the most pressing mental health challenges you’re hearing from salespeople today? Six months in, seven months in.

Jeff Riseley: Yeah, like there’s, there’s a few, I think that like a big one has been that. The intensity of change that has come with COVID has not been met with the same intensity of support by sales teams and organizations. I think that’s, that’s it that’s a huge issue. I did. Um, I did a survey before for back in, I get wrapped up back in December of last year, so I did a survey and gather responses from just under 300 salespeople and sales leaders and found that more than two and five salespeople struggle with their mental health. They came back with a 43 and then I did a survey shortly into, uh, into COVID. I went to after the locket blocked down, started and 52% of people salespeople said that there describe their mental health is worse compared to now compared to the six months leading up to cope it. So there’s been this huge shift and this huge change with its broad uncertainty and changes that I don’t think a lot of people have been able to manage effectively. And when I speak with sales teams, one of the biggest issues that they have is there’s still a lot of stigma within the city within the space, but it seems like everyone is, is extremely burnt out. But sales leaders are having a very difficult time identifying who on their team is struggling on a regular basis because with everyone working remotely, it’s much easier for someone who doesn’t feel like they’re in a safe space to show up for a 30 minute zoom call and put on a face and put on a mask like everything’s okay. If someone’s showing up to work for 7-8 hours a day, and you can, you know, as a sales leader and a manager can pick up on those changes in behavior and changes in habits, that kind of indicate that something’s up. It’s very hard to, to see that now. So I think that’s one of the, sort of the main things that I’m seeing is it’s very hard to identify who on the team is struggling, but all of the data and all of the research is showing that like, there’s a huge problem here, but no one really knows how to address it.

Andy Paul: Well, I think to me, the key thing is what you said though, is that, that the increase in anxiety, depression, whatever that’s being felt is not being matched by the company’s support that they’re providing, which is, I would think kind of ironic because you know, this is not an issue just for individual contributors. This is an issue for frontline managers, directors, VPs, everybody.

Jeff Riseley: But a lot of the strategies that they’re implementing too is, I know a lot of people are saying, well, we have mental health days now, and there’s all these different, we’ve invested into therapy sessions for our team, which these are all amazing things, new steps in the right direction. Like, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to, into. Downplay them. But a lot of the strategies organizations are implementing from what I’m seeing are to address very serious issues. Like really bad anxiety, really bad depression. They’re catching the problem way too late. And things like absenteeism and presenteeism have already settled in and where the focus needs to move is how can you equip leaders and individuals that didn’t individ leaders and individual contributors.

At an individual level when they are working from home to be able to understand what declining mental health looks and it looks like in themselves, what does burnout look like? And what can you really start doing at an individual level to remain resilient and make the right choices rather than defaulting to a lot of the bad habits that we tend to fall into when we’re experiencing downward spiral, or we start to get anxious and feel scared about the world around us.

Andy Paul: So, Howard, what are your thoughts about what people, you know, either self assessment or steps they should be are in an, an steps they should be taking? Uh, At this time in terms of a film throw in mental health,

Howard Brown: Well, I think it’s never been more important to take care of yourself. We’re in the midst of a pandemic. Many of us are working from home. Our lives have changed in dramatic ways. Um, Change in a lot of ways is truly equal to stress. And with this level of change and uncertainty, I think everybody’s feeling stress.

And if you equate your self worth and your value to how you perform as many salespeople do, you’ve now. Taken the stress of performance and the stress of uncertainty and change. And you’ve got a recipe for disaster. So number one, having open dialogue about it is critically important. Taking care of yourself, like a professional athlete where you’re eating well, your.

Sleeping. Well, your doing things to take care of your, your own mental health, whether that’s exercising or talking to a therapist, uh, I think is critical.

Andy Paul: Prioritizing it.

Howard Brown: Prioritizing it. Absolutely. One thing that I’ve seen is because so many people feel like their life is out of control. The fact is we had far more control when we could go out, make decisions for ourselves. But right now a lot of our decisions are being controlled. We’re at home. We can’t leave. We have to leave. We have to wear a mask. All good stuff. Absolutely necessary, but a sense of loss and a sense of loss of control is not something that most people are equipped to deal with. And so they attempt to control theri inner, um, feelings. They attempt to control others in their lives. Um, this, this grab for control, um, in fact, leads to more problems at home, more problems with your colleagues, um, and more problems with yourself. And so the ability to invest the time to one, ask yourself, how do you feel today? What are you going to do to make yourself feel better? How are you going to help somebody else today? Um, are you eating well, those, those types of self assessments and then the, hopefully the catalyst to change it is what we all need to be doing.

Jeff Riseley: And I would, I would just add to that as well. I think part of it is as a society, we’re just not great at being able to identify what emotions were feeling at any given moment and know how to deal with them. And I think a lot of the default coping mechanisms that a lot of us were, were using, whether it’s taking a vacation or socializing with friends or going to the gym, like all of these really great stress reducers that we would naturally execute on and default to a lot of them are not on the table right now because of social distancing and lockdown.

That all of a sudden people we’ll need to learn new ways to deal with these difficult emotions and deal with these kind of uncertainties and issues with confidence and self esteem issues. Like there’s, there’s really, there’s not a lot of distraction that you can, you can use right now when you’re working from home and spending a lot of time by yourself.

And as soon as you look outwards, you’re just getting more anxious by what you’re seeing in the media and in the news. So I think it’s, building on what Howard said is like, A combination of, of learning how to take care, better care of ourselves, but also understanding that this is new for everyone to be able to navigate this together and learn these new skills, because we haven’t done it before really as a whole society together.

Andy Paul: Well, I want to read you an excerpt from a post that was posted on Reddit this week in the sales forum. And it says, I read it. So struck me as like, this is probably. Not atypical, it’s probably a very typical, so this person, writings things six months into working from home, the grind and stress are really getting to me. I sit at home by myself all day, getting rejected by people feeling like I peaked back in March and April and will never do better now than I did them. My Motivation and mood are getting generally worse each week. I video conference with my coworkers a lot to try to keep company, but they’re all cynical about the situation like I am. We’re told we’re going to be working from home at least another six months. And I’m worried my mental health will plummet once winter hits and it’s dark and rainy all the time. I’d love to take a week of PTO and do nothing, but it’s not like my quota is lowered when I take vacation. So I’ll just come back and feel more stressed than it was before. What should I do?

And that just broke my heart, quite frankly, um, yeah, because there’s so much baked into that stress, loneliness, rejection, poor self-esteem. Everyone is depressed and it’s the sense of impending doom. Cause it’s going to get worse as the seasons change and we have a surge and, and my company either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care. Cause I don’t feel empowered to even take a day off.

Jeff Riseley: But that’s where I think organizations are getting it wrong. Like, especially like, I love that sales enablement has become so mainstream and so important to driving success within sales. But if you think about kind of the typical sales KPIs, how many dollars a rep is making, how many meetings they’re booking, and then you have kind of the lagging indicators, churn rates, how much revenue has been closed, et cetera.

We have these leading and lagging indicators that sales teams were using to measure a quote unquote healthy pipeline. But in reality, they’re both, both are going to be lagging indicators and the real leading indicators are going to be, how anxious is the rep? Are they depressed? Are they sleeping right?

A lot of the things that Howard mentioned are the real leading indicators, the input of the. Rep and how that athlete is showing up on a daily basis is going to drive success across all of those other kinds of KPIs that sales teams get in a frenzy about. So he, even though he feels, he can’t take time off, that’s exactly what he should be doing because he’s being, if he’s showing up and trying to sell as he is right now, it’s going to be ineffective and it’s going to make his performance worse over time.

Howard Brown: Yeah. And, and Jeff, it’s interesting when, first of all, thank you for what you’re doing. I think what you’re doing is a service to all salespeople out there and your focus around mental health is inspiring. I don’t think that we spend enough time thinking about it, whether it’s sales, marketing, success, support, whatever, every part of an organization needs to think about their employees and their wellbeing.

I think particularly at this time, one of the biggest losses that we’re facing is the inability to really connect with other people. I mean, whether, whether it’s human touch or high fives or hugging one, another being in the physical presence of others is in many ways supporting one another. And we don’t have that- we don’t have that as an option today and I think people miss that connection. I know I miss that connection. I certainly have talked to others. One thing that I really loved hearing from a sales rep that I was speaking to early uh, this week was when he was describing a deal that he just won. He was talking about how he was able to connect with a handful of buyers at the organization and that he felt like he was truly helping them out. That their problems were problems that were causing them stress on the job. And that he in fact saw himself as a helper, not just for the business, but for these buyers. And when they ultimately made a decision and purchased the product, he felt really good about himself. One, sure, he won the deal, but too, he felt like he could really, we connect and help someone else. And I think that as sellers, if we think about ourselves as helpers, it really does help to be there for others. And I think, I think there’s so much pressure to get the meeting, to drive the sale. What we really forget about it is our job is to connect with other people and to help them yeah. Make buying decisions to help them fix problems within their business. And I think that that’s, yeah, one of those quick wins that if we just take a different mindset to what is it we’re trying to accomplish a salespeople. Um, I think a lot of salespeople got into sales to connect, to solve, to, to win. And I think it’s important to bring us back to that focus, uh, and, and away from just being the number of dials, the number of connects, it’s really about helping, connecting with others and solving problems.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, I think that’s, that is absolutely right. I mean, you’re talking about mindset. I call it a perspective, is it starts, and this is really a cultural thing. It starts at the top,. You know, not many companies have that perspective where for sellers think that their job, they have a purpose behind their job, which is to help as opposed to, if you survey, I would believe most sellers and I do this informally, like when I’ve been speaking to groups in public, is what’s your job to sellers, you know, 95% of them will say it’s to get an order. And this is the way we’re training and acculturating our sellers.

Jeff Riseley: But I think, I think that’s one of the major issues with sales right now is a lot of, I know I was coached like this very early on, it’s like don’t take business personally. Like leave emotions out of it. And it’s totally backwards

Andy Paul: Yeah, it’s an emotion-driven business.

Jeff Riseley: Because meaningful work has long been one of the biggest drivers of resilience and living a meaningful life.

Having that strong personal WHY and that purpose is absolutely critical to remaining in the moment and showing up and performing day in and day out and, and, and being connected. But I don’t know the last person I personally have had ever been gritty or gone through the trenches or worked really hard for something that wasn’t emotionally  connected to. Emotions need to be part of the equation. And far too often sales leaders and sales individuals try to hide their emotions, bury their emotions, but they-

Andy Paul: Say they’re unnecessary.

Jeff Riseley: Say they’re unnecessary, but you absolutely need those emotions for your work to be meaningful. It needs to hurt when a buyer doesn’t respond to you or rejects your deal. It shows that you truly cared about them. If, if that doesn’t hurt, then there’s already an issue and you need to have that really strong, personal why to make sure that your work is meaningful on a daily basis and, and sit with those difficult emotions when you do get rejected rather than. Try to push them away and bury them behind.

I know for me, it was back in the day, it was partying and playing hours of video games. Um, but emotions absolutely needs to be part of sales. And it’s important to experience it, experience the good ones as well as the bad ones. In my opinion.

Howard Brown: Yeah, Jeff, I it’s interesting again, because I think there is a thin line there and it depends very much on the role. So if my job as an SDR is to call a lot of people and just book a meeting, it’s really hard to be rejected 99 times a day and take that personally. That’s really, really difficult.

Um, for a sales rep, who’s in a sales cycle. Hopefully they’re building that relationship with stakeholders. They’re connecting with them. They’re asking the buyer to essentially be vulnerable, to be honest about what’s going on. And then their job is to paint a picture of how their life could benefit through their solution or service. So that’s where yes, take it absolutely personal. Um, the SDR role that outreach, um, that, that motion is really, I, I feel bad for those people every single day. Um, I’m not saying that I’m not saying that they’re have to disconnect from their emotions, but I think that they also need to be really aware that rejection is not a rejection of them and it’s not a rejection of who they are as a person. And it may quite frankly, not even be a rejection of them as a sales person, it’s just a really, really tough job and requires, and I hate to say this, in some ways, a thick skin in other ways, it requires sensitivity. Because once that job’s done, you need to take care of yourself. You need to find the things that make you feel valuable. You need to find ways to deal with that rejection and the fear and all the feelings that go with being constantly told no or hung up on or that you’re interrupting. It’s, it’s tough.

Andy Paul: I think where you’re having, at least from my perspective is, yeah, it’s not personal, but you can’t completely separate it. Just because you’re getting it time and time and time again. And it’s. Yeah. I mean, I, I, gosh, remember the first two years in sales, uh, you know, days where I would, you know, be home looking at the walls by noon. Cause I knew it wasn’t personal, but it sure felt personal.

Jeff Riseley: For, for the, for the SDRs there. One thing that’s that helped has helped me back in the day and something that I share is, is really being mindful of when that internal talk track that internal thinking your head moves from, I have failed to, I am a failure. I have failed is objective. I failed on that call. But sometimes if you get it. If this happens multiple times in a row, you’ll see that internal talk track move from I failed at booking that meeting to I’m a failure. And that’s really dangerous when that happens, because then it’s becomes more personal. It’s no longer objective. It’s more, it’s, it’s a tough, it starts to attack your identity. So that’s one thing that I’ve found is like really being careful of noticing when that change happens and making sure you prioritize some self-care when that. I’m a failure starts to enter your, your thinking pattern.

Andy Paul: Well how do we train sellers? Let’s start with SDRs who are new grads, you know, fresh faces into sales first generation. And it’s like, how do we, how do we make them aware of that, that talk track and the danger of that? I mean, I’m thinking of all the sales training I’m aware of and I’ve watched or seen, and it’s like, man, no, one’s no, one’s addressing that. And this is such a critical part of people’s performances as you talk about in your mission statement for the Sales Health Alliance.

Jeff Riseley: So for me, the, the foundation that I think people need to implement and teams need to implement is building this into their mental health component of resilience component into their onboarding program. And really focusing, you know, you have all of your tools around selling and sales that helps develop their craft. Now you need to have a mental piece that essentially gives salespeople and new sales hires, the helmet, the pads they need to play a contact sport every single day. And what that looks like foundation for me, the first session that I always teach is becoming aware of what mental health is. But what does it mean for you?

What triggers impact you the most? Whether it’s missing, target, getting rejected buyers, ghosting, what ones do you do? Do you hurt you the most to how does mental health decline in yourself? So for me, I always have to, I break it down into three buckets.

The first thing to be aware of it as intrusive thoughts. So they usually enter your brain from, as in what if statements? What if I don’t do well? What if I fail? What if I miss my target? That’s the first kind of bucket you need to be, start to learn how those thoughts enter your mind.

Then there’s sematic symptoms. So the feelings you get when your mental health starts to decline. For me I have night sweats in the middle of the night when I’m starting to get stressed out. I also get a pain in my upper right stomach. These aren’t going to be the same for everyone. But for me, whenever I noticed that pain in my upper right stomach coming into, coming into play, I pause. I’m like, Oh, nine times out of 10 there’s a, what if statement or something that I’m thinking about that has changed the way my, the way I’m thinking.

And then the last one is behaviors. So understanding what bad habits and behaviors start to change as your mental health starts to decline. Are we scrolling more on social media? We play more video games. Are we drinking more than we should? And learning what all of these in these three or three buckets, what starts to change and change and manifest in declining mental health is the first part. Because if you’re not aware of it, you can’t stop it and you can’t make improvements to yourself. So that’s something I focus on it. I’d love to hear your insight on this to Howard and what you think the first step might be.

Howard Brown: Well, I would love to hear more about what you do when you start feeling those symptoms or start getting those what if statements, how do you deal with that? How do, how do you stop? Um, what do you do physically? Um, what do you do when you wake up in the middle of the night and you have night sweats?

Jeff Riseley: Yeah. So journaling has been a huge piece for me and really just exploring, approaching these thoughts with curiosity and trying to just understand what, what, where this emotion is stemming from what happened earlier in the day? Why am I not feeling confident and really just exploring them? Um, because once I can actually figure out the emotion, whether it’s I’m feeling guilty or I’m feeling sad about this, or I’m feeling like a failure. If I can label that one emotion, I always like to describe emotions like waves, and until you can label what wave you’re feeling, it’s, it’ll just keep growing and getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

But as soon as I’m able to label an emotion of that, that I’m feeling. I can acknowledge that it’s a wave, these emotions, these negative emotions that I’m feeling are temporary. And then I can sit with it. And the more that I sit with it and just acknowledge that I’m in a safe space. These emotions are not scary.

It starts to dissipate. Again, things like meditation also helps to calm the mind. If these intrusive thoughts are really, really sticky. Uh, I’m a huge, huge believer in taking cold showers to at least the feelings and the sensation is so intense that it at least helps me disconnect from that thought and connect with kind of the cold sensations from feeling if you’re not ready to hop into a cold shower or right out of the gate, um, usually just grabbing an ice cube has been helpful when I’ve had a panic attack in the past. There’s been times when I’ve grabbed a pan of grabbed an ice cube and gone for a light walk. Um, there’s other strategies like having a mindful moment and while the adrenaline is leaving your body from that fight or flight response to this existential threat you’ve created in your head in your head, while that is starting to leave your body, you can also start kind of labeling things that you’re seeing that you’re hearing that you’re tasting that you’re smelling. And that’s why I find going from, for light walk really helps because if you’re just lying in bed, run into things too late to start labeling. But if you’re going for light walk, there’s a sound, smells things to help you get back to the present and regain perspective as, as, as, as this wave of emotion starts to leave.

So these, these are some of the things that I’ve done that has been really, really helpful. And I have lots of free resources like this. Uh, I wrote one on, on a panic attack on Sales Health Alliance recently. So, if you’re struggling with it, you can check it out there.

Howard Brown: Yeah, that’s great. I question, when you, when you talk about your, what if statements, can you, can you expand just a little bit on what those, what if statements sound like? What after What if?

Jeff Riseley: Yeah. So it’s, it’s crazy because, uh, I’ll, I’ll go back to an example of when I first started in sales, when the panic attacks were really bad. It’s usually the thing was sales is there’s the, you’re so busy every single day, and there’s so many distractions that a small, uh, like a deal falling through might seem insignificant to you at that moment in time, because they’re so distracted but for me, when it gets quiet at night and I’m trying to fall asleep. Insignificant moment can really start to grow a control. So if I lose a deal, it might be what if I don’t book any meetings tomorrow? What if you don’t sleep well? You’re definitely not gonna be able to book, book any meetings. What if your boss notices? What if you get fired? What if you, you can’t pay rent because you miss your commission check. What if your family sees this and disowns you? And it starts to move from what if statements to perceived truths. And it’s the, what if this appears? And then it’s, you are going to lose your job tomorrow. You are going to not be able to pay rent. Your family’s going to disown you. And it’s this really nasty cycle that has just totally manifested it, manifested itself in your head, in the span of anywhere from five to 20 minutes or a few hours. And it all stems back to this one. Um, There’s one event that took place in the middle of the day that you thought was insignificant, but creeps back in when you’re alone with your thoughts and don’t have those distractions.

And again, going back to what we were talking about with the pandemic, that’s where I see some of these issues starting to play. We don’t have those distractions of socializing with friends. We don’t have going on vacations resets. It’s just always. We’re super happy. We’re having to figure out new ways to deal with these emotions that we face on a daily basis that we’ve never done before.

Howard Brown: Yeah, it’s really interesting. And, and you’re certainly have found techniques to deal with that, that vicious cycle. Um, one thing that I, I have certainly done and, and seen others do is actually allow those thoughts to come in and really take over to, to allow them to come in. And what if I don’t, you know, connect and what if I don’t have a meeting and what if I don’t close this deal? And what if my boss fires me? And what if my family disowns me and what if I have no money? And what if I’m homeless? And what if you know, what if I die, that’s amazing amount of fear and that’s a lot of material, but allowing it to sort of play itself out and then say, Yeah, that’s what if, but right now I have a job right now. I’m sitting in my bed, I’m not working on this deal. I could book this meeting. I could not. I’m in the present moment, but allowing it to go down that road, like, Hey, I’ve taken it as far as it’s going to go. That’s fear. That’s not fact. Now let’s separate that because if I’m constantly, for me, if I’m constantly stopping it short, I’m constantly worried that I’m going to get caught in that cycle of thought that I will not be able to control. What I found useful is actually letting my mind go there, go all the way to keep going.

Andy Paul: You take the fear out of it.

Howard Brown: Yeah, I flood it. Essentially. I let the, I flood myself with it. I get to a point. I said, okay, that was, that was my thought. That’s not my reality. That’s not the facts. But that’s where that part of my mind, that part of my persona, that fear, that intrinsic fear that has come from something very deep is taking over. And guess what? I’m going to let it have its few moments or have its time, but it’s not the reality and come back to the facts. And so that’s one technique I’ve certainly used.

Jeff Riseley: That’s a great technique because I love that it’s also rooted in seeking discomfort. You are seeking this discomfort within those emotions, and that’s something that I’ve also learned to do from an anxiety standpoint and a fear standpoint. These emotions usually start to, like, we start to get anxious and fearful- usually when we’re on the edge of our comfort zone and sales loves to push us to the edge of our comfort zone and those emotions are there that are trying to pull us back to our comfort zone. And once you can acknowledge it, using those as like messengers and beacons to say, wow, I’m inside my comfort zone. I’m in, I’m in growth mode right now. And really seeking the discomfort and pushing through and not letting those, those emotions pull you back to your comfort zone is that is a huge skill. It’s something that I’ve had to learn about and implement daily is as an entrepreneur, trying to build this businesses, really facing that discomfort day in and day out so that I can consistently be growing as an individual.

Um, and not succumbing to, to some of the, some of the pain and, and, and, and those feelings that come with those emotions.

Howard Brown: Yeah. And Jeff, you, you mentioned yourself as an entrepreneur. I think it’s really, really important to just surface the fact that this isn’t just sales. Sales certainly has a lot of it, but as an entrepreneur and as a founder, it doesn’t go away. There’s other fears. I have fears that, um, you know, if I go to my board meeting and I don’t perform well, what if, what if, what if, uh, if we don’t raise that next round, how will that impact me? Most importantly, how will that impact the hundreds of people that I support? Um, it just can, I think, whatever you’re doing. There is that fear that can consume you and whether you’re a parent and you do something wrong with your kids, whether you’re a salesperson and you blow it, there is if we equate what we do with who we are, if we allow the fear to take over whatever the circumstance and run with us and take us. That that will equate to anxiety, to depression, to insomnia, to drug abuse, to all those other things that deal with the feelings. Cause that’s what we’re truly afraid of feeling those feelings.

Jeff Riseley: Yeah, it’s helping all those addiction and all those things just help us avoid. They’re easy things to help us avoid the fear and run away from it as quickly as possible, which is not what we should be doing.

Andy Paul: Right. I mean, isn’t part of this contributing. This is, you know, we were talking about self esteem and other issues is fear of rejection, and about the clients also fear of rejection by peers and managers is, you know, the way we sort of casually label people, you, because talking about, you know, you’re not this feeling, you’re not this emotion, but yeah, we, we always sort of have all these casual rankings, you know, ABC players, you know, so on and so forth and sales, and it seems like a small thing, but it manifests, I think, you know, down through how you communicate to people. And it’s just seems like it amplifies these issues.

Jeff Riseley: That’s that’s one of my biggest qualms and issues with sales is I think the, the sales leader board, I just think to be totally, totally innovated on and changed because it just, we know that comparing each other to others consistent, it really is, is, is not good for our mental health. Like we should be comparing ourselves to ourselves and showing progress and growth in our individuals rather than consistently throwing up day in and day out. This person is on the top. This person’s on the bottom because if you really have a team target and you have a sales team target, it’s crazy to me that sales is, and then I’ve, I’ve promoted this in the past and it’s like, it’s crazy to me to say that you have a group of individuals competing against each other all on the same team. It just doesn’t, it just doesn’t make sense, like not a single performance. Driven sport and team sport operates that way, where everyone has different objectives and different goals. And I think that fuels a lot of the toxicity, whether it’s lead, stealing unwilling, to help out each other. All of the problems that we have within sales is just, we’ve relied too heavily on this fear of motivation and thinking salespeople are hyper competitive and the leaderboard is the only way to motivate them. I just think there’s a way better ways to, to, to motivate people that are. Much more supportive and more caring from a mental health standpoint.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I, I, I don’t know. It’s hard. I didn’t mean to stop on your hair. You’re gonna say it, but I, I’m not a huge fan of gamification for those very reasons.

Howard Brown: Yeah, I get it gamification’s really interesting. I think one thing you’ll find in a little, a lot of sales people is that they become addicted to the win. And the win quite frankly, I mean, there’s chemistry here, right? There’s dopamine charge when you get that bell, when you ring that bell and when you get that dopamine charge and I think that’s hard enough, and then you take gamification where every little thing is essentially giving you a dopamine factor or it’s the same thing on LinkedIn, or how many likes do I get? How many comments do I get or Instagram, how many people view my photo or tell me I’m pretty or whatever it may be. We’re all so addicted to this immediate gratification. That’s driven by somebody else. And that I think is incredibly damaging. There’s chemistry involved and that becomes incredibly difficult to break

Andy Paul: And Howard, just in case, you’re wondering you are a beautiful

Howard Brown: I’ll thank you. As are you. And young. And handsome.

Andy Paul: young, um, well, so we’re sort of running out of time. I have one more question I really wanted to get into, I got a number of questions I wanted to get into, but just one that we’ll start with here and Jeff, you sort of alluded to it as is. Yeah. People started the S the shutdown thing is go ask six, seven months. And there’s people looking forward to a fresh start if you will. But it seems clear that that’s not going to happen for a number of reasons. How, how do we give sellers a fresh start? Right. I mean, I, I, I can’t imagine very many that, that aren’t feeling some level of burnout just because the nature of work has changed way more, you know, fatiguing, zoom calls and so on is, is how do we give people a fresh start?

Jeff Riseley: Hmm, in terms of, in terms of fresh start from-

Andy Paul: Just a mindset and a, you know, so they feel more like they did. I’m sorry. So I feel more like the dead end in February, as opposed to September.

Jeff Riseley: Yeah, that’s, that’s a, that’s a big question. Uh, I would say compassion is a, is a huge piece and I think we’ve got a really unique moment in time right now, where com like mental health has been an issue stigmatized in the workplace long before the pandemic took place and it will be here long after the, um, long after the pandemic is over.

But right now there’s this unique external threat in the form of COVID-19 that’s. It impacted every single person’s life. And there’s this opportunity to connect and share and start talking about these things that we normally wouldn’t talk about within sales. And like I said, it goes back to learning these skills of creating a safe space and it, it doesn’t need to be perfect by any means, but it definitely starts with leadership sales, leadership opening up about how they’re feeling, what they’re.

Routine is looking like how they’re prioritizing their mental health if they aren’t struggling. But I think it also gets back to what we talked about initially is helping salespeople and the teams revisit and find meaningful work because it’s within meaningful work that people can find hope. If there it’s something that I rely on every single day, it’s a, it’s a grind for me to, to be honest, you know, there’s a lot of stigma within sales right now, but if I lose hope, it’s very easy for me to get the money motivated and have stress too over and have fear takeover. But as soon as I revisit how the people that I’m trying to help really taking this altruistic view and moving away from how I’m feeling and back towards who I’m helping on a regular basis, that gives me hope to show up each day, and that gives me hope that you know, the next deal is around the corner and successes around the corner. And really focusing on how do we create more hope within our teams and the individual level. And I think it really cool back to how you make their day to day more meaningful on a regular basis and get away from being hyper focused on the metrics and the dials, but really why they started working at the company and then the mission and the vision that that’s gonna be paving the way, um, through those pandemic, I think is.

Howard Brown: Yeah. Yeah, I would, I would second that Jeff and I, I would say it goes beyond just sales leadership to, um, company leadership, to CEO all the way to the top. And it’s really important to create a culture of transparency. Um, a culture where people embrace one another, uh, a culture where people actually talk, talk about the mission and the value, but that they can be there for one another. You talk about a team approach that comes from the top. People have to feel like they’re working together to solve something, to get better, to help one another. And. If you can create a culture where people really, really value that and you hire for that and you build programs to nurture that, that goes a really long way because at the end of the day, our companies in many ways are our communities. And if we create a helpful supportive community, it will thrive. And if we create something where we have individual contributors and everybody is going off on their own, you will have a lot of sick people and you will have a sick company and culture.

Jeff Riseley: Totally agree.

Andy Paul: Well, Howard, Jeff, thank you so much for joining us. So Jeff, if people want to find out more about Sales Health Alliance and connect with you, how can they do that?

Jeff Riseley: sales, a very easy saleshealthalliance.com is my website. I’ve created it as resource first business second. So if you go to that website, you’ll see all sorts of free resources. Whether it’s from books to articles I’ve written, to articles other people have written, uh, if you’re looking for. To start building mental health and building equipping your sales team with more resilience, and mental health and EKU training.

Uh, there’s links. There have been online course as well. We’ll help support do that. Um, so yeah, that’s the best place and feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn as well.

Howard Brown: I just want to say Jeff, keep up the great work. You’re doing incredible stuff for a community, for people who really need it. And we need people like you to support all of us. This is a difficult time. And, uh, You know, it’s, it’s, it’s inspiring to see people like you stepping up.

Andy Paul: And Jeff, I just want to reiterate what Howard said is, is yeah. So much admiration and respect for what you’re doing. It’s such an important topic. Um, we, as we sat on LinkedIn a couple weeks ago, we had a previous episode on mental health issues and sales is non escapes unscathed in this business. It’s something. That affects all of us. We all need to be aware of it and be aware also of, of our peers and our friends that are in the business as well and how we can help ourselves and each other. So thank you very much for your work. Yes.

Jeff Riseley: Grateful to have the experience and thanks to both of you for helping to create awareness around this topic and keep the, keep moving the needle forward. It’s one, one little step at a time. So this has helped a ton. So thank you.