Striking the right balance to manage stress: Successful Selling - Oct 2017

By Sandy Smith

Stress is a part of the fabric our lives, isn’t it? And it’s not just at work but in the demands on our personal lives to get from here to there on time through the traffic and bad weather and to interact with other people who may not be as dependable as we are. There’s the high cost of things, kids being kids, things breaking, health issues, and on and on. Even our pre-K kids have to learn to talk and use the potty and go to their dance classes, soccer practice and play dates. Nobody avoids stress.

At work, stress takes on a whole new perspective. Jenna Goudreau in her article, “12 Ways to Eliminate Stress at Work,” puts it succinctly, “The average business professional has 30 to 100 projects on their plate. Modern workers are interrupted seven times an hour and distracted up to 2.1 hours a day. And four out of ten people working at large companies are experiencing a major corporate restructuring, and therefore facing uncertainty about their futures. This may be why more than 40% of adults say they lie awake at night plagued by the stressful events of the day.”

Before you run off screaming into the night at the huge specter of stress, consider the following. Stress can be positive! Consider that our forefathers (and mothers) dealt with world wars, the Great Depression, catastrophic hurricanes, the polio epidemic and yet went on to lead productive lives. It seems that humans learned to adjust. In fact, John Whyte, M.D., in his Huffington Post blog titled “How Stress Can Be a Very Good Thing,” declares that it can sharpen your memory, help boost your immune system, help you get a leg up at work and make your life more interesting. The bottom line is that we can learn to recognize stress, lessen its impacts and perhaps even turn it into an advantage for us.

Sales professionals are not immune. Sure, a little push to meet sales goals can positively affect performance; sales professionals are by nature competitive. However, overstressed, unhappy sales people are just like anyone else-too much is too much. In his online article in Inc. entitled “How To Deal With Stress in Sales,” Nick Hedges says. “Stress is a major part of salespeople’s lives, but it’s not something the industry often talks about. Identifying different types of stress and breaking them down into actionable items is the only way to ensure salespeople stay motivated, focused, and most importantly, sane.”

It may be that the greatest challenge in the modern workplace is dealing with accelerating change. Much of this change is borne on the wings of technology. There are always newer, better, faster systems and tools to do our job-all for a price, of course. Which innovations are right for our business? Which will our competition use to get a leg up on us? Which are fads that will lead to a dead end?

Laptops and hand-held devices allow us to send and receive phone calls and e-mails virtually anywhere in the world. We can remain perpetually “online” to see television broadcasts, receive stock quotes, conduct research or browse the Web. Sometimes these advances result in employers and clients expecting that we will be available at all times. How do we carve out of this scenario personal time for our family and ourselves? How do we lead a productive but well-balanced life?

Most businesses no longer have the luxury of competing merely against cross-town rivals or of establishing a corner on the market. Savvy and cost-conscious consumers and purchasing agents can check availability of almost anything online and comparison-shop the world.

Also, customers and consumers compare the efficiency and customer service of all businesses to ours. Today, they deal directly with all kinds of businesses the world over-Google, Dell Computers, Disney, Nordstrom’s, Microsoft, Panera Bread, Barnes & Noble, Southwest Airlines-and they expect courteous, efficient service from everyone. If they don’t get it, they are likely to move their business to a competitor.

Modern businesses can no longer afford to conform to the tongue-in-cheek philosophy expressed by baseball great Satchel Paige: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” In today’s environment, it’s almost certain that if you don’t pay attention, someone will be gaining on you.

In one of my seminars I ask my audience, “In what ways have your customers changed in the past few years?” Regardless of the industry, product or service, they portray the same general customer profile. They say that customers not only know more and are harder to convince, but they are more assertive and demanding, holding you accountable for your promises, and they possess the attitude that you work for them and are more impatient, demanding more choices. They’ll give you one chance to win their business and one chance to lose it, and they want to know, “What have you done for me lately?” But they will give you their business for life, if you serve them well.

Management guru Peter Drucker summed up the situation succinctly, “Every product and service is on trial for its life.”

The U.S. workplace has grown increasingly diverse in the past several decades. Although specifics about the future are hard to gauge because of the current uncertainty about U.S. immigration policies, increased diversity is likely.

I was recently asked to facilitate an offsite retreat for one of the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories. The primary purpose of the retreat was to strengthen interpersonal communication and teamwork among high-level research scientists. Upon examining the profile of participants, I discovered that the team was composed of a Russian mathematician, a British physicist, a German computational biologist, an East Indian computer scientist, a chemist from New York City and a director of Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory from Texas.

Organizations must find ways to take advantage of the strength of diversity while keeping the organization healthy and whole.

For many, especially highly educated professional employees, the work week has bloomed significantly beyond the traditional 40 hours. A 2014 Gallup Poll revealed that adults employed full time in the U.S. “report working an average of 47 hours per week, almost a full workday longer than what a standard five-day, 9-to 5 schedule entails.”

What effect is this increased work schedule having on employees? The Economic Policy Institute says, “Surveys and media accounts suggest that many Americans are experiencing significant stress in trying to balance the often countervailing demands of work and family.” A client of mine told me recently that she felt “run over by life.” Another client described his daily work experience as working on the engine of his sports car while the motor was running.

We’ll agree that we can’t eliminate stress from our personal or work lives. But maybe we can find ways to lighten up, dial down the stress a notch. Some time back I was watching a young woman make a point about stress in a conference presentation. She held up a glass of water and asked the audience to guess how much it weighed. Someone guessed eight ounces, someone else suggested 12, another said 20 ounces. The presenter smiled and suggested that maybe the weight of the glass of water wasn’t the important question since everyone could see that it wasn’t very heavy and she could hold it fine. She said that a better question might be how long she has to hold it, adding, “If I hold it a minute, no problem. But if I have to hold it up for an hour, it’s a different proposition. It will be painful.”

Then she said that that’s how it is with stress. If we carry our burdens with us all the time, sooner or later the load becomes increasingly heavy, and we will burn out. She said, “As with the glass of water, we have to find ways to set the stress down once in a while.”

Sharon Melnick, Ph.D., a business psychologist and author of Success Under Stress, offers the following strategies, among several others in her book:

• Act Rather Than React: Identify the aspects of the situation you can control and aspects you can’t. Typically, you’re in control of your actions and responses. And try to let go of the rest.

• Eliminate Interruptions: While you may not have control over the interrupters, you can control your response. Accept the interruption, cut it off or diagnose its importance and make a plan.
• Schedule Your Day for Energy and Focus: Schedule breaks throughout the day to walk or stretch at your desk.

• Prioritize Your Priorities: Cull your to-do list by focusing on those projects that will have the most impact and are best aligned with your goals.

Also, have you thought about the importance of play? Play on a regular basis is not only healthy but also helps set aside worries, renew energy and increase focus. Dr. Stuart Brown, a medical doctor, psychiatrist and clinical researcher, states unequivocally in his book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, that the ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative and innovative person.

If we are to control the effect stress has on us so that we remain engaged and well balanced, we must recognize where our negative stress is coming from, then find ways to mitigate the effects. Maybe you set aside a period of non-interruption each day so that you can focus on important matters at hand. Maybe you schedule a break in your day for a short walk. Maybe you make it your practice to take a breath before you respond to a stressful comment or development. Maybe you meet with a friend periodically to play handball or basketball. Stress is like a violin. If the strings are too loose, we get no music. If they are too tight, the strings will break. We must all find the right balance.

Copyright 2017 Floor Focus