Ryan Lins has worked in sales for 18 years and is an Author for Sales Unleashed. He spoke with the Sales Health Alliance to share his story and best practices for managing Mental Health in Sales.
Sales Unleashed provides tools and tips to understand the changing face of sales. The focus of Sales Unleashed is on soft skills like empathy, creativity, and emotional intelligence.
I also provide insight to partners on team selling and choosing the right company “fit” for your sales career.
What is your role at Sales Unleashed?
I create content, multimedia and write articles to improve the SEO for the Sales Unleashed website. Our website will be launched in mid August.
Currently I am also a Sr. Inside Sales Rep for a U.S based safety and regulatory company, J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. I’ve been working here, in numerous team sales roles for the past 18 years.
Why do you think more awareness is needed around Mental Health in Sales?
Even with greater understanding today, mental illness still carries a negative stigma.
Sales is a demanding, deadline-line driven profession and salespeople are on the front lines. The longer I am in sales the more people I meet that struggle.
The truth is most salespeople with mental illness don’t need major accommodations. They just need a little understanding and flexibility to self manage their symptoms.
What has been your experience with Mental Health throughout your Sales career?
My sales career started back in 2001 right out of college. I was a hard driving, no hold barred inside sales rep. My performance was successful on paper and I thought I was mentally tough.
But in 2009 life was moving faster than I could handle. My wife and I were expecting our first child, my company was going through layoffs, my hunting dog went blind overnight. Sales were few and far between. My life was turning into a bad country song.
This is when I started noticing symptoms like extreme muscle tightness in my back, heart racing, and feeling light headed to the point of passing out. I even suffered through a couple of panic attacks.
This is when I learned what a “sense of impending doom” meant.
How I learned about Mental Health
I had no idea what was happening to me. I’ve always been healthy and my body was telling me that I was hurting. I really thought I had cancer or I was dying.
It took about 30 trips to the doctor over 2 years to come to the diagnosis that I have a mental illness…Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I’ve always been against modern medicine until I needed it. I’m thankful that my doctor prescribed anxiety medication that helped me regulate my stress and kept most of my symptoms at bay.
Unfortunately, being a private person I didn’t want to share this with the world. I didn’t think anyone else would understand, and that included my wife, my co-workers, my friends. So for the most part I suffered and recovered in silence.
But as I’ve seen more colleagues suffer I wanted to share my story. I didn’t want my friends and co-workers to suffer alone. You can be a successful salesperson and struggle with “stuff”.
I’ve also believed in the power of prayer. During these times it was my prayer life that improved. My relationship with God was strengthened. That has been a great help to me balanced in work, home, physical and spiritual needs.
My wife Kelly has also been very supportive during this time. It took a few years before I let her in and we are a better team for it.
Who have been your biggest workplace influences around positive Mental Health?
My sales colleagues at my current company constantly inspire me.
Some of them struggle daily with mental illness and yet they continue to fight. It’s refreshing to see the next generation open to talking about their challenges and “stuff.”
My current company has been great about offering mental health services through a local clinic. They also bring in speakers to discuss topics like mental illness and stress. These are awesome steps forward.
During a typical day, week, month or quarter working Sales – What events impact your Mental Health the most?
For me it isn’t sales numbers, it’s the internal conflict that kills me.
If I get entangled too deeply into resolving a problem or issue I can feel symptoms creeping back. I have an innate desire to improve processes and reduce inefficiency. This sometimes lead to anxiety flare ups.
During these times I need to pull back. I’ve even asked for help from my manager or field partner to defuse an issue or jump on the grenade on my behalf.
What are some of your Best Practices for maintaining your Mental Health while working in Sales?
I think you need to have balance in your life. I’m a Christian so a healthy prayer life is important to my spiritual health.
I’m a firm believer in a good night’s sleep and exercise as foundations for health. I’ve heard that exercise can be as effective as an antidepressant!
I think a good sense of humor also helps. I’m not beyond making a joke at my own expense either! I think we can take ourselves far to seriously in sales.
Remember your job isn’t who you are, it’s what you do!
What is the number one thing you would change about working in Sales that you think would improve Sales Rep Mental Health the most?
It’s easy to say “we accept mental illness” in our sales team. It’s another to deal with that in the dynamics of making your month, quarter, and year.
Too often the stress from work comes when salespeople are forced to be something they are not.
You take a natural introvert and encumber them with administrative tasks, pointless meetings, and redundant systems instead of helping them reach their goals will result in issues.
The Sales Health Alliance would like to thank Ryan for sharing his story and best practices around Mental Health in Sales.
Sales Unleashed launches in August and in the meantime connect with Ryan LinkedIn profile by clicking the link.
THANK YOU for sharing! Sales is demanding and rewarding but the right mental balance is key. Focusing on a number to hit is so stressful (especially when you don’t) but focusing on the people who we help attain their goal is so rewarding. Companies need to balance those sales numbers with the number of people they have helped. It happens every day but too often the $$ outway the people.