Mental wellbeing: the key to sales productivity

Mental wellbeing is critical for sales productivity. Happy employees are more engaged, creative, and productive. Every team member’s mental health affects not only themselves, but their entire team. Research also shows that mental wellbeing is a key factor to promote overall employee happiness, productivity, and increases retention and group buy-in! This means that when you invest in your employees’ mental wellbeing, you are investing in your overall success as a business.

We’re going to talk about ways that you can help your sales team enhance their mental wellbeing and sales productivity by implementing compartmentalization and growth-oriented policies. As always our researchers have sifted through dozens of research articles from psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics to bring you science backed tips and strategies.

Compartmentalization and growth mindset

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Science of Wellbeing

Mental wellbeing is a term that is often thrown around but isn’t always defined. Many people think it means simply comfortable and not stressed, called hedonic well being. But there is another type of mental wellbeing that takes into account the value of being challenged, thriving under pressure, and working towards difficult but meaningful goals like parenthood or career success – call this eudaimonic well being.

Compartmentalization and growth mindset have shown to increase both types of mental wellbeing, by decreasing stress and increasing the ability to achieve meaningful goals. 

Now, we know that ‘growth mindset’ is everywhere and is probably getting old. But we’re here to tell you that when most people talk about growth mindset they’re mistaking what it means! 

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Normally when people say growth mindset, they mean just viewing challenges as opportunities to grow. They emphasize the ‘mindset’ component for individuals, but miss how organizations can integrate and support a growth mindset. For our purposes, a growth mindset is a cognitive orientation towards developing skills through perseverance, hard work, and adaptive learning. 

Our brains are built to compartmentalize and categorize events and experiences into categories. While our brains are built to do this, we can train our brain to compartmentalize things in advantageous ways to help keep us at our peak cognitive state and maintain our mental well being. We’ll talk about a technique that can help you ‘optimize’ your brain to get it to compartmentalize in more advantageous ways. 

We’ll specifically talk about how you can use growth mindset to increase your team’s sense of mental wellbeing and sales productivity with these two tips: 

  • Properly frame competition and reward ingenuity 
  • Compartmentalize and break down goals to minimize cognitive overload
Competition and growth mindset

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Use competition wisely and reward ingenuity

Competition and growth mindset. One of the most standard ways sales teams try to encourage and increase the sales productivity of their team is competition. The research is great that competition can bring out the best in people. But the research is also great in showing that intra-team competition can reduce cooperation, increase resentment, decrease morale, and create a hostile work environment. So the question is how do you make competition boost sales productivity and mental wellbeing?

Well, the easy answer is change what you’re competitive over. Don’t make your team compete against each other; have them compete against themselves! For example if you want to create a sales competition, rather than rewarding whomever sells the most, reward whomever improves their sales rate the most from week to week. That way, the competition incentivizes growth, ingenuity, and hardwork. 

This change is simple because all you need to do is change how you’re evaluating the competition. This helps members of your team think about each other not as direct competition, but as resources to improve. It also helps foster idea sharing and cooperation because the starting point is yourself and not someone else. 


Rewarding the Right Things

It is important to reward your team members for improvement, but you also need to be careful what you use as the reward. Super desirable rewards like deluxe vacations and huge performance bonuses are dangerous. If the rewards are high stakes or too big, people are more likely to cheat or are incentivized to do more drastic things to achieve our goals. Also, individuals who lose out on rewards can cause resentment amongst your team, which leads to worse mental wellbeing and decreased sales productivity. 

Another thing to remember is that rewards are always dependent on the desirability of the group. One way to ensure you’re not under- or over-shooting the reward is to talk to your team. Ask them what types of rewards they would like. 

If you have the ability, reward the whole team but give the most improved a desirable, yet reasonable privilege. For example, if you take your team out for lunch at the end of each quarter, the most improved person is rewarded by getting to pick where you eat, or at the sales productivity retreat allows the most improved to pick their room first. This is also a great way to help develop a strong and approachable leadership style as you manage the mental wellbeing for your team and increase their sales productivity.

Minimize cognitive load

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Minimize cognitive load: break down goals and clarify priorities

Cognitive load is the amount of mental resources that you dedicate to complete a task. Another way to think about this comes from Cognitive Science and is called cognitive bandwidth. It’s just like network bandwidth for your internet connection. If you use your resources steadily and focus on small tasks one at a time, your bandwidth is devoted to one task. Every time you try to do multiple tasks, it takes up more bandwidth and makes the whole system run just a little slower. If you’re trying to do too many things at once, then your bandwidth overloads and everything runs slow. The same thing happens for your brain! So you want to try and get your team to manage their tasks so that they are steadily working towards small goals rather than one big goal all at once. 

Cognitive overload is when you’ve stretched your bandwidth too much and you don’t have enough cognitive resources to devote to the tasks you need to accomplish. When you’re in a state of cognitive overload one of two things usually happens. 

1) you start to slow down and work less efficiently on multiple tasks, or 

2) you shift your cognitive resources to focus on one or a few important tasks at a time. 

You obviously want to avoid 1, but 2 means that you’ll generally work less efficiently and have to put some tasks on hold. So we’ve found some ways to help you prevent cognitive overload in your teams. 

A simple way to prevent cognitive overload is to breakdown and compartmentalize complex tasks and information. Famous philosophers like Rene Descartes and Karl Popper, and scientists like Charles Darwin and Jane Goodall have adopted breaking down complex things into their simplest components as critical to their method. So we’ll talk about why you should add it into your bag of tricks and how you can help your team practice this. 

Create subgoals. One of the easiest ways to help increase mental wellbeing in your team is to create several sub-goals out of every big goal. For example, if your goal is for each member of your sales team to sell 12,000 new software licences a quarter, you can break that down into selling 4,000 a month or a goal of 1,000 a week.

This effectively does five things:

  1. First it creates low-stake goals that help track progress for your team. This makes the quarterly goal more attainable because people have a successive approximation of how they’re doing each week or day. This makes big and far away goals seem more manageable and attainable. This is just like the successive approximation techniques that people suffering from addiction and phobias use to help manage their stress, and that we use to learn complex and linked events, like a long music piece on the piano.
  2. Second, it reduces the stress of the quarterly goal by steadily applying small amounts of stress regularly, so that way your team gets used to stress in a productive way rather than a distracting way.
  3. Third, it helps your team compartmentalize each day, so a bad sales day doesn’t become a bad sales week. If you don’t work well one day or have a great sales day, you start at 0 with a new goal the next. Compartmentalization helps your team get over failure quicker and increases their resilience. If you’re struggling to understand why, think about baseball. Every inning, you start 0-0, and it’s about the innings you win overall not each inning itself. This is called the ‘Fresh Start’ effect.
  4. Fourth, it helps prevent deception and lying. By seeing each day as new and steadily applying pressure throughout the quarter rather than only at the end, it helps prevent your team from bending or breaking rules to meet quarterly quotas or regulations because they see their quarterly work as a culmination of effort rather than seeing the quarter period as just a deadline.
  5. Fifth, it helps your team build stamina and longevity. Compartmentalizing prevents them from exerting themselves a lot at the end, which often leads to burnout. Another key thing is to make sure that your intermittent goals are highly attainable. If on average it takes 1 hour to sell one licence, then selling 10 in a day would be unattainable; so make sure you properly adjust your goals.

Clarify Priorities. Many times we have goals and priorities that need to be accomplished by our team members, but we often don’t make those priorities clear to others. One of the biggest pitfalls is for the people working on accomplishing the goals don’t see how their work is interconnected. So it is important to clarify priorities and ensure that they are made known to your team. 

This accomplishes several things: 

  1. It helps prevent redundancies so that each individual team member knows how their work is related to broader goals. This is one of the most effective ways to lead a team and help them understand that everyone is working together and interdependently rather than in isolation of one another.
  2. Second it helps you establish trust not only with leaders in your organization, but also among co-workers and members not in positions of authority. Creating this type of trust within an organization is both key to maintaining a positive work environment that promotes mental wellbeing, but also helps generate in-group loyalty.

Announce and establish useful resources. As your organization continues to develop and expand, it is important to remember that the people working for you are also working with you. This means that you need to establish resources for them to use to help with their mental well-being and their sales productivity. 

Often employees only hear about mental wellness and other resources and opportunities during the hiring or on-boarding process, but it’s critical to remind them that these are available. Remember that as employees get into their tasks, they use up their cognitive bandwidth. This means that gentle reminders of resources can be helpful. Also remember that offering resources for mental wellbeing don’t always have to be offering counselling or time off. You can also offer other, simple resources.

For example here are some of the following resources that you can offer that are quick and easy to implement: 

  1. Comfortable break areas are a great way to help reduce stress and anxiety during the work day. In these rooms, try to ensure that there is a window that lets in sun and a comfortable place to sit.
  2. Provide opportunities for communal games during break times. This doesn’t have to be something highly organized, but could be encouraging people to play cards during the day, or encourage them to play a game on their phones for 15-minutes every few hours. While most people might think of this as counterproductive, it actually can help us optimize our brain. We want to focus on reducing cognitive load and ‘optimizing’ our brain. Research has shown that small distraction tasks can help us re-set our brain and get back to a less stressed baseline state. This is the same principle experimental psychologists use in research studies!
Key to Sales Productivity

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Recap of mental Wellbeing: The Key to Sales Productivity

We’ve talked about the connection between mental wellbeing and overall employee, but especially sales productivity. Keeping your sales team at their psychological and mental peak is the best way to ensure that your team is both prepared and able to be their most successful.

We’ve talked about two key techniques that can help boost mental wellbeing in your organization. They are: 

  • Properly frame competition and reward ingenuity using growth-oriented competitions and rewards. This tip shifts the focus and goals of competition from maximizing your success and minimizing your competition’s success to competing against yourself. This helps increase ingenuity and creativity while also rewarding growth. We also talked about properly adjusting your reward structure to make sure that you don’t create a toxic work environment or hostility while also making sure your team will still work hard for rewards.
  • Compartmentalize and break down complexities to minimize cognitive overload. Specifically we talked about three ways to do this:
    1. One was breaking down big goals into smaller ones both in timescale and intensity. This helps you ensure that your team remains both motivated and resilient as they progress towards a quarterly or annual goal. It also helps reduce the stress on your team and ensure that they are building skills to manage success and failure properly.
    2. The second was to clarify priorities openly and directly with your team. This way they understand how they are interdependent. It also helps prevent cognitive overload by allowing them to focus on their specific tasks and not wondering how everything fits together.
    3. Announce and establish useful resources that members of your organization can take advantage of during stressful times, such as deadlines, or on an everyday basis. This is a critical way to minimize overload. It also helps you ‘optimize’ your brain’s natural tendencies to work in a more advantageous way! 

These two tips are great ways for you to emphasize and incentivize mental wellbeing with your sales team. Mental wellbeing not only increases their sales productivity, but can also help them be better employees and better able to manage issues outside of work.