What Happens When Sales Leaders Get Super Stressed?

Alexis Kahlow, CEO and Founder, Open Deltas

What Happens When Sales Leaders Get Super Stressed?

It was the end of my quarter as the Cisco sales leader for our New York financial services business – a cutthroat, fast-paced, competitive $200 million business for our organization. 

I was stressed beyond belief. We had started the first month of our fiscal year way under plan and were trying to climb ourselves out. 

The thing is, I didn’t see a way of climbing out. Fifty percent of my business was data center, and most of our clients had moved their workloads to the cloud. We’d literally lost 50 percent of our business overnight. Yes, it would eventually correct itself – but not in 90 days: Our sales cycles were six to 18 months. 

Why Sales Leaders Often Feel Super Stressed

We’re living in highly stressful times. When I think back to the last time I experienced intense levels of stress, I knew I need to stay calm, grounded, and present as I managed up to my management and down to my team. 

But it was one thing to know how to act; it was another thing to actually behave that way. 

My Highly Stressful Schedule as a Sales Leader 

What did my highly stressful schedule look like? Every morning, I’d jump out of bed at 5:30 to hit the gym. I’d set off with the best of intentions – exercise was good for my mental, physical,  and emotional health. 

But I’d spend most of the time on the treadmill or elliptical machine barely breaking a sweat as I checked emails, read the news, and actually ended up way more stressed out than when I’d gotten to the gym. I now know I was creating cortisol instead of the endorphins I so desperately needed. 

I’d race through my shower and dressing, thinking about the day ahead, and forgetting to eat breakfast. On the way to the office, I’d silently curse any commuter who got in my way – the stress response escalating even more. 

I’d sit down at my desk and bounce from meeting to meeting, to email to Slack…and end the day drained and not really sure what I’d gotten done. 

During this time, I wasn’t the grounded, present leader my team needed me to be. My life revolved around reactions and distractions. 

How Talking with a Mentor Helped Me Break the Stress Cycle

“You didn’t get stupid overnight,” my mentor said to me.

“Huh?” must have been written all over my face. 

“You didn’t get stupid overnight,” my mentor repeated. Her career had included getting every business unit she ran to hit its stretch goals. “You’re dealing with things that happened long before you took over, and now you’ve got to figure it out. But remember: You didn’t get stupid overnight. Stop doing all the things and go back to the right things.” 

Simple: I just needed to go back to what had always worked. 

Mindfulness Reduces Stress and Yields Greater Success 

Once we hung up, I resolved to pick up my mindfulness practice. I reached out to the benefits team and asked how I could get my team involved in the mindfulness program. 

This was how I created my Performance-Based Mindfulness methodology, and how I got my team from 67 percent of plan to 94 percent (with two headcounts open). We used my SIT method (a concentration meditation practice) that restructures the brain for focus and concentration by practicing for just 10 minutes over two weeks. During the workday, we used my Daily Deltas to structure the day for optimized performance. 

When you learn about how your brain works, you can see exactly how an addiction to stress and distraction holds you back. Research shows we’re distracted for nearly half (47 percent) of the day. And most people have little to no awareness it’s happening. 

The last time I presented at the Peak Performance Mindset workshop, sales leader Chris Beall of ConnectandSell had an insightful take on the power of mindfulness. “Mindfulness allows me to have access to what’s inside of me before I go to do something that’s outside,” he said. “Something I used to do when I was young was mountaineering and rock climbing. I was always concerned I didn’t know enough to do it safely. And it became a standard part of staying alive – to know what’s inside before you do something outside. Because, if you screw up [there], you die.” 

In my workshops, I demonstrate how mindfulness practices can help you reclaim those hours of the day and focus your energy so you can be more productive, creative, and successful. If you want to get out of the grind and into the flow, check out my offerings online. 

Alexis Kahlow is CEO and founder of Open Deltas. She is a speaker, expert, and author on Performance-Based Mindfulness