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Mental challenges of working in sales

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

Topsales Amsterdam did research about the mental challenges of working in sales. We spoke with 30+ sales professionals working at 18 different organisations among which Oracle, Salesforce, Cisco, Rifinitiv and Deloitte*.

According to numbers as reported by CBS, mental health does play a role in the Dutch commercial sectors (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, 2019): 20% of the employees experience burn-out symptoms. 20% of the sales professionals experience mental issues. The cause isn’t always work related, but may also lie with more private matters like family or relationship difficulties.

Nevertheless, mental health does have a strong influence on both individual and organizational performances. Sales professionals with a strong and healthy mind(set) generate 37% more sales.

Sales people with a strong and healthy mind(set) generate 37% more sales.

Our research focused on the mental challenges related to the sales job itself. We think it’s fair to say that sales is a relatively stressful job. The results show that all of our respondents deal with at least one of the mental challenges as listed below, on a daily basis:


Pressure to perform due to measurable results

Adversity - as for example solving issues with customers or receiving contract cancellations

Sales blockers – as for example the quality of the product/service you don't always have an influence on, lack of budget, bad support from internal departments (e.g. Legal)

• The stigma of selling

Internal politics and competition

There’s no ‘one way’ – every customer and situation is asking for a different plan of action

We explain the importance of investing in the mental strength of your sales team by using the airplane oxygen mask metaphor. In order to assist the person next to you, you should help yourself first. This is also how it works in sales. If you cannot breath due to stress and challenges, you will also not be able to help your customer in the best way possible.

= mental strength = the ability to get the best out of yourself = maximal performance

Most training courses are mainly focused on the more traditional sales skills like pitching, negotiation and conversation techniques. These subjects are extremely important, but what’s missing is training to develop a strong mental fundament for executing these skills successfully.

Let’s be clear, we cannot take away the mental challenges as listed above. What we can do, is train our sales people to handle them better. Sales is like professional boxing: you cannot avoid getting punched in the face, but you can train to prepare yourself and stand up quickly. Your chances to win will increase and your chances to dropout will decrease.

Let’s be clear, we cannot take away the mental challenges. What we can do, is train our sales people to handle them in the best possible way.

There is so much more to win in sales, once your realise that great results start with a strong mental fundament. Based on both our research and experience, we created the Topsales Mindset training. Click or call if you would like to receive more information!

* All participating organizations: Salesforce, Blackrock, Mambu, IHS Markit, Cisco, Rifinitiv, Growth Tribe, AB Inbev, Maandag, Darewines, Monex Europe, Progressive Recruitment, Oracle, EMEA Invesco, Cladding Point, Poll Promotion, Volvo, Deloitte.

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