Modern Selling: Anxiety Management for Salespeople

Jan. 18, 2019
5 ways to "keep calm and carry on" in sales

Sales is the most notable professional career that does not require at least a bachelor’s degree; in fact, thousands of people start a sales career every year without any education in selling. Still, sales is arguably the most demanding on short-term individual performance. Regardless of experience or education, it is common for a new salesperson to be retained or terminated based on their selling performance in the first 90 days.

The outcome is a dog-eat-dog profession that not only results in anxious people, but actually feeds off of anxiety. Case in point: I bet you have heard a sales manager or two claim they want their salespeople to be in deep debt.

Since sales attracts competitive people, trying to manage that anxiety can be a futile task for salespeople – unless they act proactively. Here are five ideas to help a salesperson proactively manage their anxiety.

1. Write down the things you control. As a new salesperson in 1995, I was stressed. My boss saw my tension and ran me through a powerful exercise. He had me draw a vertical line down the center of a piece of paper. On top of the left column, he had me write the word “Control” and on the right, I wrote “Can’t Control.”

I proceeded to write down a few dozen line items on the page, with things like “number of cold calls” and “quality of demos” on the left, and “competition” and “delayed decisions” on the right. It turns out I was spending most of my emotional energy on the right side of the page. It seemed my boss was on to something. The last step was to tear the paper in half, throw away the “Can’t Control” side, and pin the “Control” side on wall of my cubicle. Sounds corny but try it – it is a magical exercise.

2. Exercise. I don’t need to explain the importance of this idea – simply do a Google search for “exercise reducing anxiety” and you will get the idea pretty quickly. If I were offered ten billion (with a “b”) dollars to never work out again, I wouldn’t take it. My exercise routine is that important to my happiness and performance.

3. Fall in love with the process. Tom Brady likes winning Super Bowls, but he also loves working out before sunrise in late February – when every other NFL player has their feet up on vacation. When I am stressed because of sales performance issues, the activity that motivates me most is working hard on the process – making outbound calls, writing impactful blog posts, or planning creative marketing campaigns. It sounds crazy, but a few hours of this type of work actually relieves more stress than winning a large sale.

4. Stay away from negative people. Everyone knows they should avoid negative people, but still they don’t; in fact, we often become drawn to them during anxious times. Do not rely on your decision-making skills to dodge these energy-suckers. Instead, write down the names of the people to avoid and make a conscious decision to keep them out of your life. If you don’t literally write down their names, you will find yourself wasting two hours after happy hour with them, complaining about the awful economy and falling down the anxiety spiral of doom.

5. Keep track of your own metrics. As I type this, my company’s backlog is over capacity for the next five months, but we have a sharp decline in month six and beyond. Metrics – like proposals, discovery calls, and website hits – indicate that we are going to be over capacity for a long time. Without the metrics, I would be a mess right now; with them, I don’t think about it – I just perform.

Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm (, a sales consulting and training company built specifically for the security industry. To request more info about the company, visit