Self-Care and Sales

Exploring the intersection of mental health and sales fatigue


Mental health is a very important subject for us to discuss as it relates to our work and our sales. Please understand that I am not a clinically trained therapist in any way shape or form, but I do hold an ACC certification from the International Coach Federation. My intention of this column is to try to provide inspiration to those of you that might have found yourself in a sales rut or mentally fatigued at work or in life as we're getting back to some level of normal sales business across America. If you are experiencing significant mental fatigue or issues related to your mental well-being, please seek professional advice.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 31 percent of respondents reported symptoms of anxiety or depression; 13 percent reported having started or increased substance use; 26 percent reported stress-related symptoms; and 11 percent reported having serious thoughts of suicide in the past 30 days. These numbers are nearly double the rates expected before the pandemic. 

This is more than a revenue issue. This is a human issue.   

Ad sales has literally been a part of my life for 30 years, but over that period of time there have been many days, weeks, and months when I didn’t feel like selling anything. Here are  seven things that I often do when I find myself in a sales rut or mentally exhausted from the business of sales.

  1. Connect with others in the sales business. It's important also to surround yourself with other people that understand where you're coming from. Often, those around you can't sympathize very much because they don't really know what it's like to be in the sales business. While it's always good to get other people's outside perspective, it's also equally as important to surround yourself with other people that completely and utterly understand what you're going through. In every major city that are groups of sales professionals that gather together on a regular basis. Here is a link to several groups that you can join:

    If you're unable to find a networking group, seek out professional sales coaching. Finding a coach that's also in the sales business can be extremely helpful to you as they will be able to better sympathize with your current situation and provide guidance.
  1. Change your frequency. There is a universal understanding that when you continue to do something the same way and expect a different result, you are defining or trying to redefine the non-clinical version of insanity. Many salespeople that I personally coach will find themselves on the wrong frequency. They have been doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result and just can't see why things aren't going in their direction.

    Recently, I was working with a sales professional that found herself in a sales rut. I encouraged her to change things up. To leave home at a different time for work. To drive a new direction to the office. To listen to a different style of music on her way to work. To change her coffee. To park in a different parking spot. To wear a different type of outfit to work. All of these little factors contribute to you looking at things from a different perspective. After just 48 hours of doing things completely different than she normally would, she closed a big dollar sales deal.  Was it the coffee, or the new parking spot?  No, I don't think that this is a conspiracy theory by any means. A lot of times it's about retraining your brain to see things from a different perspective.
  1. Call a client who loves you. There are people that I often call when I'm having a bad day. I do not usually tell them that I'm having a bad day, but I will engage in conversation with them knowing that they are not going to beat me up about price or frequency or Facebook. There are three things that can come from this. The first is that you might just find a sales opportunity. The second is that you are actually doing yourself a favor by retaining that customer. The third is that you created a positive conversation that will probably lead to another one.
  2. Work list of clients. Within any competent Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), you are able to form a list of customers. I have three lists that I work on a daily basis. The first is a standard prospecting list that we all have in front of us. The second are those clients that I've already met with that I consider “in progress” towards a sale. The third are my active clients that I am looking to retain for a lifetime. When I'm having a bad sales day, I focus on my lists. 

    My lists are a living breathing document. My goal is not to work a list from 10 to 0.  My goal is to have a list that is always growing and changing. From a pipeline sales management perspective, I never want any of my list to get to 0. If your CRM system can't create a list, I would suggest you find a new CRM.
  1. Work new categories. In addition to the list that I work on a daily basis, I also will often change my sales approach on categories that I sell. Personally, I like to trade accounts with other sales professionals on my team. The reason for this is because when I give someone an account that I've worked hard and they trade with me, we almost always will close a deal one way or the other. Many times, customers just need to hear a different tone of voice or a different approach.
  2. Get some sleep. According to sleep experts from the Mayo Clinic, a lack of focus or mental fatigue can often be linked to a lack of sleep. Most adults need seven or more hours of sleep each night to function at a high-capacity level. One of the things I noticed when I was diagnosed with sleep apnea is that I was definitely not getting enough sleep. I’m an eight-hour of sleep kind of guy. Can I function on seven hours of sleep? Absolutely, but if I want to be at my prime, I need eight hours.
  3. Get back to the basics. When things aren't going well, it is a common practice for us to take random sales approaches to see what might stick against the wall. This is an absolutely bad sales strategy whether you're new or old in the business. There are fundamental pieces to the sales game that have to be achieved in order for you to be successful. Are your emails short and simple and to the point? Are your emails and voicemails relevant to the exact needs of the customer? Are you contacting your customers at the optimal time of day? Are you selling strictly on the phone or are you trying to get in front of people to have face-to-face meetings? These are just a few of the basics that you need to wrap your head around if you're going to be successful and get back on the sales horse for a long ride to victory.

If you're in a sales rut, choose just one of the seven ideas listed in this column and put it into action. Getting out of a rut is not about giving it half your effort. It's going to take everything you got to get the train back on the tracks and rolling in the right direction.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I dedicate this column to my fellow media sales warrior Chris Atkins who took his life amidst a vibrant media sales career. Chris, you are missed. 

Ryan Dohrn is a 30-year veteran media sales pro and marketer.  He is an Emmy Award winning motivational speaker and is a sales coach to more than 200 media companies. Find him at


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