Your Salespeople Need You to Stress Them Out — Constructively

Stress is running rampant in the workplace. The American Psychology Association has found in its Stress in America survey that levels continue to increase each year. All this heightened tension often leads to troubles sleeping, thinking and even staying motivated.

Yet, what if your sales leadership could help foster healthy stress that motivates your team’s greatest efforts and growth — while steering your sales force away from distress and burnout?

In these times of economic uncertainty when organizations are looking to grow through sales efficiency, it is important to get the most from the salespeople you have. This is the difference between eustress — good stress — and distress.

Whereas distress feeds on a blur of anxiety and fear of punishment that falls apart into disengagement, eustress motivates people toward a specific goal or opportunity with constructive, collaborative support.

I want to help you guide your team to a state of productive energy that drives an engaged, powerful workforce and sustainable revenue performance. How can leaders get the good stress flowing? Turn to urgency and accountability.


While distress looms intangibly, good stress binds itself to specific goals and projects. Focus individuals of your team on objectives that to which they can productively contribute. Be fair with their workload. Be clear about their responsibility, your expectations and the key assignment details. Then, keep a pulse on them in a supportive manner. By approaching your team in this way, you are embodying two key leadership approaches: urgency and accountability.


Urgency helps drive salespeople. It answers their “Why now?” and “Why keep at this?” But urgency fails to influence good stress if deadlines become arbitrary or unrealistic. Here is how to keep your teams running on good stress with a culture of urgency:

  • Center your sales forces’ activities around purpose; help them understand what their actions are helping your organization and / or its buyers achieve.
  • Distinguish between chaotic busyness and focused, productive activity; tools like conversation intelligence (CI) can help you keep tabs.
  • Embrace the competitive nature of your sales professionals and find ways to lean into that through gamification and awards / rewards.
  • Leverage different levels and capabilities of sellers to orchestrate the collective activities of your sales team; no single member of your team should feel the full weight of responsibility to achieve the collective overarching goals.


Too few leaders hold their team accountable to their tasks and responsibilities. Without someone checking-in on them, though, many sales professionals fail to change behaviors, grow in skillsets or push their performance to the max. As one of my favorite sales managers used to tell me earlier in my career: “Do not expect what you do not inspect.” There is so much truth in that simple saying. Here is how to promote good stress with effective accountability:

  • First, focus your salespeople; do not bog down your team with every little to-do item but rather focus them on the top three to five goals or tasks that matter the most to your team’s performance and the overall bottom line.
  • Create structures and safe spaces where you can give your team regular feedback. A consistent cadence matters as it sets a drumbeat for the rhythms of the business.
  • Have a forum where you and other leaders can pass along kudos of recognition when people are performing well and meeting goals.
  • Repeat and remind your team of your goals, your expectations, your feedback more often than you think necessary — in review meetings, in training sessions, in catchup calls, even in the hallway to and from the kitchen.
  • Make sure your team understands the “why” for the goals and expectations; this extra motivation not only helps provide as much transparency as possible, but it also helps your people see the bigger and more-motivating picture.


A workforce running on good stress results from a healthy and inspiring culture. For the past 16 years at Mereo, we have promoted a culture of Seek to Serve, Not to Sell® that fosters internal good stress — and in turn helps us serve our external clients and partners at our best. Like everyone else, it is a balance that I am proud to say we get right most of the time — but there are hiccups and learnings from those as well!

Learn how to connect your sales force with a deeper purpose and a value-focused mindset that will drive them in their roles. Check out the Complete Sales Organization Guide to Seek to Serve, Not to Sell®.