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Vulnerability and sales performance

I just had the amazing experience of visiting the childhood home where my mom was raised in Upstate New York.

I last visited the home 46 years ago when I was three years old. Shortly after that, my grandparents sold the home, so it hadn’t been in the family for decades – until it recently went back on the market and, in a twist of fate, my mom’s youngest sister bought the home.

Think about that: my aunt is now living in her childhood home, after the home belonged to strangers for more than four decades.

So last weekend I had the unforeseeable fortune of being able to set foot in the house where some of my earliest, most cherished memories started.

Home with beautiful trees
Vulnerability and sales performance

I was able to stand beneath the elegant trees in the front yard where I once sat eating grapes as a three-year-old girl. I remember how safe and happy I felt as I looked up at the tall trunks of those trees shimmering in the summertime breeze.

I also relived my memory of taking a walk along that country road with my grandparents. I vividly recall how safe and special they made me feel.

This all made me reflect on the importance of safety. Not just physical safety – but psychological safety.


Why we need safety

The feeling of safety is fundamental to our wellbeing – not only as children, but throughout adulthood too.

In fact, we’re wired to perceive everything in the world through the lens of safe vs not-safe, before we can ever let our guard down to exchange information or experiences with other people.

Yet the need for psychological safety is easily overlooked in the workplace – especially as sellers, and as buyers too.

In a past blog post, I wrote about how critical it is to cultivate trust in your buyers (because their brains are wired to discern threats, first and foremost). Without safety and trust, you can’t have a sale.

Sellers need psychological safety to thrive So what about the psychological safety of sellers? It turns out, that’s equally vital to the sale too.

In a report from the Sales Health Alliance entitled “2022 State of Mental Health in Sales” the authors surveyed 703 respondents on the state of mental health in the sales profession.

The trend that struck me was the following: of the top 5 core needs not currently being met for sales professionals in 2022, the number 1 core need is vulnerability.

The report states: “A growing body of research continues to prove that Psychological Safety is one of the greatest predictors of high performance within teams. When salespeople can express themselves without experiencing fear or shame, they are better equipped to deal with failure and feel more confident approaching challenging goals.”

The positive impact of vulnerability on mental health in sales

Not only do sales teams perform better when they feel safe and able to be vulnerable, they also rate themselves as having far better mental health.

The report states: “Among salespeople who strongly agreed that they could be open and vulnerable with how they were feeling at work, 75% rated their mental health as good or better. Among sellers who strongly disagreed that they could be open and vulnerable while at work, only 16% rated their mental health as good or better.”

Yes, much attention has been given to vulnerability in recent years, thanks to thought leaders like Brenee Brown. In fact, vulnerability tends to be a buzzword that is given much lip service.

But when you stop to consider our primal drive to be safe and secure above all else, it’s hard to overestimate the importance of vulnerability.

In other words, we have to allow people to share and be authentic, especially in the pressure cooker of the sales world with its ever-growing demands and quotas.

What about you?

Just for a moment, put yourself back in the shoes of your three-year-old self. What are the most vivid memories you recall? Did a feeling of safety and comfort play a key role in how special those memories are?

Take another moment to think back to a time when you were frightened or scared. Were you able to share your tears with someone who comforted you? Can you recall the feelings of relief you felt after being able to share?

We’re biologically wired to seek safety and comfort. Sellers can thrive in their mental health and sales performance when they’re supported and able to be vulnerable.

In turn, we have to create this same level of safety for our buyers. Only after the primal need for safety is met, will buyers be open to sharing information, receiving new ideas, and considering the possibility of change.

Do you need one-on-one support with how to achieve your goals for sales success? Sign up for your complimentary, one-hour, 1:1 Clarity Call now.



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