Release The Pressure and Sell More

A collaboration between rock legends Queen and David Bowie – Under Pressure sends a message that is a relevant today as it was 35 years ago when it hit the charts.

In sales we quickly learn that pressure comes with the territory. We typically operate in high-pressure Boiler Room style environments. Our leaders focus on keeping the heat cranked up in an effort to motivate us to exceed ever-increasing revenue targets. We compete with each other for prizes, incentives and commissions and those that bring in the big bucks are lauded and applauded like gods, while those that don’t, well they don’t tend to stay around for too long do they! We crave the respect and adulation of our colleagues as much as we fear the hollow emptiness of failure. As the lyrics of the song say:

Pressure pushing down on me. Pressing down on you, no man ask for. Under pressure that burns a building down. Splits a family in two. Puts people on streets

This kind of pressure is a destructive force for sure, and it has no place in the new world sales and business environment. It’s time to release the pressure. There is a better way.

There’s so much going on today. We all have so much to deal with in our lives. I wrote a post about our VUCA world a while so we won’t revisit that issue, but just consider for a moment that everyone you work with, everyone you lead, everyone you meet or interact with, either formally or casually, is most likely trying to navigate through what Bob Burg and John David Mann so poetically describe in their awesome sales playbook Go-Givers Sell More as “their personal sand storm of change”.

Chances are they’re trying their very hardest to keep it together and make it through the day. That being the case how welcome do you think introducing even more pressure into their lives will be? You could quite easily be the straw that breaks the camels back!! Bad karma people. At the very least you’ll activate the fight, flight or freeze part of the brain or activate what author of The Science of Selling David Hoffield calls Reactance – “our intrinsic desire to push back or resist when we perceive that our ability to freely choose is being restricted.” Either way it’s not going to lead to a good outcome for either party.

In his brilliant series of articles The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Sales LeadersDavid Marcum writes “Reactive sales organisations rely heavily on the “carrot-and-stick” approach that has become the norm to “motivate” salespeople, but it’s more likely to squelch proactivity rather than encourage it. Of course that isn’t the intention behind it, but that’s what occurs.” Again the outcome is far from optimal.

A while ago I learned from Neuroleadership expert Silvia Damiano that the parts of the brain that stimulate creativity and innovative thinking actually close down during times of stress and pressure. Meaning our ability to help our clients overcome the complex challenges they face is severely degraded when we’re operating in this constantly stressed out, pressure-filled state. But wait there's more!

The brain's stress response also stimulates the production of a powerful hormone called cortisol. Of course, this is the body’s natural response to immediate, short term stress, but it becomes a major health issue when we find ourselves dealing with stress and pressure for a prolonged period of time. We're talking about a decrease in our brain cells, higher blood pressure and a greater chance you’ll have a heart attack or even a stroke! Scary stuff.

If you’re a leader and you’re cultivating the type of high-pressure sales culture this post is railing against, it’s time to rethink. Not only is it an ineffective strategy, you literallyhave the lives of your people in your hands. But don’t stress, the answer is deceptively simple. Really! How? Take the pressure away. Get rid of it. Give your people the space they need to breathe, to think, to consider and respond and you’ll be amazed at what they will achieve. An inspired team will always outperform a stressed team.

The same is true for sales people. Instead of trying to apply pressure in an effort to get your clients to buy your stuff, do the opposite. Take your foot off that accelerator pedal. Take a deep breath and slow down. Sounds counterintuitive right. But it isn’t, it’s actually the right thing to do. Not only from an effective human interaction point of view, but also from a sales and business performance point of view.

When you release the pressure something magical happens. That space you’ve created is filled with something else. Something that’s much more likely to lead to a positive outcome for you, for your team members, for your colleagues and for your clients.

When you relax, you feel better. Your mind and body communicate your relaxed state to others, meaning you’re now much more able to tap into the full depth and breadth of your mental and emotional capabilities. The great news is that you also encourage the other person to respond in kind. They relax too, they also feel better, which means they’ll be much more at ease with you and the situation.

Now that the virtual barriers between you have been removed the natural flow of communication, understanding, empathy, attention, appreciation and most importantly trust building can begin. The result is that you’ll both be in a much better position to make good decisions that create terrific value, and at the end of the day isn’t that what sales is really all about?


Ian J Lowe is the Founder & CEO of eccoh, a sales transformation, coaching and consulting organisation pioneering a movement to change the way the world thinks about sales. The selling environment has radically changed and yesterday’s attitudes, mindsets and cultures are no longer relevant. To succeed we need to be much more than in the past. Our mission is to harness the collective energies of every salesperson on the planet as a force for good in the world. That's the open effect.

Image Credit: The Hangover 2 movie, 2011 - Warner Bros