Is Competitive Stress Damaging Your Sales Force? | Learning & Development | Primeast

How to coach an employee who is underperforming because of stress

Stress is a part of everyday life, but stress in sales can be on another level. The need to make cold calls, create presentations, build relationships, close deals and hit quotas are all triggers of stress. The fear and reality of rejection, the pressure of hitting targets, and the uncertainty of commission-based remuneration can create unending emotional tension. This can have disastrous effects on performance.

Sales leaders today are beginning to realize the importance of learning how to coach an employee who is underperforming to cope with stress. By coaching people to be more emotionally stable with increased resilience, your sales team will be better equipped for success.

The negative consequences of stress in sales

While some stress can produce positive outcomes, increasing desire and will to succeed, over the long term the consequences for health and productivity at work can take a serious toll. Salespeople who cope poorly with job-related stress exhibit the following emotional responses and manifested behaviors:

Emotional response


Anger, annoyance, bitterness, hostility, frustration, resentment


Shame, guilt, embarrassment, regret, humiliation

Compliance, vengefulness, aversion to risk

Sadness, despair, loneliness, self-pity

Lack of engagement

Fear, nervousness, anxiety

Flight, freeze


All the above associated behaviors will negatively impact performance. As performance spirals down, the longer-term side effects of stress may include depression, physical illness such as headaches, back pain and stomach problems, and sleeplessness. At work, peer and client relationships are likely to suffer, and stressed employees are more likely to have extended periods of absence.

How coaching can help underperforming employees deal with stress

In recent years, employers have begun to recognize the importance of helping their salespeople improve their emotional intelligence. A coaching approach is key to helping your people deal with high and continuous stress within the sales environment.

Coaching with emotional wellbeing in mind ensures an effective internal support mechanism is in place when it is needed most. Coaching in both cognitive-behavioral and solution-focused approaches to coping with stress leads to:

  • Greater resilience
  • Improved flexibility to deal with stressful situations and sales meetings
  • Enhanced focus on finding solutions
  • Improved capacity to deal with setbacks and rejection

Coaching your salespeople to become more self-aware will help them understand their natural emotional responses, and aid them in developing strategies to cope with these responses and shape more appropriate behaviors. Reshaping behaviors is key to improving performance in sales, centering conversations on client needs and collaborating to find solutions that will boost sales and revenues.

Instead of a downward spiral where stress leads to underperformance and further stress, salespeople with high emotional intelligence and trained emotional response are not only better able to cope with stress, but also, as sales performance improves, the stress will reduce.

How to coach an employee who is underperforming because of stress

Many organizations are resistant to coaching their staff specifically to deal with emotional factors. However, as the issue of mental health has gained greater coverage in the media, employers are beginning to adapt their approach. For leaders to coach emotional intelligence effectively, they will need to:

In summary

Coaching salespeople to improve their emotional intelligence will help them become more adept at coping with the everyday stresses of the sales environment. Their confidence will improve, they will communicate more constructively, and will adapt their attitudes and behaviors to each unique situation.

Contact us today, and discover how we could help your salespeople understand their own emotional biases and embed the new behaviors needed to cope with sales stress and improve performance.

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