Beyond the Number

Succeeding in Sales While Managing Depression

Liston Witherill, Voracious Learner, Sales Coach, Proud Husband's Avatar

Liston Witherill, Voracious Learner, Sales Coach, Proud Husband

Most people would describe me as naturally charismatic, funny, and full of energy. I’m a natural salesperson.  I can make people excited about ideas and believe in themselves. I can help them see a better future.

And because of that, you’d never know that I get periodically depressed. But it’s true. It happens every two years, although I don’t know how to describe it. What I know for certain is, if you looked at me when it was here, you could see it in me, and I wish you didn’t. I’d rather you not see me at all when I’m depressed.

In the sales industry, avoiding human contact isn’t an option. I still need to make a living, and face my obligations, and pay my mortgage. I have to sell!

Because of this challenge, you may immediately picture someone who never meets quota, can’t get out of bed, and never makes President Club (do they still have that?). The opposite is true. While dealing with depression at work is part of life, I’ve managed to go on to become successful and hit many of the milestones salespeople most aspire to for myself and my clients.

I’ve closed a $1M+ high-profile government contract. I’ve boosted close rates for proposals by over 3x in a 2-year period. I’ve driven dramatic increases in revenue, and I’ve built my own small agency from $20k to $250k+ in revenue in less than 2 years. Throughout my time doing all of this, I’ve had a few bouts of depression that temporarily derailed me.

Along the way - and with professional help from psychologists - I developed strategies to address my depression. As you can see, I was still able to be successful throughout. I’d like to share three simple tips that worked for me. Now I’m not a doctor or psychologist, but I’ve learned a few things that’ve made the biggest difference.

The Salesperson's Guide to Dealing with Depression at Work

Tip #1

I realized and acknowledged that I was suffering from periodic depression. Admitting it to myself proved difficult. Even with an accepting family, I still believed that somehow I was compromised. Having the self-awareness to admit it, get help, and maintain healthy habits gets me through and reduces the likelihood of depression coming back. As soon as I was able admit it, I had language to describe and address my depression. The frequency, duration, and severity of my depression has gone down substantially as a result. That helps me stay productive and effective while selling.

Tip #2

Take time off, whether a long weekend, or just a few hours in the day. Changing your environment matters. Get outdoors, cook, or like me, sit down to dinner with your spouse. Time away gives me the space to think about how I’m feeling and why I’m feeling that way.

Tip #3

Listen and make a change if needed. Depression can be the product of multiple stressors and biological factors. But as I look back on the various episodes of depression I’ve experienced, I can trace their triggers to a lack of fulfillment. Rather than making a change, I became depressed. In other words, sometimes depression is telling us to make a change, and I eventually did. These changes led to higher performance, and pursuing the things I really wanted (like going out on my own as a coach). The success followed, and so did the sales.

"You're Not Alone"

In conclusion, you’re not alone. Depression happens. About 7% of American adults suffer from depression every year. A much higher percentage experience depression at some point in their lives. I have it, and yet I still have friends and a healthy marriage. I sell stuff, I help people, and people want my help. I tell you this only to make the point that depression hasn’t created failure, only the occasional feeling of failure. If you have depression - now or periodically - you’re not alone. I can promise you that, with the right tools and habits, it will get better. Most of all, I love you, and thank you for reading this. It’s a gift that I could write and publish this, and that you cared enough to read it. Be healthy.

**If you manage someone with depression, give them the space and encouragement to get healthy. There’s nothing wrong with them, and they don’t need to be fixed. Depression is just part of who we are as humans.

**I’m not a doctor or trained professional, and what works for me won’t necessarily work for you.

Editor's Note: If you are struggling with depression, we encourage you to contact 1-800-273-TALK to get help today. 

Liston Witherill helps freelancers and consultants sell with confidence. He's on a mission to end high-pressure selling, and spread the message that sales don't happen over email. He applies the latest psychology and behavioral economics findings to enable better conversations and strike up new relationships. Liston's a recovering digital marketer, but please don't hold it against him.

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