In the middle of her successful career in sales, Katie McKay, now Head of Sales Enablement and Distribution Strategy at John Hancock Investments, realized the field of sales lifestyle was taking a toll on her health. She was feeling unwell, having a hard time focusing and concentrating on her work and in meetings, and was frequently exhausted. An autoimmune disorder diagnosis put her on the path to recovery; treatment for the disorder required changes to diet, exercise, and sleep, and she took up meditation to help with the stress and anxiety she was feeling.
Those changes, she says, “saved her life” and allowed her to regain the focus and clarity she’d been missing when neglecting her mental and physical health. The shift also prompted her to consider what similar changes could do for her sellers. If these lifestyle improvements could help her, they might be able to help the salespeople she knew were constantly trying to work more hours to get more done, to the detriment of their health and wellbeing.
McKay’s big insight was it wasn’t about adding more hours to the day — there are only 24 in a day, after all. It was about making those hours count more. She wanted her team to be focused, to feel at their best during meetings and sales calls, and even at home. And that meant investing in their overall health. She had seen success in completely changing her lifestyle to focus on meditation, exercise, proper diet, and sleep and she realized she could help her team achieve the same results.
In her organization, McKay had already focused on getting her team the right tools and technology, implementing better lead generation practices, putting out better messaging, and creating more efficient processes. Now it was time to start a more holistic approach to maximizing sales performance, one that included a focus on health and wellbeing.
McKay had a conviction these incremental changes could deeply affect the productivity of her salespeople, but she needed to sell it to the leaders of the organization. This is when she started what she called her “slow drip” strategy of getting leaders to adopt her methods.
Starting a few years ago, she began to play the long game of getting her ideas accepted and integrated into the sales organization at John Hancock Investments. Meditation had helped her with her focus, it had improved her sleep quality, and it had bettered her concentration at work. She was proof this method could work. Her successful background in sales enablement at the organization also gave her leverage.
She started to be open about how she used meditation as a tool and started to talk to other salespeople in the field. McKay pointed out to organization leaders that top performers out in the field were meditating. For years, McKay continued to push how positive meditation was and how it could improve life at home and at work.
This slow drip sales strategy paid off once the challenge of employee engagement during a pandemic was laid bare. With the onset of COVID-19 and WFH, employee engagement has been an important issue for senior leaders. If meditation could improve employee engagement and, hence, productivity, leaders were happy for McKay to offer it to more of the people on her team. She began to do months-long seminars that filled up quickly. Using these real-life examples of salespeople seeing a huge difference in their day-to-day lives helped her build her case. She focused on small asks, and ones that she knew could get approval. When she wanted funds to put towards meditation, she found funds in her own budget to put towards it, an ask that got approved easily.
The salespeople who have gotten involved in meditation have said to her that it’s had a “profound effect” on their lives. Now, she’s trying the same approach internally with sleep.
Even though McKay was supporting team meditation when Rise Science reached out to her with a cold sales email asking her to consider sleep, she still took the call. Why? McKay had seen the damage lack of sleep could do to her health, especially in the field. She’d also been having more difficulty sleeping recently and knew her colleagues were saying the same thing. "There's more people than not who have issues sleeping. And it's a topic people have a lot of issues with but they don't want to talk about."
McKay also knew sleep was part of the holistic approach to seller wellbeing and performance she was seeking and one that would have a full-circle impact: “The thing is, if you give [sleep] back to an employee and it makes them more productive at work, that's great. But think about it. If it makes them happier at home and their family life gets better and all those [positive] things happen. Then think about the reverse that you get back, which is they're so happy coming to work and they want to do a good job and they want to be productive and they're just leading a more fulfilled life. It makes everyone win."
With happier, more fulfilled employees, McKay has noticed remarkably less turnover than in previous years. Less churn then has a virtuous effect of keeping the team culture intact, she says, further supporting employee satisfaction and performance.
Meditation has had such a positive impact on her life that McKay encourages everyone, not just her sales team, to try it. What works best for her is meditating for five minutes every morning before work and then writing down three things she wants to accomplish that day. This practice keeps her focused, accountable, and motivated. It’s been “a game changer,” she says.
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