How two sales leaders balance work and wellness

August is recognized as Wellness Month. Over the years, mental health professionals and advocates have made a great effort to destigmatize mental health. The fruits of their efforts have given space for greater discussion and awareness surrounding mental health and wellness. 

During the past year-and-a-half, wellness has been vital to our day-to-day lives. Two Seismic employees, Vanessa Merchant and Will Quigley have been forthcoming with their story and wellness journey over the course of the past 18 months. 

Vanessa is a Senior Director of Enterprise Sales at Seismic and Will is a Vice President of Mid-Market Sales. They are both sales leaders with teams to manage, quotas to hit, and families to take care of. We recently had a discussion where they shared the importance of wellness for themselves, their families, and their communities. 

Check out our conversation below: 

Tony Smith: I think it’s safe to say that the past year-and-a-half has been mentally exhausting for everyone. How are you holding up?

VM: I’m guessing I’m not the only person still confused and trying to process the last 18 months. Achieving a state of wellness is challenging enough in our day-to-day—achieving a state of wellness in a global pandemic is something I struggled with deeply like I’m assuming we all did.

The weeks leading up to mid-March felt a little surreal in hindsight. Sure, I saw the news and was devastated watching the tragedy unfold on the other side of the world, but never imagined every country around the globe would soon be impacted.

WQ: After 7 years at Seismic and 25 years on the East Coast, I moved to Chicago toward the end of 2019 with a goal of building out our team, as well as our long-term sales functions in the Midwest.

For many others in the same boat, the last couple of years have been full of highs and lows, mental exhaustion, and surprise. A few months into my “long-term plan,” COVID-19 hit, and my world was turned upside down.

Mentally, I wasn’t all there from the start. I missed my family, friends, home, and work/life balance. Sales is a tough occupation and mental health is a constant battle. 2020 was harder than normal: my biggest deals died out of nowhere, I grew a beard for fun, and I picked up new ways to kill time in my apartment, just to keep the day moving. I started watching more TV and news than ever—and I hate the news. 

Wellness month may be a lesser-known awareness month, but this year it has more vigor. What has brought wellness to the forefront for you?

VM: My son had left for college the previous Fall, and I was still struggling to adjust to a much quieter house and lack of all the various activities that came with being a “student-athlete mom” for the majority of his life. I was eager to find outlets to help me improve my wellness, not knowing what an uphill battle that would be.

As countries around the globe began to shut down in March, I found my anxiety racing more and more. I felt helpless. I felt like I had no control. I quickly lost focus with my wellness plans which got replaced with Tiger King, wine, and more wine.

During this time in March 2020, my son was home for spring break from the University of North Texas, where he was enjoying his first year as a student-athlete. While he was home, the school made the decision to move the rest of the year to virtual classes due to the pandemic, asking students not to return to campus.

As a mom, I was so thankful to have him home during these scary times. But, what I didn’t realize at the time, was the impact that shift would have on his overall wellness. He was enjoying the life of a student-athlete, away at college, meeting new friends of different backgrounds–and suddenly it was all gone and he was back home. I instantly saw how this change affected his overall wellness. The outlets that helped him thrive were gone.

TS: What has been most helpful to you throughout your wellness journey?

VM: I began to jot down things we could do as a family to improve our wellness. We went on walks together, exploring neighborhood trails and enjoying the calm and fresh air. We even stumbled upon a couple of gators while they also enjoyed the fresh air. I started doing Yoga, listening to podcasts to start my day, and began a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, we would share one thing we’re grateful for, which I think is a great habit to try if you haven’t tried it before.

WQ: I started coaching purely by accident. I had just moved back to Boston when I got a phone call from an old high school rival, Steve Dembowski. He’d heard that I was living nearby in Southie and told me he was short-staffed during his team’s “COVID-19-approved Spring season.” 

Five years after my college graduation and a year of being locked inside my apartment left me missing the game of football more than ever.  I never could’ve pulled this off during “normal times.” Without business travel as a blocker, I could make myself available to be a part of a team–something I’d missed more than ever. 

After a few back-and-forth conversations with my chief revenue officer (CRO), also a long-time coach, I called Dembo back to let him know that I was in. I quickly found myself nose deep in a playbook between sales calls, watching game film instead of Netflix at night, and constantly dipping out of the office early to focus on something other than myself and money.

I learned so much about being a coach, mentor, and leader—it came during a time when I was getting into sales management and needed these lessons the most. The parallels between coaching and sales are endless and I cannot be more thankful to my bosses, Ed Calnan and Nadia Rashid, for letting me put the phone away to experience them.

TS: What advice would you give to someone as they’re starting out their wellness journey?

VM: Wellness to me is the actions you take to actively improve your overall well-being, and how you look to improve the well-being of others. I often hear we’re united in this “pursuit of happiness”, but to me, wellness is having joy. Joy comes from within and helps us in our pursuit of optimal wellness.  

WQ: If you’re looking for a takeaway, I challenge anyone reading this post — maybe you’ve also struggled with mental health or you’re simply looking for an opportunity to give back — to consider putting work aside to focus on something you love or your community.

You’d be shocked at what it does to your performance, wellness, and the well-being of others during a time when we all need it the most.

Seismic and its employees are committed to conversations about sales and mental health. If you’d like to learn more, you can listen to every episode of PsychandSales on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Tony Smith
Tony Smith
Sr. Content Strategist
Tony Smith is a Senior Content Strategist at Seismic where he creates blog and thought leadership content. He has 12 years of experience as a marketing and communications professional, and is passionate about using storytelling to help customers solve their business challenges.