In this episode: Jeff Riseley, Founder of the Sales Health Alliance joins us for a candid talk on the impact of mental health in sales. How did Jeff become so passionate about this issue? How can you talk about these challenges as a sales rep? And how can you learn to grow through what you go through? Stay Tuned!
Connect With Jeff:
In this episode: Jeff Riseley, Founder of the Sales Health Alliance joins us for a candid talk on the impact of mental health in sales and his passion about this issue, etc.
Joseph Fung: In this episode, I’m speaking with a cancer survivor who sold everything from direct farm-to-table subscriptions in Australia to tech at scale ups in Canada and founded the Sales Health Alliance, where he now helps sales reps and sales leaders maximize their output and their success by focusing on their mental health. This is going to be such a great interview. It will start in just a moment, and looking forward to sharing Jeff Riseley’s story with you.
Welcome to sellers journey, the podcast where we speak to great sales reps and leaders and share their real stories from start to sales success.
Joseph Fung: Hi, everyone. I’m Joseph Fung, and today we’re speaking with Jeff Riseley. Jeff is the Founder of the Sales Health Alliance. Jeff, thank you for joining us today.
Jeff Riseley: Happy to be here, Joseph. I’m looking forward to sharing my experience with you and your audience.
Joseph Fung: You’ve had such a remarkable journey. I’m so glad that you’re willing to just share and spend some time to help those that haven’t met you yet and don’t know your story. Maybe you could help us start a little bit early on. Where’d you grow up? Where’d you go to school?
Jeff Riseley: Yes! I grew up in a suburb of Toronto. So I grew up in Etobicoke. I went to a school nearby called Kingsway College, and then from there, in high school, I actually went to a school Downtown at Upper Canada College. Yeah, it was as good as it was going from my suburb to city living and then ended my education career by going to university in Montreal.
Joseph Fung: Well, there you go. You’ve had a chance to move around a little bit.
Jeff Riseley: Yeah, definitely!
Joseph Fung: So people rarely start off starting in sales. Maybe you can help us out. What was your first job? What you do first-ever?
Jeff Riseley: Yes, so I was growing up, especially in high school, I was a huge basketball fan. And I was convinced that I’d be going to be playing in the NBA and a few years later. So I was super passionate about basketball. I actually played against Steph Curry in grade 8. Which was one hell of an experience and…
Joseph Fung: You beat him like the Raptors did, right?
Jeff Riseley: Not so much. He was a very scrawny little kid, and we met well. His dad was playing ranked by the Raptors, and we met, in grade eight at a basketball tournament. And he and his brother were just as good as they were then as they are today. Almost as at least, that’s how I remember it.
Joseph Fung: We can edit that part out and get back to your interest a little bit.
Jeff Riseley: Yea, for sure!
Joseph Fung: So it’s a basketball, good!
Jeff Riseley: Yeah, so my first job was a basketball Camp Counselor, that was during the summer. So it kind of tied the two together.
Joseph Fung: Nice, so that’s a great one. I’m super intrigued. So that’s your first role ever. It’s great. Clearly, basketball set you up for a career in sales. But your first sales role was in Australia with local farms. How did that come to be? I’m so intrigued.
Jeff Riseley: Yeah, it was just a funny story. So when I graduated from McGill and shortly after I graduated, I’d always wanted to travel the world and eventually to my friends, their schedules happen to the lineup. And they were like, you want to go to Australia and I was like, “let’s do it”. So we did a bit of a trip through Southeast Asia, and then we ended up spending some time in Melbourne for a little bit. And that was gonna be our home base for the foreseeable future. So we decided to find fun places to work. And I happen to get lucky and wiggle my way into an interview at a company called Aussie Farmers Direct, which was selling Australian farm products. And I managed it to do. I impressed the interviewee enough to. Then also get both my friend’s interviews there as well. So we all started our Australian selling farming products career altogether. It was pretty funny.
Joseph Fung: And you were focused on converting, expiring, or canceling customers. Right?
Jeff Riseley: Yeah, exactly so customers that had tried the product and had stopped using it. It was just yeah, we were on to steak, a dailer, an autodialer all day. I’m calling these random Australian people with our Canadian accent.
Joseph Fung: Now I was gonna say that’s one end of the spectrum. And I can’t quite understand how you’ve managed to hit the opposite end of the spectrum. Because then you went to sell to oil and gas executives on the other side of the world. Please share! What was that like? How did that happen?
Jeff Riseley: Yeah, so I was kind of like the fresh, similar like fresh grad. Didn’t really find it my passion or what I knew had any idea what I wanted to do. I thought I was gonna find it at university. But didn’t happen that way. And when I got back from Australia, I was just kind of looking at jobs, and I did fairly well at sales at the Australian Company. And this Company, the World Trade Group, was hiring, and the commission was very attractive at the time. So I said, “why not?” like, “let’s give it a try”. And you know it’s not like if it wasn’t working out, I could always leave. But the Commission was attractive enough to say, “Let’s give it a try”. And I ended up doing pretty well early on. So then that flourished into a sales career.
Joseph Fung: That is quite a variety of roles. And I imagine that depth of background must have served you really well in your tech sales activities.
Jeff Riseley: Yeah, so it was, it’s been great. So from there, I meant two of my closest mentors at World Trade Group, who were essentially my managers at the time. And one of them went to start their own Company called Acuity, which is now called Synapse. And brought me on to help build up and managed a sales team, which is great.
So that’s what I got my first kind of dip my toes into the startup experience. And then, from there, I went to the other manager that I was talking about. He ended up landing in a job at Indeed a few years later. And brought me on there as one of the first hires on his team. But I was definitely more drawn to the idea of wearing many hats and the deep growth and learning that you get from working in a startup. So I didn’t find that I was getting that at it a big organization. So then I transitioned back to a sales leadership role at a small startup called Crowd Babble that was focusing on selling social media analytics.
Joseph Fung: So you’ve had this chance to work at a number of tech companies like Synapse, Indeed, Crowd Babble. You’ve got small startups in deeds with just over 10,000 people or something. I mean…
Jeff Riseley: Some fascinating, yea!
Joseph Fung: You’ve that great range of experience. I’d love to hear what’s stuck out to you the most? What surprised you the most about tech sales?
Jeff Riseley: That’s a great question! And I think, so I love the idea of how scalable tech sales can be and how because the niche was selling the comp, like essentially corporate workshops or personalized tailored workshops for organizations. and initially at an Acuity, we always had an issue of scaling like it didn’t make sense and once when I found myself out indeed when I saw how scalable and how much money followed a product like that but I will say at the same time, I think, one of the other biggest things I’ve learned that is more and more I guess a negative outcome of what’s happening within SAS.
We have a lot of engineering brothers and sisters, as much as I love them entering into sales positions and sales leadership roles. And they’re obsessed with building these for predictable revenue like predictable models. And as a result, they’re trying to build sales like machines and treating salespeople more like numbers or like parts when sales is messy. It’s emotional. It can’t be fully predictable. So I feel like that’s a negative outcome of what we’re seeing as we’re trying to treat people like machines and not creating space for more of those vulnerable emotions that are critical to who we are as humans.
Joseph Fung: At common about treating people like humans as you’re in sales. I think rings to not just for the customers but also for the reps themselves. That’s a very nice segue into the sales Health Alliance. Maybe you could help our audience understand. You know what triggered that journey to launch your niches and a focus on mental health? What took you to there?
Jeff Riseley: Yeah, so it was really born out of my own experience with mental health and sales. So going back to World Trade Group was really probably the first intense sales role that I’ve been in I was being measured on. If I could make $200 a day, it’s cheap two and a half hours of talk time. If people weren’t hitting their metrics, they were like to go fairly quickly. So still being a relatively fresh crowd at the time, I had no idea what mental health was or how working in an environment like that would impact my overall mental health and well-being. So I would have brutal panic attacks in the middle of the night, I’d have terrible anxiety, really bad insomnia and I had no way of coping with these behaviors effectively and nor was there a space on the sales floor to talk with this or at least I didn’t feel like it.
And that’s when I started to after my third panic attack. Put me in the hospital in the medical night. I said you should probably do something about this. So I went to see my doctor, prescribed me some anxiety medication, didn’t like how it made me feel so, I had this sort of decision to make where I really love everything about sales, like the rush, the camaraderie, the learning and development but if I wanted to make my career here, I had to figure out ways to make myself more resilient and take care of my mental and that really just started a 10-year journey of learning everything I possibly could about mental health and anxiety and how the brain works. And I didn’t fully realize how important the stuff was that I learned until the summer of 2018. I had just launched my first sales consulting website, and three days later.
I was diagnosed with testicular cancer and what was really interesting, but that experience was the same strategies that I was using to take care of my mental health and sales and be resilient to that stressful situation I started a naturally execute on during this next period of my life and again while delivering this life of an entrepreneur and now again during this global pandemic that we’re facing. So that’s when I really realized that a huge opportunity where so many salespeople are struggling to start creating more discussions and empowering them to reach peak levels of sales performance through better mental health.
Joseph Fung: So I mean, it sounds like the experiences as a sales rep and the pressures are created. It helped you realize kind of a gap and build a skill set that served you know far beyond just the sales floor. That’s such an impactful story. I’m, first off, I’m sorry that you had to go through with it. That sounds like a markedly, tough set of challenges.
Jeff Riseley: Oh, it’s there’s nothing to be sorry about. I’m grateful for every experience. And I was saying to someone earlier today that I actually really loved my anxiety. Not now because it helps tell me what I’m on the edge of my comfort zone, and it’s an, you know you’re about to do something that might scare you, or you might feel like embarrassed or afraid doing it. But what I’ve found is the more I push myself into these uncomfortable situations and continue to seek discomfort, the more meaningful my life becomes and the greater experiences that I, they end up having. So, I’m really grateful for everything that’s happened. So no hard feelings towards anything that’s happened in the past.
Joseph Fung: Well, why don’t we take the opportunity then to just speak briefly about the Sales Health Alliance? What is it? What’s the elevator pitch?
Jeff Riseley: So very short and sweet, and that is simple that anxiety and sales is not optional. It’s part of everyday life, and when salespeople are anxious, depressed, burnt out, or not confident that’s going to have an impact on their overall performance. So the Sales Health Alliance has been created to empower salespeople and sales leaders to reach peak levels of sales performance and well-being through better mental health. And that’s primarily being done through corporate workshops consulting, but obviously with what’s happening with the global pandemic. I’ve had to pivot a little bit, and I’ll be launching my first online course to help address these topics and achieve those goals in a few weeks, which I’m really excited about.
Joseph Fung: Well, that is, we’re super exciting. On that, if people are intrigued or they want to learn more about those or for the course itself. Where can they follow you? Where they can reach out? What should they go to on their browser or their phone?
Jeff Riseley: So the best place to go would be Sales Health Alliance dot com, and that’s where a lot of the content gets posted. I’m also very active on LinkedIn, so feel free to follow me. I think I’m the only Jeff Riseley, R I S E L E Y on LinkedIn. So, I also try to post fairly regularly there for some of my thoughts. And yeah, those would be the two places. And if you’re there, you’ll see where the course gets launched in a few weeks. But it’s gonna be positioned and launched the teachable. So still working that out.
Joseph Fung: Fantastic! I know we’ve got a couple of minutes left. I wanted to check-in. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about your journey. And you’ve had one heck of a journey from your thinking about what you wanted in the future and traveling the world to your comments and challenges on the mental health front and the physical health front. If you were looking back and talking to somebody that was in a similar boat as you when you were graduating. You know they’re trying to figure out their path, their journey. What advice would you give to them? Or if you think back, you know to past Jeff, what advice would you have given past Jeff?
Jeff Riseley: Yeah, I think it touches on what I may have just mentioned slightly. It’s, you would be learning how to change your perspective and become more aware of your anxiety and sort of those feelings you get when you’re uncomfortable. Again we’re humans, were built to grow, and you stressed, or stress to our advantage and the nice thing about mental health is once you start to build that rapport with that inner voice and that inner child, the more you’re able to use it as kind of like a spidey sense that tells you, you’re on the edge of your comfort zone and there’s a very meaningful experience on the other side, and you just go for it. And that will help you, at least for me. What it helped me do was continuously try different avenues is even from my experience selling different products, different environments, different industries, different sized companies, to keep pushing and eventually if the more you. Keep trying new things and stepping outside your comfort zone, you’ll find the thing that you’re most passionate about.
Joseph Fung: I love the way you characterize things. I mean, every time I have a conversation with you, I feel like I’ve walked with new insights, and I love the way you share your research and your content on your site. So for everybody, who’s listening in on the fence, be sure to check it out because Jeff’s got some fantastic content assets and resources in it. I personally very much looking forward to your online program. I’m gonna be checking that out as well!
Jeff Riseley: Amazing! Yeah, no, I appreciate it, and thanks! I’m really happy that I was able to again continue to spread the message, and all the work that you’re doing in terms of helping salespeople grow and start their career as well as has been incredible to watch.
Joseph Fung: Awesome! This is great about don’t let you go. But I want to go through some rapid-fire questions first. Do you have a moment?
Jeff Riseley: Yeah, let’s do it!
Joseph Fung: Okay, what’s your favorite sales tool?
Jeff Riseley: It’s got to be LinkedIn for sure! I love it!
Joseph Fung: Outside of selling, personally, what’s your favorite movie?
Jeff Riseley: So I’m a huge superhero nerd. So any of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies. I’m all for and then I’m also, I can’t help but love the Avengers Infinity War And Endgame as that most epic movies of all time.
Joseph Fung: Oh, nice! I’m a huge superhero nerd as well. So I can resonate with those. I’ve got a guess on what you’re gonna say here, but when you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
Jeff Riseley: Yeah, NBA player all the way.
Joseph Fung: Okay, that’s, I love it, Jeff. This was a great conversation. Thank you for being so generous with your time and so open with your journey and your story. So many people have learned from this. Thank you so much!
Jeff Riseley: Yeah, thanks for having me on, Joseph. I really appreciate it.
Joseph Fung: It’s my pleasure! I’m looking forward to our next conversation.
Jeff Riseley: Me too.
Joseph Fung: Take care.
Jeff Riseley: You too! Goodbye!