In this 3-part series, we’re doing a deeper dive into the 6 personality traits that make up mental toughness. Mental toughness is a psychological construct — each of the six traits are individual components of a larger whole — so it’s important to remember not to make assumptions about singular personality traits. However, we will take a closer look into the interplay of two of the six traits that make up mental toughness:  level-headedness and stress tolerance. These two traits work together to help mentally tough salespeople persevere. 

At Caliper, our scientists have done extensive research on the traits that differentiate star college and professional athletes, and we believe these traits also apply to success in the sales field. By taking a closer look at the 6 personality traits of mental toughness, you can start to see how cultivating these traits in your salespeople can help you build a more effective, high-performing team with demonstrable improvements to revenue.


Our scientists define level-headedness as the ability to stay composed in challenging interpersonal situations. In the context of the sales profession, that means dealing with difficult sales, indecisive prospects, competition from other organizations, etc.


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Sales professionals who exhibit mental toughness are able to take these agitators and deal with them in a calm, composed manner. They have a good handle on their emotions and have the ability to express them at the appropriate times in the appropriate ways. Such behavior facilitates more productive conversations, even-keeled relationships with prospects and clients, and proper responses with their teammates.

Where it’s critical

The sales profession is full of challenging moments, whether they be from transactions, contract agreements, competition, or relationship management. An important part of making the sale is to manage your emotions properly. Things can get heated, discouraging, or even exciting, but you can’t always prepare for what’s going to hit you next. Level-headedness is a significant driver of performance in competencies focused on decision making, conflict management, and composure and resiliency — all of which you’ll encounter frequently in the sales field.

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Our scientists define stress-tolerance as the ability to remain resolute under stress. Sales is a stressful field. There are targets, high rejection rates, persistent negativity, and, usually, money at stake. In a smaller company, a lot of the weight of the business rests on the shoulders of salespeople. Additionally, the work hours are often unstructured or erratic — things can stop or go on a dime. Those sales professionals who have mental toughness know how to manage the volatile nature of the job and keep the stress from overwhelming them.

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How to Manage Stress

Stress can make or break a deal. It can cause tunnel vision, making obstacles seem catastrophic. It leads to frustration and causes employees to feel discouraged and disengaged. It can scramble their communication skills, turning small misunderstandings into irreconcilable differences. So how does someone with mental toughness manage their stress?

  • When they feel overwhelmed, they take a moment to examine the core issue. They may ask themselves, ‘What are the goals I’m trying to accomplish, what are the roadblocks, and how can I address them in a productive way?’ These individuals are able to identify the negative and frame it as an opportunity to achieve something positive.
  • They set the tone. Stress often begets stress. By managing their own stressors and remaining strong and composed, their prospects and team members are likely to mirror their emotions back to them. By staying calm, they encourage everyone else to remain calm, too. This keeps stress from spiraling out of control and keeps everyone communicating effectively so things don’t go off the rails.
  • They look for new opportunities that recurring issues reveal. What did they learn from this stressful period, and how can they apply their problem-solving skills to future issues? Everything is a learning opportunity and a mechanism for productivity improvements.
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Often stress management and level-headedness work together. Sales professionals with mental toughness are able to manage their stress levels because they are able to keep their emotions in check and  work through both with a cool, calm demeanor to maintain their vision of the bigger picture and the situation at hand.

The next post in this series covers how resilience and persistence fit into mental toughness and how they apply to the workplace. You can read that here. To see how Caliper can help you build stronger teams by finding candidates with the right personality traits, reach out to our experts today and get started.