How to Recognize & Manage Sales Burnout

Sales burnout is a combination of mental and emotional stress and unhappiness that can come from a job in sales. It’s fairly common in sales cultures, especially where compensation is performance-based, as this can be a stress trigger in and of itself. Recognizing sales burnout and having solutions in place to prevent or address it is critical for avoiding high employee turnover rates and keeping sales reps motivated.

Why It’s Important to Recognize Sales Burnout

The sales environment is fast-paced, which often leads to workplace fatigue, especially if a negative atmosphere is created in the process. This causes turnover and a lack of team motivation, which results in poor sales performance for the organization as a whole. This is why much of building a positive sales culture involves strategies for reducing sales burnout.

Keep reading to find out more about the causes of sales burnout, how to detect it, and which tools and strategies are helpful for managing it before it impacts your bottom line.

Common Causes

The causes of burnout vary from person-to-person. However, much of it can be controlled by properly motivating employees and allocating resources to them—two things essential in a sales management position.

One major cause stems from a lack of management, coaching, or mentorship. When there isn’t anyone available to set clear performance standards and guide reps to success, burnout issues are inevitable. Lacking time and resources is also another prominent cause.

If a salesperson doesn’t have the ability to fulfill performance or activity requirements because of operational roadblocks, it forces them to put in more hours, leading to fatigue and burnout. The same can be said when someone is being asked to “wear a lot of hats” and takes on too many projects at once as more time is required to fulfill job requirements, leading to mental and even physical exhaustion.

Symptoms

Like any medical illness, the symptoms of sales burnout are usually revealed through traits and indicators that something is wrong. When someone on your sales team is not feeling their best, they are also likely not able to perform at their best level, and the effects can ripple throughout the whole team. The result can be reduced productivity and performance that ultimately negatively affects the company’s profitability.

Here are some of the symptoms to look for within your sales employees to diagnose the issue as sales burnout:

  • Poor attitude: This could include a team member voicing negative, unconstructive comments as well as bringing down their peers verbally.
  • Irritability: An employee is unusually quick to become angry and express it to others over little things.
  • Constant fatigue: An employee seems to be fatigued all the time no matter how much sleep they get.
  • Isolated from the team: The employee tends to not collaborate with others on tasks and avoids conversation with their peers.
  • Lackluster performance: An employee’s performance is noticeably down in terms of the activity, production, or efficiency they typically offer.
  • Carelessness: This is shown with things not necessarily related to a rep’s sales job, like coming in late, leaving early, not taking notes during meetings, and not taking an interest in their performance.

Risks of Sales Burnout

In addition to negatively impacting performance, burnout can take a toll on the employee, their colleagues, and your customers if you don’t take control of it. Here are some of the most common direct and indirect risks of unmanaged sales burnout:

  • Increased turnover: After enough time, employees experiencing sales burnout and hopelessness that you aren’t doing anything to fix it could decide to cut ties entirely with your business and leave.
  • Disgruntled customers: The carelessness, bad attitude, and irritability symptomatic of sales burnout could be taken out on your customers, resulting in poor service or unhealthy interactions with them. This can leave customers feeling upset or, even worse, on the hunt for a new product or service provider.
  • Lost revenue: An indirect consequence of mental fatigue and sadness of your sales employees could end up being decreased revenue. If sales agents aren’t feeling 100%, they won’t perform at 100%. If your unhappy sales employees leave, you won’t have the personnel to keep up with sales production and will incur additional costs for hiring. Plus, if your customers leave, you lose recurring revenue streams and potentially even future sales through negative word of mouth.
  • Negative workplace environment: If a burned-out employee starts taking their emotions out on their peers, you’ll find that the symptoms can spread like a virus and their peers will become down and irritated as well.

8 Strategies for Managing Sales Burnout

The key to managing sales burnout is implementing proactive solutions to prevent it or reactive solutions to reduce it when burnout is detected. These strategies can be integrated into your sales plan or managed separately. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal of burnout management is to keep employees satisfied, engaged, and motivated to do their jobs.

Here are eight strategies for reducing sales burnout and keeping employees motivated:

1. Focus on Results, Not Time

It’s not uncommon to find sales reps just sitting at their desks doing nothing and waiting for the clock to hit 5:00 p.m. when, in fact, that should never be the case. Most sales positions are extremely measurable in terms of production and efficiency. This makes them one of the few functions of a business where you can enforce a system that focuses exclusively on results and not actual hours in the office.

Create a sales environment that cares about how well team members perform and not how long they’re logged in or at the office. You can do this by setting sales quotas for each sales rep to hit on a short-term basis, such as daily or weekly.

Then, upon completing the required activity or sales production, a rep can have the option to be done for the day or stay to exceed requirements and generate more commission. This motivates sales employees to stay focused on hitting their activity numbers and keeps them excited to do so because they are free to leave early or able to earn more.

As part of this strategy, it’s important to continuously monitor that activity is being completed and to set challenging-but-achievable goals. Customer relationship management (CRM) software like HubSpot has built-in reporting tools that allow you to track and view sales activity between individual reps and sales teams.

A HubSpot activity reporting page with chart for analytics.

HubSpot activity reporting
(Source: HubSpot)

2. Create a Healthy Work/Life Balance Culture

Show that your business prioritizes mental health by creating a culture that facilitates a healthy work/life balance. One way to do this is by offering sufficient paid time off (PTO) and flexible work schedules. Moreover, the organizational policies of companies offering PTO should stipulate a mandatory vacation minimum that requires employees to take a certain amount of time off throughout the year in order to prevent burnout.

Flexibility in work hours can also extend to the workspace, such as giving employees who can do so the option to work from home on an occasional or routine basis. Creating this type of culture even helps prevent burnout caused by non-workplace situations, as more time away from the office means more time with their families or other obligations and hobbies.

3. Outsource Non-sales Activities When Possible

Many activities within sales, such as research, cold calling, or sending emails, can be outsourced or contracted out, giving your reps valuable time back for the most profitable activities. Find the stages in your sales pipeline you can afford to have handled by an outside firm or freelancers.

For instance, many businesses use third-party contact data providers to gather information about leads. They can then pass off a list of likely-qualified leads so that sales reps don’t have to spend time doing prospect research. For example, UpLead is a business-to-business (B2B) lead database service that lets you purchase contact lists for your reps to pursue. These contacts can be filtered by factors like location, job title, and industry.

Image of UpLead contact searching result with contact name, company, title and contact number.

UpLead contact searching
(Source: UpLead)

There are also telemarketing and qualified lead generation services that will do cold calling on behalf of your team to set up sales appointments and demos. By taking this route, you allow your sales reps to focus exclusively on the sales presentations, lead nurturing, proposals, and closing deals. Two reputable telemarketing service providers to consider are Quality Contact Solutions and Strategic Calls.

Quality Contact Solutions is particularly attractive because of the optional pricing models they offer. Clients can choose between hourly, performance-based, and a hybrid of the two. Strategic Calls is best if your business targets business-to-business (B2B) executives such as CEOs or chief finance, marketing, or technical officers. They also incorporate multiple follow-ups and call analysis to determine next best steps.

4. Automate Your Sales Process

Similar to outsourcing certain types of sales activities, automation through software tools can also be implemented to reduce the strain on your team. Many sales introduction and lead nurturing activities can be automated through activity-specific tools or features available in your CRM platform.

Mailchimp, for instance, lets you manage email, social media, and online advertising campaigns. These campaigns can be deployed automatically, allowing you to create awareness with leads or remain connected to them. This gives your sales team the chance to focus primarily on building relationships and closing deals.

Image of Mailchimp Campaign page, you can view the existing campaigns status and analytics,

Mailchimp campaign management
(Source: BSS Commerce)

Email campaigns can also be managed in your CRM system. For example, HubSpot lets you design and deploy automated email campaigns that can be sent to your leads as cold emails or a nurturing tactic. You’ll be able to see which leads opened and engaged with your emails and use them to drive traffic to landing pages where interested prospects send other buying signals, like filling out a web form or signing up for a free trial.

HubSpot email campaign editor page for creating your campaigns.

HubSpot email campaign designer
(Source: HubSpot)

Another time-consuming task that can easily be automated is the dialing of phone numbers, such as in cold-calling sales campaigns. You can save your sales reps tons of time by using power dialing tools that auto-dial for you based on your preset contact list. Freshdesk offers built-in power dialing tools that integrate with their native CRM software Freshsales.

Image of Freshdesk power dialer page.

Freshdesk power dialer
(Source: Freshworks)

Sales reps can easily lose time scheduling appointments and managing calendars with all the back and forth required to find a mutually agreeable time slot. Tools like Calendly automate appointment scheduling and calendar management.

Your rep can provide a link to Calendly to their leads via email, text, social media, or a website landing page. The prospect can then find an appointment time that works for them and schedule the meeting, and the event is automatically synced to your agents’ calendars.

An image of Calendly schedule meeting page with calendar for schedule meeting time.

Calendly schedule meeting page
(Source: HubSpot)

Want more insights on ways you can automate your sales process? Check out our picks for the top sales automation software for information on different tasks you can automate and specific tools to choose from.

5. Invest in Professional Development

It’s important to find ways to show employees that while you care about their production in their respective role, you also want to help them develop and grow professionally. Investing in professional development could include putting sales reps in sales training programs, leadership courses, executive training programs, or by giving them schedule flexibility and tuition reimbursement to pursue degrees.

This gives them a chance to spend time away from their usual day-to-day sales activities while learning something new and valuable. An environment that encourages education and growth, specifically when it comes to leadership programs, motivates sales personnel by showing them what their future may hold if they stick to their current route. It also increases employee loyalty and retention, and can be impactful in helping your business attract and hire top talent.

6. Clearly Define & Praise Sales Success

Mental distress can easily be a result of employees not knowing whether or not they’re performing well. That’s why it’s key to set clear, measurable standards for the sales activities and production you expect them to complete each day, week, month, and quarter. In addition, make sure high performance is acknowledged through recognition and praise.

If an employee feels they are working hard and producing but not getting the praise they deserve, they could become unmotivated. Showing praise can be done during team meetings or through software tools, such as sales gamification platforms.

For example, WooBoard is sales gamification software that improves workplace satisfaction through rewarding and recognizing performance. Users can send praise in the form of “Woos” or reward solid work with gift cards.

Sample image of person receiving a Woo.

WooBoard receiving a Woo
(Source: App Sliced)

7. Plan Company Outings

A mundane work schedule day in and day out can drain a sales employee’s energy and motivation. An excellent way to change it up and have some fun with your sales team is through events outside of the office, such as team building exercises and company outings. This could be any non-work type of event, such as bowling, team dinners, paintballing, or escape room outings.

Make sure these events take place during regular business hours since the purpose is to recharge your team by changing up the routine and environment. Friday afternoons are often slower times for a sales operation, so they could be the ideal time to schedule a company outing without sacrificing production.

8. Encourage Open Discussions

The environment and culture you build in your sales operation directly impacts whether employees feel comfortable speaking up. Essentially, you want to find ways to encourage sales reps to come forward if they are feeling burned out and want assistance. Open discussions are best facilitated through one-on-one sessions between sales reps and their coaches, mentors, or sales managers.

Conduct these sessions regularly to spot sales burnout before it takes place. However, it’s also ideal to have discussions if you spot irregularities in a person such as the burnout symptoms outlined earlier. During the discussion, narrow in on the root cause of their mental fatigue or stress in order to implement one of the strategies to neutralize it.

Bottom Line

Sales burnout is an issue commonly experienced by people in sales roles. It most often results from a lack of leadership or operational resources, as well as a poorly established sales culture that prioritizes time over results. By incorporating these strategies, fostering a balanced culture, and using software automation to lessen the strain on your team, you can prevent sales burnout before it happens or remedy it if it occurs.

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