A 2019 survey brought to light that nearly 67% of salespersons are either experiencing or close to experiencing workplace burnout.
That’s a significant section of sales reps in the industry!
These figures reiterate the fact that being a salesperson is not an easy job. In addition to the pressures of meeting targets and deadlines, one also has to keep up with the hypersocial demand of the job. Sales representatives are expected to have a smiling face and charming attitude regardless of how they feel.
Maintaining this happy, chirpy persona, whether during face-to-face interactions, while making over-the-counter sales, or even during email correspondences, can sap you. Thus, if you are not careful enough, you might end up experiencing burnout. Salespeople can be worst-hit by workplace burnout as it may adversely affect your long-term productivity.
In this article, we will explore the signs of burnout at work and what companies and salespeople can do to overcome it.
What is Sales Burnout?
Job burnout the body’s response to the constant exposure to an elevated kind of work-related stress. This burnout may result in physical, mental, and/or emotional exhaustion. The impact of burnout on the mental wellbeing of the individual is so severe that even WHO recognizes it as an occupational phenomenon in its International Classification of Diseases. It may cause a loss in personal identity, paired with a reduced sense of accomplishment.
Naturally, salespersons hold a demanding position. They are engaged in discovering leads, qualifying prospects, pitch to potential buyers, making calls, sending out emails, staying on calls, and closing sales. They are expected to always be present and respond immediately. Naturally, this situation is overwhelming, putting a sales employee at risk of burnout.
A. Causes of Sales Employee Burnout
While sales by itself is a job that is prone to burnout, here are some common causes of burnout for salespeople:
1. Lack of Mentorship
Once it starts appearing that a salesperson has started to learn the ropes and deliver results, managers and mentors start stepping back. However, the job can be emotionally draining, and not having this backup can get frustrating. Mentors play an important role when salespeople wish to vent, seek advice, or share things.
Further, when things blow over or unexpected obstacles come up during the sales, having a mentor to guide you through the storm can be a blessing. Hence, not having a mentor can put the sales rep under greater stress.
2. Lack of Necessary Tools
Considering that everything in sales is all about timing, efficiency is of the essence. In order to make every second count, organizations invest in certain tools to streamline the sales process. Automating any repetitive tasks takes the administrative stress off your employees. However, if you are taking away these resources for cost-cutting purposes, you may be contributing to work burnout.
3. Unclear Goals
Sales is an art, which is all about trial and error. Salespersons have to improvise at every step and at every interaction. However, it is also a science that follows a structured approach. Thus, sales reps don’t always have to play it by ear. In fact, training your employees and giving them a standardized roadmap may help them have a clear strategy. Lack of clarity would only mean directionless sales, which is a waste of effort and resources.
4. Feeling of Being Overwhelmed
Salespersons are always on the go. Whether it is scheduling meetings or checking up on leads - their work lasts 24 hours, 7 days a week. 74% of salespeople believe that they have to be on call throughout the day, and a late response may negatively affect their relationship with the client. To compensate for this, they often start early, stay back, and work late, which could make them feel overwhelmed. At the same time, they find it hard to disengage from work, which adds to the burnout.
5. Stunted Personal Growth
Sure, salespersons are driven, go-getters, and hardworking. However, there’s more to personal growth than meeting these work requirements. Depending on how well the salesperson seems to be doing, they might expect more training, greater responsibilities, stretched goals, etc. to keep the work lively and prevent burnout.
6. Lack of Feedback
Feedback, positive or otherwise, is important to a salesperson. It gives them an idea as to where they stand. The inputs shared with them can act as markers against which they can measure their performance. Hence, daily or frequent feedback may help them stay motivated.
7. Unfavorable Workplace Condition
Sometimes, the cause of burnout is within your organization. It could be a sales manager who is micromanaging the sales team or conflict among the sales team members. A hostile environment can add to job stress, which leads to burnout.
B. Impact of Sales Work Burnout
Broadly, burnout results in the loss of productivity. However, here are a few other ways in which workplace burnout can affect a salesperson:
1. Lagging Behind
A sale is a target-based job. When you start feeling the burnout, you will fail to meet these targets. Your normal well-organized process ends up in a disorganized mess, which makes it difficult for you to keep up. Faltering here will result in your colleagues and clients complaining about you falling behind. Eventually, the other tasks may be adversely affected, forming a catastrophic vicious cycle.
2. Missing Out on ‘Family/Me Time’
Burnout at the workplace can seep into your personal space. Given that burnout can emotionally, mentally, and physically drain you out, you will not have the energy to do things that you love. You will be unable to give time to yourself or your loved ones, which means missing out on some valuable connections.
3. Poor Health
People who experience burnouts often work long hours and sacrifice on self-care activities like sleeping, eating well, and exercising. These can contribute to weight gain, memory issues, and other health concerns. Burnout can also affect your mental wellbeing and, in some instances, even lead to depression!
After burnout, the general sense of hopelessness and demotivation prevails. As a result, you may find yourself procrastinating even important tasks. Tasks that may appear dull, boring, or monotonous take a back seat while relatively interesting, and ‘fun’ tasks take up all your time. After a point, you no longer care about the work that you have put off for a later date. In some instances, the things that you once loved begin to lose their charm. In the long run, procrastinating may add to your workload, which will make you dread going to work.
5. Absence From Work
In continuation of the above, a salesperson who has experienced burnout will be more infrequent at showing up for work. You may be unwilling to face the heaps of work pending at your end, and be inclined to call in sick or skip work for a couple of days. In worst cases, these days may turn into weeks, which will then result in the termination of your job!
6. Loss in Business Revenue
Consistently delivery half-baked and late work will hurt your business. Your clients may opt to avail of the services of your competitors. Further, it may also harm the reputation of the business, which will again cut down on the revenues.
7. Dip in Creativity
Salespeople often have to make use of creativity to nurture leads or finalize sales. However, work burnout can steal away this creativity. As a result, the mindlessness puts you further on the back foot, and you close your mind to looking for creative solutions or new ways to think of things. Rather than trying to make work fun, you will be focusing on trying to get through each day, which will only drain your batteries further.
C. Signs of Burnout at Work
Work burnout does not take place overnight. In fact, it displays a set pattern that starts with intense involvement with the sales process, followed by a feeling of stagnation, and eventually detachment and burnout.
Here are a few signs that you can look out for to spot burnout at work:
1. You are ALWAYS Tired
Even if you have gotten 16 hours of sleep, all it takes is one call to drain you out. Even the smallest mental or physical task feels too mammoth to be taken on. Things that you could wrap up in the snap of your fingers may take forever to complete. Perpetual exhaustion is a clear indicator that you may be on the road to burnout.
2. You No Longer Care About Professional Growth
Long-term goals like monthly or quarterly targets are great. However, in the rat-race to meet these goals, salespeople are overlooking the need to grow as a salesperson. You couldn’t be bothered to learn a new sales technique or technology.
3. You Lack the Motivation
You may notice that you find it harder to get back to your work desk, or closing or losing a deal makes no difference to you. It feels as though you couldn’t care any less about your job as it feels like a waste of time and energy. If you remain unmoved by anything, it could be an indicator that you lack the motivation, which could be due to burnout.
4. You Have a Negative Attitude
Whether it is venting about work or getting grumpy with customers - having a negative mindset towards most things for prolonged periods could be an indication of burnout. Further, this form of burnout is easy to transmit and can be picked up by other members of the sales team.
5. You are Unwilling to Change
Most salespeople stick to their tried and tested formula for success. However, these strategies have to be reviewed periodically and updated to meet the changes in this field. If you refuse to adapt to these changes or reject the tools that are proven to boost efficiency, you may have been preyed upon by work burnout.
D. Effective Techniques to Recover from Sales Job Burnout
Even though it may seem like your sales team is going through a dry spell, do bear in mind that good salespersons are hard to find and, therefore, are worth holding on to. In the event that you find your sales team or salesperson in the middle of such a rut, here’s what you can do to help them recover:
1. Recognize, Reverse, Redo
Recognize, reverse, redo are the 3R principles to handle work stress. Here’s what they mean:
- Recognize: Identify the signs of burnout. These include a short fuse with customers and colleagues, loss of motivation, chronic exhaustion, lack of interest, etc.
- Reverse: Discuss this with the salesperson and find out feasible solutions to deal with the symptoms that you have recognized. Community support can be exceptionally helpful in dealing with burnout.
- Redo: Reevaluate your job profile and the corresponding responsibilities. If you feel like something is too much, feel free to unload that baggage. This stage allows you to figure out what is important to you and allows you to prioritize your tasks to achieve it.
2. Learn and Re-Learn
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to take a break from the madness and spend some time learning a new skill. While learning something related to sales could be a great idea, but in this case, anything learning that can help with personal development and growth will work. You can sign up for training sessions or online courses that could grant you useful skills in any aspect of life.
In the era dominated by the internet, we are always connected. Since salespeople are always expected to be on the line, the best way to help ease a burnout would be to take a digital detox. Managers should also make an attempt to not contact the individual beyond work hours and encourage others to do the same. Disengaging may recharge your batteries and may boost your productivity once you return!
4. Follow Schedules
A well-planned, prioritized to-do list can cut through stress. Making a schedule ensures that you do not feel overwhelmed by all the things that you need to do. Space them out and set realistic timeframes for achieving these little goals. Schedule the harder tasks, which may demand greater focus, for a time when you feel most alert.
5. Check Project Pace
Quite often, a project that seems to take forever could be a reason for the burnout. Sales managers and mentors can intervene in this situation and help identify the key areas of focus that may be time guzzling. Accordingly, managerial decisions may be taken to dissociate from baggage projects, affix priority, etc.
6. Filter Out the Dead Leads
How often have you encountered a lead that was truly qualified as a prospect, but with time, things started to spiral out of control? Having to change your tactics constantly can be a drain on your time, resources, and is wasteful. Productivity lost over poor prospects is a leading contributor to sales burnout, and even veteran salespeople can fall prey to it. Hence, if you get the feeling that a lead is just not interested, press the eject button immediately.
7. Manage Expectations
Managing expectations is vital in a job like sales. Ambitious salespeople will continue inflating the numbers just to chase the high of reaching targets. Proportionately, sales managers will also bump up the targets to make the tasks more challenging. However, where does it stop? Companies must check up with salespeople to see whether their personal and organizational goals are in line with each other. Alter these numbers as per feasibility without flooding the sales rep.
8. Make Work Fun
Inculcate hobbies or skills and volunteer for organizations that work towards a cause to keep your morale high. These fun activities not only make you feel happy but will also bring down your stress levels. Scheduling meetings outdoors, which may involve something fun may not only earn you brownie points for creativity but will also help your company stand out. Most importantly, make time to spend with friends and family to unwind and feel positive.
E. How to Prevent Workplace Burnout
While recovery is a short-term remedy, there are a few steps that you can take to ensure that you do now experience job burnout. These techniques include:
1. Create Structure for New Members
The best way to minimize the feeling of being overwhelmed is to have a structured sales process. Well-defined goals and processes to reach that goal, when paired with regular check-ins by managers, can be a recipe for success. Salespeople will find this initiative reassuring, especially the new members. An initial blueprint also gives direction, assigns priority, and guides the salesperson.
2. Include Mentorship Programs
As mentioned above, mentorship could help push the salesperson out of the rut. Mentors can also share feedback to highlight the key areas where the salesperson can improve. If running a dedicated mentorship program may not seem feasible, seasoned salespeople can be paired with newbies so that they can learn from each other.
3. Mix Things Up a Little
The mundane, mind-numbing act of going through the motions can cripple even the most brilliant minds. Thus, to prevent losing your interest in the work, you can spice things up by trying out new strategies in your sales process. These tweaks will not only help you discover new ways to deal with various issues present in your current techniques but will also hone new skills.
4. Invest in Sales Tools
Salespeople may need access to some critical or latest information at a moment’s notice. At the same time, companies may wish to automate demanding tasks like documentation or maintaining client records. An easy solution to both these situations is to purchase a working system that can handle your company’s requirements. With the involvement of sales managers, companies can locate software that is best suited for them. Most vendors offer free employee training.
5. Monitor Sales Team’s Health
While it may be easy to merely say “you look tired,” a company can recognize individuals displaying signs of burnout and utilize strategies to counter the fatigue. As a matter of fact, companies should make it their ethical responsibility to cater to the employees’ physical and mental health over targets. Early intervention in this matter may make it easier for the company to take reparative measures before it causes any real damage to the salesperson or the organization.
6. Establish a Healthy Work Environment
Companies must work towards setting up safe spaces where salespeople can talk about burnouts. Talking about it openly will help overcome the taboo and discuss ways to tackle it. Encouraging breaks and mental health days, introducing yoga or meditation at work, or making healthy snacking options available are all great ways to combat burnout.
7. Forgive Yourself
Practicing self-compassion is an essential part of handling burnout. You need to realize that it is okay to not meet your goals, and failure is not the end of the world. No matter how hard you try, you are bound to face rejection at some point or another. Make them a learning experience rather than using the incident to define yourself or your skill.
Salespeople need to understand that a career in sales is a marathon and not a sprint. Hence, they must prepare accordingly and not get disheartened by short-term failures.
It is evident that burnout is a common occurrence in the field of sales. However, salespeople and managers can help identify and alleviate the signs of burnout at work. There are several ways in which companies can turn such a situation around and make work more organized, relaxing, and exciting to keep the sales reps motivated. One needs to practice self-care along with smart and effective management tactics to ensure consistent performance throughout the years. Keeping the employee’s welfare in mind, companies may take several steps to boost the energy levels of their sales team.
Work burnout can happen to everyone. However, how you or your company deal with it is what truly defines you.