A successful career in sales is not for the faint of heart. According to a Bridge Group study, the annual turnover rate for sales professionals is 34.7%. When you consider that the average onboarding and ramp-up time for a sales professional is nine months or more, that turnover rate starts to have serious consequences for individual sales teams and the revenue they’re responsible for.
But turnover can also be a positive thing.
If you have reps on your team who aren’t making their quota, parting ways with them can be the right move. It’s when you lose high performers that turnover becomes a problem. And because salespeople are so focused on meeting their number, it can be hard to spot burnout in your team before it’s too late.
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and sometimes physical state of distress that is caused by prolonged or repeated exposure to stressors. With the role of a sales rep often being a high-stress, high-pressure position, burnout is a common occurrence for those who work in the field.
Good salespeople are worth holding on to — even when they hit a rough patch. Though feelings of burnout when working in sales are common, they can be alleviated, and can provide valuable learning opportunities to help sales managers create healthier work environments.
So here are a few ways to spot burnout in your salespeople, along with helpful strategies for what to do next.
Causes of Burnout for Sales Reps
Here are some common causes of burnout for sales reps.
1. They don’t have mentors.
Sales can be an emotionally draining job, so it’s important for each person on your team to have a mentor. Your salespeople need someone to vent to, seek advice from, and share things with that they might not feel comfortable taking to their supervisor.
Mentorship is also important for professional development. Call didn’t go well? A mentor can listen to the tape and offer objective advice. Rep feeling like they can’t maintain the necessary pace? A mentor can coach them on how to become more efficient with their time, or how to appropriately frame this challenge to their boss.
Check in with your salespeople routinely to make sure they’re regularly connecting with their mentors. If they’ve lost touch or haven’t replaced a dormant mentor, it may be a sign they’re feeling too overwhelmed or unmotivated to manage that relationship. Use this opportunity to talk to them about burnout and build a path forward together.
2. They don’t have the right tools.
In sales, every minute counts, so increasing efficiency or shaving even a few moments off a task is key to your salespeople feeling like they have the support and tools necessary to perform. If your salespeople don’t have the right tools to do their jobs or streamline their non-selling tasks, it can be an early indicator that burnout is inevitable.
It’s tempting to try to cut costs here, but don’t. Automating as many of your salespeople’s processes as possible will ensure that they meet deadlines, follow up with every lead appropriately, and close more deals in a shorter amount of time. In fact, Gartner Research finds companies that automate lead management see a 10% or greater increase in revenue in 6-9 months. A tool like HubSpot Sales Hub can help your team save time on grueling administrative tasks so they can focus on selling and engaging with prospects.
By decreasing administrative strain on your sales team, you’ll remove a major cause of burnout. Start by polling your salespeople to see if your CRM or sales enablement software is still making the grade. Then ask if there are other administrative pain points that are not being met.
Based on these answers, you’ll be able to gauge what your next move should be. If there’s a choice between hiring more salespeople to hit a certain revenue threshold or investing in tools that will make your team more efficient and effective, you’ll almost always want to start by optimizing the toolset currently used by your sales team.
Signs of Sales Rep Burnout
1. They don’t know how to measure success.
For most salespeople, the primary measure of success is monthly or quarterly quota attainment. However, if your salespeople don’t have smaller goals to hit or metrics of success to celebrate within that timeframe, it can be easy for them to feel burned out. Have the right tools in place to automate and measure KPIs throughout the sales process, and educate your salespeople on how to hit, monitor, and celebrate them.
Most CRMs come equipped with dashboard functionality. Build or customize canned reports to highlight the metrics you want your team to meet, and place them on a dashboard that everyone can see.
Here are a few metrics that can promote a little friendly competition between reps and give your sales team some motivation mid-month:
- Opportunities created
- Opportunities by stage
- Meetings scheduled
- Meetings held
- Emails sent
- Quote requests
- Milestone interactions
Use dashboards to promote and manage sales contests as a way to keep motivation high and burnout low. For instance, try a contest around who can book the most meetings this month, or challenge the team to get the average sales cycle down to Y days.
Dashboards also allow you to track salespeople who are sending a ton of emails, booking a lot of meetings, and giving an incredible amount of demos ... but aren’t closing any deals. That’s the kind of effort that leads to frustration rather than results, and it’s an indicator it might be time for you to step in and advise.
Everyone knows that their quota is the most important KPI they’re measured against. But which KPIs take second and third place? Make sure those important non-quota metrics are communicated and understood. This will help prevent wasted effort and frustration, both of which lead to burnout.
2. They’ve stopped caring about professional development.
Professional development is something that’s often overlooked for salespeople. Sales is such a fast-paced career, it can be easy for salespeople to zone out any information that’s not immediately helping them close a deal.
If your reps are so focused on making their number that they’ve stopped learning new sales technology or techniques or honing their core selling skills, they may be burned out or fast approaching it.
To combat burnout, make sure you’re sharing interesting or inspiring articles with your team. Start a Slack channel where you’re all contributing one article a week that offers a fresh spin on a tried-and-true tactic, or builds industry knowledge. Encourage them to follow sales influencers like Daniel Pink or Jill Konrath on social media. And maybe even offer some of your salespeople the opportunity to attend a conference that piques their interest.
By investing in your team’s long-term success and happiness, you’ll keep their minds active, engaged, and productive — all of which help combat burnout.
3. They lack motivation.
If you notice a salesperson’s lunches getting a little longer or their closed-lost deals becoming less of a disappointment for them, you might be facing employee burnout.
Take a look at their past and recent numbers and performance reviews to determine whether this is a trend or an irregularity. If it’s a trend, you may have an employee who can’t perform at the level you require. If it’s an irregularity in this salesperson’s historical performance data, pull them aside and ask them about it.
Chances are, they’ve reached a point of feeling like they can’t push anymore. From here, you can choose how to move forward with this salesperson in three primary ways:
- Encourage them to take a few days off to recharge without the expectation of answering email or phone, or maybe even offering some quota relief. Salespeople are almost always plugged in, available to answer prospect emails or phone calls immediately. That can easily lead to burnout. Allow them to really unplug, refresh, and reset.
- Put together a performance plan that outlines how your salesperson will get back on track. This might include weekly check-ins, smaller benchmarks, or adjusted numbers. Whatever your performance plan looks like, make sure your rep knows that you’re invested in getting them back to their place as a high performer.
- Be willing to discuss parting ways. Give your salesperson some time to think it over. Often, that can be the jolt they need to reinvigorate their enthusiasm for the job. If it’s not, it might be best for both of you to part ways and explore new options.
4. They’re increasingly negative.
This can be a tough one to spot. Negativity is different than sarcasm. A mainstay of the sales pit is the regular trading of war stories or venting about frustrating calls. But when a salesperson becomes a source of prolonged negativity, it can be a sign of burnout that needs to be mitigated before it spreads.
A workplace survey can be a great way to mine for anonymous feedback that everyone feels comfortable sharing. Make sure you ask about goals, workplace culture, and overall job contentment. You may be surprised how many others on your team are also feeling negative, without openly sharing.
Take their feedback and make changes or address problems openly. This is a time for each side to step up, take responsibility, and move on in a positive way. The outcome should be a better, healthier work environment.
5. They’re unwilling to change.
If something works, salespeople like to stick with it — for good reason. While there’s no point in reinventing the wheel if a process is working, it’s also important for your sales team to be dynamic, changing with customer and industry trends. Evolution on your team is also a great way to fight burnout.
But if you have a salesperson who refuses to use a new tool that promises to save the team time, or who balks at a new strategy for Sales and Marketing to work more closely together, this could be a sign of burnout.
When a salesperson is wrestling with burnout, even the smallest change to their current processes can seem overwhelming. Proceed with the following steps:
- Make the change a requirement. They need to know that the new tool or process is not optional.
- Offer training. Ensure that your salespeople (especially those who are change averse) receive proper training on how to implement your new tool or process.
- Monitor adoption. Have benchmarks your team needs to hit during the implementation of your new tool or process, and hold everyone accountable.
- Reward changes in behavior. Change is never easy, especially in sales. Make sure you’re acknowledging and rewarding positive steps towards acceptance of new tools or processes that your team makes.
How to Help Reps Recover from Burnout
Want to help your reps navigate through feelings of burnout? We asked the HubSpot sales team for advice — check out their tips below.
Want to start with a quick video? Give this a quick watch for additional ways to support your sales team as a leader:
Now, listen to how the HubSpot sales team proactively guards against burnout in their teams, and build out your own strategy.
1. Create structure for new team members.
According to Cierra Steiner, a new HubSpot Growth Specialist team member, structured check-ins with her manager have helped ease her transition and minimize overwhelm.
"I just started in January, and starting a new sales role can be overwhelming. My manager has really helped calm my nerves by reassuring me that we will just take one day at a time. He’ll say, ‘Tomorrow you're going to focus on X — that's it. Don't worry about the week, the month, the year. Just worry about doing X tomorrow.’
I work remotely and he also regularly checks in on me to make sure I'm getting my questions answered and not getting too stressed. It's been an amazing experience so far!"
2. Encourage open conversations about burnout.
For HubSpot Channel Account Manager Dylan Wickliffe, creating safe spaces for teams to discuss burnout is key to creating a healthy work environment.
"Let it be okay to talk about burnout. Even the best sales reps wake up some days and just simply aren’t feeling it that day.
Encourage breaks. Encourage mental health days. Don’t make reps afraid to admit they're burned out, and let them alleviate it in their own way. Then help them crush it and succeed when they get back to it."
3. Lead by example.
Your team will model your behavior as a leader — good and bad. If you practice habits that lead to burnout, your team will not feel comfortable taking the steps needed to take care of themselves when burnout is on the horizon.
HubSpot Channel Account Manager Jordan Benjamin says, "Make it ok to take time off. Work with your team to understand why they do the job and not define who they are solely by stack rank."
Burnout is a natural part of any job or career path. As a manager, it’s part of your job to be on notice when burnout is a threat to your team and the overall growth of your company. Be proactive about it using a few of these tips, and you’ll enjoy a healthy work environment, happy salespeople, and steadily increasing revenue.
Originally published Feb 21, 2020 3:30:00 PM, updated June 15 2021