Sales Burnout: What It Is and How To Prevent It On Your Team

Praisidio Inc
Sales Burnout: What It Is and How To Prevent It On Your Team

Sales burnout and sales depression are statistically likely to be affecting over half of your team. If this is the case, your productivity and turnover costs are significantly higher than they need to be. 

Sales is a challenging job. Not everyone is cut out for it, and some reps will leave no matter what you do. But there are a number of actions you can take to identify and prevent sales burnout and retain your top reps.

Resolving sales burnout within your company gives you a competitive edge in attracting and keeping your top talent. Understanding, recognizing, and resolving sales burnout will turn the challenging nature of the industry into an advantage for you. 

In this article, we show you how to recognize sales burnout and sales depression on your team and give you concrete action steps to help prevent burnout in the first place.

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What is sales burnout?

Sales burnout is complete depletion from operating under stress for too long — resources have been burnt through until a state of apathy takes over. There is no energy left for motivation, productivity, or engagement. Studies show up to 90% of sales employees experience sales burnout.  

Is sales burnout high?

Sales burnout statistics are daunting, to say the least. Thrive Global assessed the level of burnout in sales and found the following results in among reps:

  • 74% feel like customers require immediate response 24/7
  • 57% find their workload beyond their capacity 
  • 58% feel like talking about mental health is stigmatized 
  • 67% work far longer than contracted hours

And these percentages are on the low end. Other studies like the Gartner Sales Survey concluded that almost 90% of sales employees feel burnt out. 

These kinds of numbers suggest that sales burnout could be hampering anywhere between half to almost your entire salesforce. 

The implications of burnout are severe for your employees and your company alike. A full 60% of sales employees say mental health issues hinder their performance, and 73% are looking for alternative work to improve their mental health. 

What does sales burnout feel like? 10 signs your reps might be experiencing it  

Everyone experiences burnout differently. Sales burnout won’t feel the same from person to person, and it won’t look the same to outsiders witnessing it. But there are some common signs of burnout that you can use to help identify it in your team members. 

When identifying sales burnout, look for a decrease in: 

  1. Energy levels 
  2. Focus
  3. Productivity
  4. Motivation
  5. Patience with team members
  6. Closed sales and performance
  7. Involvement in daily work life
  8. Presence and engagement
  9. Interest in development and learning 
  10. Openness to feedback

Another thing to keep in mind is that burnout outside of work can trickle into burnout inside of work. Even if your sales employees seem to have a relatively light workload, if they're displaying any of the above, take it as a sign to check in with them.

Sales depression: What is the risk?

Depression and anxiety in salespeople is 3x higher than their non-sales peers. Jeff Riseley, of Sales Health Alliance, spoke to Builtin about his own experience with sales depression and anxiety:

When Riseley began his first sales role, so did the decline of his mental health. Although he was a top performer, the constant stress of knowing that he could be fired if he didn't reach his targets took an immense toll on his mental and emotional stability. 

Slowly he started spiraling into anxiety, insomnia, and panic attacks, but he kept quiet until he was hospitalized after one especially bad panic attack. 

“It became clear that anxiety in sales is not optional,” Riseley says.  

He struggled to accept this because he loved so many aspects of sales: the rush of closing a big deal and the personal growth and development that comes with the role. But the constant toll of stress in a high-pressure situation was ultimately too much for him.

There are aspects of the sales industry in which many people thrive. But the current, high-stress model means salespeople are under enormous pressure. For many reps, this pressure is too much and too damaging to their mental health. 

The good news is that sales managers can make a number of proactive changes to help build resilience and avoid sales depression and sales burnout on their teams. 

How to avoid sales burnout on your team 

To help your sales team avoid burnout, you need to reduce unnecessary stress wherever possible and fortify your employees against the unavoidably taxing elements of the work. 

Remember that the sales industry can have a hustle mentality, and a lot of this change will need to be set in motion by managers. Otherwise, employees may worry that they will be seen as weak or reprimanded for laziness.  

Create resilience and a strong employee experience

Proactively creating a resilient workforce is the key to having employees who can cope with daily rejection, emotional fatigue, and the unpredictable nature of sales work.

Debunk the myth that downtime is indulgent 

Building a resilient team means debunking the myth that downtime is indulgent and weak. 

Everything and everyone needs to recharge their batteries. The cause of sales burnout is working on empty, so the key to avoiding it is to create a culture in which it is not only okay, but expected, that people will take time to fill up their tanks. 

Understand the needs of individual employees

Filling up the tank looks different for everyone. It’s not feasible to expect your sales managers to keep an eye on every factor that may or may not impact each individual team member's burnout levels. 

This is where many teams bring in a talent intelligence platform. Talent intelligence is an efficient, cost-effective way to get real-time insight into who is at risk of burnout and the steps you can take to help them recharge before it becomes a bigger problem. 

You don’t have to block out time for future meetings to discuss things that happened weeks ago, or spend time sifting through data to draw speculative conclusions.

Use talent intelligence to proactively identify burnout risk

Instead, a talent intelligence platform uses the employee and business data you already have on hand, and plugs that same data into an intelligence system that wastes no one's time, yet saves you the high cost of attrition.

For example, employees lacking in areas like connection, recognition, and opportunities for growth are less resilient and more vulnerable to sales burnout. If any of these areas is lacking for a specific employee or team, your talent intelligence platform flags this. 

Being able to keep on top of these issues and nimbly resolve any small fissures in your team is one of the benefits of moving into a technological future

Learn more about how a talent intelligence platform like Praisidio can help. 

Communication and supportive management 

You can't change what your employees face out in the field, but you can change how they feel about communicating with their managers about what happens. If a negative event happens, the cause of stress is rarely the event itself; it's more often the anticipated consequences of that event. 

For example, if your employees dread telling you that they couldn't close a deal, they may try to disguise the truth in a more palatable form. This creates barriers between you and your team and is a waste of time if you're trying to resolve issues. 

Instead, try to create an environment that is supportive and open. 

This allows you and your sales reps to solve issues together. It diffuses the pressure that causes sales burnout in the first place and allows for more sustainable productivity. 

Sales reps won’t feel like they're facing the job alone because they're connected to a support base that diffuses the bite of rejection, the stress of difficult clients, and the demand of reaching figures.

Furthermore, open and transparent communication means if your employees are starting to feel burnout, they can take a day or two off instead of letting it snowball until they're completely burnt out and you're suddenly facing attrition on your team. 

The same goes for issues they may want to communicate regarding management style, work arrangements, or culture. If they can get it off their chest immediately, you develop as a team faster and with much stronger bonds. Plus you avoid employees leaving over resolvable issues.

Distill the work 

Distill down the actual work your sales reps do as much as possible. It will ensure they're using their skills and getting to do the part of the job they signed up for in the optimum environment.

In practice, this looks like limiting the admin slog of unnecessary paperwork, bureaucracy and non-sales specific tasks — essentially, automating anything that can be automated. 

Distilling the work can also look like creating a flexible arrangement that works best for each individual employee and takes into consideration their individual circumstances. 

As we mentioned earlier, employees can become burnt out at work because of things happening outside of work. If you can let employees work from home when they have a sick child or need to get to doctor’s appointments, this will help mitigate burnout levels in the long run. 

Respecting boundaries and down time is crucial too. Don't send emails after hours or put more work on an employee’s plate without checking in on them first. 

By keeping work contained to work hours, in the most convenient and productive environment possible, you will go a long way to preserving your employees’ energy for what they're great at and what you hired them for — selling.

How managers can prevent sales burnout with talent intelligence

There is technology available that can bring out the best in your sales reps, and it costs you no extra time or human resources. It simply optimizes the data you have but aren't utilizing. 

Praisidio’s talent intelligence platform proactively identifies employees who are at risk of burnout or attrition, and give you targeted strategies to address the problems before they become larger. 

It’s common for Praisidio clients to reduce employee attrition costs by as much as $10 million per 2,000 employees.

Book a demo to see how Praisidio can help you avoid sales burnout on your team.

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