5 Tips to Spot and Prevent Sales Burnout

Dec 08, 2020
4 min read
Stress, overworking, and high-pressure can all lead to sales burnout. In 2020, this risk is higher than ever. Discover how to identify and remedy sales burnout on your team to retain top reps and high performance.

Burnout can happen at any time in any role. Because it can be a demanding, high-stakes job, sales is a position that is prone to fall victim to the stress, overworking, and pressure that ultimately can lead to burnout. And with added intensity from this unpredictable year, it’s no surprise that burnout signs have increased by 33% in 2020, according to LinkedIn’s Glint Platform

So how do you help manage heightened stress levels when you’re already working in a high-pressure role and circumstances outside the office are also having an impact on a global scale? The first step is understanding what sales burnout is, how to address it, and ways to prevent it.

How to Identify Sales Burnout

To identify sales burnout successfully, you must first understand what causes it. Typically, burnout results from high-stress, demanding workloads, and high-pressure for a prolonged period of time. This year alone those stressors have increased exponentially—a global pandemic, social isolation, transitioning to working from home full-time, and parents taking on additional roles as educators, to name a few. 

And the impact is showing. In LinkedIn’s most recent Glint reading, “5.41% of employees provided free-response comments that spoke to fatigue, being overwhelmed and other potential signals of burnout.” That’s an increase from 4.08% in January 2020. As a result, 90% of employers are recognizing that added child care and school responsibilities are putting employees at higher burnout risk, according to the latest Willis Towers Watson COVID-19 survey

In reality, sales burnout is just another version of occupational burnout, overwork, and stress from the particular challenges of selling. So it’s “symptoms” are similar to that of any person who has been worked to their limits. Here are some key indicators to look out for: 

  • Physical exhaustion: This can take the form of unshakeable insomnia or an unscheduled nap at work
  • Emotional exhaustion: Prolonged lack of empathy, compassion fatigue, and depersonalization
  • Increased negativity: Uncharacteristic aggression, cynicism, added anxiety, and work detachment
  • Decreased interest: Especially when it comes to professional development or participating in team/company-wide engagements

5 Tips to Ease & Eliminate Sales Burnout

For some employees, these sales burnout “symptoms” may manifest gradually and be harder to notice. But it’s critical for both management and peers to train themselves to look for signs that someone is suffering from burnout. If you notice that a rep is struggling to perform, has lost interest, and/or is lacking their normal enthusiasm, the quicker you can act, the better. Here are ten tips to address and prevent burnout across your team—especially as we continue to move forward in the COVID uncertainty.

1. Examine Incentives and Responsibilities

Xactly Insights data shows that rep performance tends to level off and decrease after two to three years on the job. With the added stress from this year, performance may be taking an additional hit, regardless of how long a rep has been in their role. This presents an ideal time to talk with each member of your team about their career goals, their satisfaction with their current role and, if possible, explore what advancement opportunities or incentive increases they have.

2. Ensure Reps Have the Resources They Need

Sales as we know it has changed forever. We’re no longer sitting in face-to-face meetings or engaging in on-the-spot coaching. As many roles continue to work from home full-time, these changes are going to continue to impact rep performance and development. It’s important they have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively, meaning you should work to ensure they are receiving regular coaching, skill development, and have the equipment they need to work from home long-term.

3. Consider Additional Tools to Help Reps Perform Better

Working from home full-time is something the sales industry has experienced before. Reps and leaders need to be able to see how deals are progressing, how performance is trending, and if forecasts are on track to hit goals. This isn’t something they can do without the right tools and technology. And it’s the reason 80% of companies have accelerated their digital transformation, according to Dell Technologies. 

4. Make Employee Wellness a Priority 

This year, more than ever, employee wellness is critical. Willis Towers Watson reports that 65% of employers are seeing increased claims related to mental health. That makes the risk of sales burnout much higher and the need for a healthy work-life balance is essential. This can be as simple as encouraging reps to take breaks throughout the day, offering meditation and yoga sessions, or implementing company-wide mental health days.

5. Practice Empathy

Regardless of how you help reps reduce stress, empathy is key. Check-in with your team members, and have conversations that don’t focus on work-related issues. Using employee listening to survey and get a better understanding of how your reps are doing can be a good way to gather insights anonymously. We’re all balancing new work setups, social distancing, and the ups and downs of this year—just not all in the same way.

Preventing Sales Burnout in the New Sales Era

Selling as we know it has changed forever. And teams will have to continuously adjust in order to succeed. But at the core of your sales performance are the people selling, and making sure their wellness is prioritized is extremely important. 

You may not be able to completely eliminate the risk of sales burnout, but taking steps to ensure your team is supported is a great first step. To learn more ways you can arm your team for wins in the new year, check out our latest guide, “The Enterprise Leader’s Guide to Success in the New Sales Era.”

  • Sales Coaching and Motivation
Karrie Lucero
Karrie Lucero
Creative Strategist

Karrie Lucero is a Creative Strategist at Xactly Corp. She earned Journalism and Marketing degrees from New Mexico State University and has experience in the tech and SaaS industries, content strategy and creation, video production, and brand storytelling.