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How to Spot and Prevent Sales Burnout in your Reps

Job burnout can be a real issue in today's workforce. Discover how leadership can identify and remedy sales burnout to keep rep morale and performance high.

6 min read

Sales is a hyper-social, customer-facing role that is often highly stressful. In fact, according to a Bridge Group study, the average annual turnover rate for salespeople is 34.7%. When you take into account that the average onboarding and ramp-up time for a sales professional is around nine months or more, that turnover rate starts to have some serious consequences for individual teams and the revenue they’re responsible for. 

But how do you spot abnormal stress levels when you’re already working in a high-pressure role? Sales burnout can sometimes be dismissed as just ‘part of the job’ or ‘coming with the territory’, but burnout can have serious negative side effects for your business if not accurately diagnosed in time.

What Sales Burnout Looks Like

To put it simply, sales burnout is another version of occupational burnout, overwork, and stress from the particular challenges of selling. Disruptions whether through new hires, departures, budget cuts, compensation adjustments or other forms of operational change all contribute to further exacerbating the following symptoms— keep this point in mind as you monitor yourself, teammates, or direct reports.

Because sales is such a fast-paced career, it can be easy for salespeople to ignore 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 seeking out outside opportunities to learn or hone core selling skills, they may be suffering from sales burnout or quickly approaching it.

With that said, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the following sales burnout symptoms:

  • 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

Commission-based pay, aggressive quota targets, and continuous rejections erode away at even the most resilient salespeople. Besides the human concern, businesses should be worried about this type of performance slip under these conditions. 

While most people experience work-place anxiety or lack of sleep on occasion, it’s the combined and prolonged status of these conditions that is cause for concern. During times of change at a company, it helps to get ahead and keep these indicators in mind. Fortunately, you can spot and alleviate the symptoms before the mental and physical consequences take hold, and to prevent sales burnout, there are a few things you can do yourself or encourage reps to do. 

How to Prevent Sales Burnout as an Individual

It’s better to get ahead of burnout, especially in the fast-paced and stressful world of sales, rather than let it get out of hand and then have to manage it. There are a few techniques and practices that the research points to as ways to prevent sales burnout:

  • Meditation or some sort of relaxation ritual in the morning can set a calmer tone for the day
  • Healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits can be truly transformative
  • Set boundaries for work-life balance, establish and carve out “me time”
  • Take breaks from email and technology. Constant notifications and reminders of responsibility can compound the stress that causes burnout
  • Follow a detailed and orderly schedule. Time management can significantly reduce stress by minimizing surprises and increasing efficiencies

What If You’re Already Burnt Out?

At this point, you or a salesperson can recover from burnout through a concerted effort, professional help, and a plan. Research by the American Pharmacist Association points to the three Rs for soothing sales burnout: recognize, reverse, and reevaluate. Each of these practices is powered by a willingness to identify, admit, and act on the knowledge that there is a problem. But of course, the best course of action is to never let yourself or others fall that far. 

In our professional experience, we’ve found that a motivated rep experiences burnout less often than their discouraged counterparts. Discover best practices and tips to motivate sales reps, increase engagement, and improve performance in the guide, “Inspiring Sales Rep Performance.”