Working in sales can be incredibly stressful. According to US News, being a sales manager is among the most stressful jobs one can have and Thrive Global found 67% of reps are close to reaching burnout.
Though burnout is not classified as a medical condition, in 2019 the World Health Organization acknowledged burnout is an occupational phenomenon that may lead to symptoms such as:
- Exhaustion and/or extreme energy depletion.
- Negative feelings towards one’s job.
- Reduced productivity and output.
With two-thirds of salespeople facing tough pressures that leave them on the brink of burnout, the ability to manage the stress that comes from working in the field is critical for personal and professional well-being.
When employees are chronically stressed, their motivation, resilience, and communication skills can be negatively impacted — and for sales professionals, all of these attributes are necessities of the role.
For sales teams that want to reach their goals and mitigate turnover, stress management needs to be a top priority.
What is sales pressure?
1. The pressure to meet or exceed ongoing quota.
Sales is an essential role. The output of sales directly impacts a company’s revenue and its ability to fund more ventures and pay employees. Having the pressure to hit aggressive targets each month to keep your company in good standing can be a daunting task.
This pressure can also mount during times of economic uncertainty, or when a rep experiences a few tough months when they are struggling to hit their numbers.
2. Commission-based compensation plans.
Many sales professionals receive some sort of commission-based compensation. In other words, if they don’t sell, they don’t earn money (beyond their base salary). This dynamic can create a great deal of stress, especially when selling in a competitive market.
3. Working through rejection.
Rejection is a common reality of working in sales. While knowing how to handle sales objections can help reps push through and reach their goals, being rejected repeatedly can be a tough pill to swallow.
4. Lack of resources and sales enablement support.
Sales teams need support to run smoothly. When sales reps don’t have the tools, coaching, and systems they need to sell effectively, working through redundant tasks without guidance can slow down their selling efforts, causing unnecessary stress. That’s why having a strong sales enablement plan in place is crucial.
Now let’s cover some ways reps and managers can relieve stress and handle the pressure that can come with working in sales.
1. Ask for help.
Regardless of your title or experience level, every working professional can benefit from receiving support. If you find yourself falling behind on work, struggling to meet a deadline, or are experiencing challenges hitting your numbers, speaking up sooner rather than later and asking your manager or colleagues for support is crucial.
For example, if you reach the second week of the month and you’re realizing your current numbers aren’t where they need to be to reach quota by the end of the month, flag your concerns to your manager as soon as they arise.
Not only will communicating what’s going on relieve some of the pressure you’re experiencing, but speaking up when there’s enough time to mitigate the issue gives time and space for your manager or mentor to work with you and find a solution. This is a more proactive approach than continuing to fall behind all month without speaking up.
2. Take intentional time away from work.
Top-performing reps spend 40% more time working outside of regular working hours than lower-performing reps. While the time spent can lead to results, that pace isn’t necessarily sustainable over time.
Giving yourself intentional, dedicated time away from work to recharge is crucial for avoiding burnout. That means during the time you’re working, you’re all-in and focused on work. And when you’re not working, you’re fully disconnected. While this can be challenging while selling remotely, it is doable. Here are some ways you can create better boundaries while working remotely:
- Establishing a set daily routine where you begin and end work at the same time. Once you are logged off, remain logged off if you can.
- Having a dedicated workspace. Whether it’s a home office, desk, or corner of the kitchen table, avoid working from leisurely spaces to create better separation.
3. Incorporate mindfulness practices into your work day.
How often do you take breaks during the work day? If you sit down at your desk and don’t get up until the day is done, you could be doing yourself a disservice.
Though setting aside work to take a break sounds counterproductive, or like a poor use of time, taking breaks throughout the day actually gives you back time because it helps you remain more calm and focused. For optimal productivity, researchers at MIT suggest taking a 15-minute break every 75 to 90 minutes.
During those breaks, try to refrain from consuming content or reading emails. Use that time to take a walk, stretch, get some fresh air, or spend a few moments meditating to recharge and refocus, helping you ward off feelings of burnout.
4. Focus on one task at a time.
Time and again, research reminds us that humans are not very good multitaskers, yet we continue to multitask our way through each day. According to Bryan College, productivity losses associated with multitasking costs companies nearly $450 million per year. When companies are experiencing steep productivity losses, that could lead to putting increased pressure on sales teams to close that gap.
On an individual level, multitasking may have harmful effects on cognitive ability and IQ. After prolonged periods of task-switching, the regular tasks you perform could start to feel more difficult in the future, which doesn’t help mitigate feelings of overwhelm.
Focusing your attention on one task at a time can help improve efficiency, and quality of work which is good news for your bottom line.
5. Improve your sales enablement strategy.
When was the last time your organization made improvements to its sales enablement strategy? If you can’t remember, now is a good time to dial it in.
According to HubSpot research, teams who have dedicated sales enablement support are more likely to meet or exceed their revenue targets. When reps have the sales enablement support they need, they’re less likely to feel overwhelmed by redundant, administrative tasks and can dedicate their time and energy to selling.
Even if your organization doesn’t have the resources to support dedicated sales enablement staff, investing in a suite of powerful sales enablement tools is a great first step to ease the workload of your reps so they can spend more time engaging with potential customers.
6. Balance conversations with prospective and existing customers.
As mentioned above, persistent rejection can be challenging for reps working hard to make quota. While rejection is a part of the job, being faced with constant rejection can become discouraging. That’s why it is important to stay in touch with your current customers to continue your working relationships with them.
Your existing customers are 40% more likely to buy from you than a new prospect. When you are constantly going after new customers, you can potentially leave money on the table, while putting in a lot more effort than needed, leading to burnout. Having a balanced mix of new and returning customers is essential for reaching your goals, and staying motivated.
7. Understand your sales data.
As a sales professional, you should treat your data like a valued colleague. While it can be tempting to focus solely on quota attainment, there are several areas of the business you can look to for valuable insight on ways to improve.
By understanding what KPI’s matter most to your organization, and knowing exactly what the current data you have access to is telling you about your customers and current approach to selling, you can learn what small, tangible steps you and your team can take to improve performance.
8. Set realistic, actionable goals.
Salespeople are an ambitious bunch. While that ambition is admirable, it can also lead to burnout when it’s fueled by unrealistic goals.
To keep sales reps and managers inspired, sales goals should be realistic, actionable, and clearly communicated so everyone being measured against them understands what they are accountable for.
Ultimately, your sales goals should be a road map to success for you and your team, not an impossible hurdle to overcome.
9. Focus on your overall self-care.
The image of self-care that’s presented on Instagram can conjure some eyerolls, but before you keep scrolling, just hear me out. Overall self-care goes much deeper than face masks and bubble baths (though those are great too).
When you aren’t taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and socially, it can be a lot harder to be present and engaged at work — especially when you’re working remotely and the lines between work and home are constantly being crossed. If you can, spend some time each day (even if it’s just a few minutes) finding ways to feel more aligned and present.
Some things that can help include:
- Staying hydrated
- Repeating affirmations
- Eating foods that help you feel more energized
- Getting enough rest
Prioritizing your basic needs can ward off feelings of stress and burnout, and can help you feel more engaged and present in your daily work.
10. Be prepared for objections.
As we’ve covered, rejection comes with the territory when working in sales. With this in mind, a key competency salespeople need is the ability to handle objections in stride (and without taking them personally).
When you’re gearing up for your sales calls, being prepared and anticipating the possible objections a customer may have is important.
By coming prepared and anticipating what questions, concerns, and objections a prospect has beforehand, you’re less likely to be caught off guard, creating a stressful situation when you feel like you have to stumble through an answer. Before you jump on your next call, follow the tips in this post to help you prepare.
11. Lean into your ideal work style.
What do you need to get into your zone of genius? Do you find you do your best thinking and engaging at certain parts of the day? Or are you someone who likes to batch their work for greater efficiency? Whatever your work style is, do your best to lean into it.
By forcing yourself to work outside your zone of genius, you’re potentially making your work harder than it needs to be. Get familiar with what you need to do your best work, and tap into it to find your workflow.
12. Look into problematic areas of your sales process.
It’s hard for any rep to thrive under a broken sales process. If several members of your team are feeling the weight of similar stressors, or if you find customers aren’t converting after reaching a specific point in your sales process, it could be a good time to take a look at what’s going on.
Ironing out the kinks in your organization’s sales process can make all the difference in helping reps do their job effectively, and with as little stress as possible.
Just because burnout is common in sales, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. For more advice on helping relieve stress and prevent burnout for salespeople, check out this post.