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Sales Burnout: The Havoc It Wreaks & How You Can Fix It

6 min
A businessman freaks out after realizing he has accidentally leaked company IP.

A highly results-oriented, demanding occupation likes sales expects you to stay at the top of your game 24/7. This leaves you with little room for any interruption to your workflow, so you tend to ignore stress, and burnout and continue the hustle.

About 67% of salespeople agree that they’re either close to or are currently experiencing burnout. And when more than 120,000 deaths every year are associated with burnout, you know it’s a serious problem.

To find out more about the impact of burnout on a sales team, I spoke with 6sense’s Senior Director of GTM, Anupreet Singh. With extensive experience working in early-stage start-ups, Anupreet is well-versed in dealing with and dissolving issues that arise from time to time in sales teams.

What Sales Burnout Looks Like: Inside vs Outside

It’s often difficult to identify burnout from an outside perspective. When even the individual suffering from burnout is usually unaware of its presence, it’s highly unlikely for anyone to be able to detect it from the outside.

Internally, sales burnout can manifest in some of the following ways:

  • Loss of interest in day-to-day activities
  • Feelings of disengagement and disinterestedness in work and personal life
  • Spirals of negative thoughts
  • Exhaustion despite adequate rest
  • A sense of failure and defeat

This can translate into the following indicators, that manifest externally at work:

  • Lack of motivation and drive at work
  • Low productivity
  • Relatively poor performance
  • Absent-mindedness
  • Multiple leaves due to sickness, fatigue, headaches, etc.

What Sales Burnout is Costing Your Business

On average, burnout costs organizations a whopping $190 billion annually. This can be in the form of lost productivity, absenteeism, low morale, low organizational commitment, and poor turnover.

When it comes to sales, poor mental health costs you at least $2,469 per rep, per year. You can also use this sales mental health cost calculator to determine the cost based on your specific organizational metrics.

“Imagine the revenue brought in by a motivated, mentally healthy salesperson who closes at whatever the average deal size is for your organization. That’s the real cost of burnout in a single rep. A sales rep’s turnover is zero when they’re not nurturing or succeeding with any leads. That becomes a negative value when burnout causes them to kill leads in their pipeline.”

Anupreet Singh, Senior Director of GTM at 6sense

As a rule of thumb, poor performance due to burned-out employees amounts to a cost of about 34% of their individual salary.

Are You Digging Your Own Grave By Admitting That You’re Burning Out?

Let’s be honest—everybody has their doubts when it comes to admitting emotional and mental states of well-being to their manager. What if your manager judges you for being too sensitive? What if they perceive you as complaining and unmotivated? 

Worst case scenario—what if you’re fired?

Let’s put the brakes on that train of thought and gain some perspective. 

You walk to your manager and tell them, “Hey, I’ve been exhausted from work lately and I believe I’m burning out.”

If you work in a healthy environment, chances are, your manager won’t blow up. You won’t be ignored or fired. And it’s not just because you have a kind manager.

It’s simply more economical to help a burned-out employee get back on track than to look for replacements. In fact, the cost of firing an employee can be anywhere between 30% to a staggering 400% of their annual salary.

The more economical option is to guide the employee out of their burnout using the right methods, which we’ll talk about later in this blog. 

Most of the time, the underlying cause of burnout is unattainable goals and unrealistic expectations. Slow hiring leading to more work for existing employees is an additional cause. When these obstacles are removed, burnout becomes easier to handle and dissipate.

“In a demanding profession like sales, there’s a limit to which salespeople can be stretched thin after which the rubber band breaks. Once, one of my reps told me he was actually scared to open his laptop at his previous organization because he knew he would always be welcomed by some bullsh*t from his manager on Slack. Whenever a team member reported a burnout to me, I made sure that they took a break or a vacation to cool off.”

– Anupreet Singh

Chances are, You’re Totally Unaware That You’re Burning Out

What most people misunderstand about burnout is that it needn’t necessarily occur only when you’re at your lowest. As employees, we tend to fear the impact that burnout can have on our career, and hence, our subconscious tries its best to suppress it. 

That’s why sales burnout may not be as evident on the outside, despite all the mayhem it creates inside.

A majority of salespeople experiencing burnout report so during their weaker months when they aren’t able to reach their targets. It seems like a pretty valid excuse to blame the low performance on. However, you could be severely burned out even during your best months, when you’re repeatedly hitting and exceeding your quotas. 

“The reason is that our brain releases chemicals (namely, dopamine) when we have positive experiences at work like booking a meeting or closing a deal. These chemicals make us feel like we’re partying and they downplay the stress and exhaustion that come with work.”

– Anupreet Singh

When you finally hit a bad month after a series of good months—that’s when you realize how exhausted you were. Suddenly, there’s no dopamine to cloak your stress, and right when you’re not ready, you catch it staring back at you, in your face

The Sales Manager’s First Aid Kit

If you’re a sales manager, what do you do when your sales rep reports a burnout?

  1. Tell them to toughen up and deal with it
  2. Buy them a box of donuts
  3. Fire them

None of these options seem to be right, do they? That’s because the right answer is – option 4) Take it seriously and explore solutions to help them deal with their burnout. 

Let’s take a look at a few of those solutions:

#1 Fostering a Positive Team Culture

When most of your employees are working remotely, it becomes difficult to ensure a positive team environment. Even if you do think that you’ve been successful in inculcating one, your employees need to be aligned with you on this too.

Workplace relationships, rewards, support, and a sense of belonging are all important elements of fostering a strong workplace culture. Here are some other helpful ways:

  • Create a safe work environment where your reps are comfortable addressing and reporting their burnout
  • Show strength in vulnerability by admitting your own experience with burnout
  • Talk about what helped you overcome your insecurities
  • Encourage adequate rest and recreation
  • Don’t look down upon those who take occasional breaks throughout the day

“I’m deliberate about making sure we have regular company outings and team meetups. I’m deliberate about meeting the team in person at least once every quarter so I can do a pulse check on them and see how they’re doing.”

– Anupreet Singh

#2 Helping Them Gain Perspective

Often, burnouts can be dealt with by having an open, candid conversation with your rep. Such a conversation also helps you as a manager to listen mindfully, understand the cause of the burnout, and give your rep some positive feedback.

“Whenever one of my reps comes to me reporting a burnout, I try to not talk about what’s going wrong. I remind them of everything that’s going right—I remind them of everything they did well in their better months, and about the areas they’re excelling in.”

– Anupreet Singh

#3 Understanding Your Employees on an Individual Level

Motivating an individual employee is different from motivating the entire team. When you’re managing a team of multiple people, it becomes easy to forget that each one of them has a unique personality and responds differently to various stimuli. Some will appreciate being complimented or praised in group settings, while others may enjoy SPIFFs or personalized gifts for employees more.

“How you need to motivate each team is different. Inbound reps have to be motivated differently as compared to outbound reps. AEs need to be motivated differently as compared to SDRs and BDRs.

AEs usually belong to the 28-35 age group while SDRs and BDRs fall under the 22-25 age group. Motivating somebody who is 22 is a lot different from motivating someone who is 35.”

– Anupreet Singh

It’s also important to understand that burnout can be different for different people. 

For some reps, it can be fixed by giving them a break or vacation. In such cases, a casual conversation with your rep about what’s causing the burnout—be it unreasonable quotas, decayed data in the CRM, or recurring manual tasks—can help prevent such cases in the future.

For others, it could snowball into serious health conditions like depression. In the case of the latter, your best bet is to help them find psychological help. 

At 6sense, we partner with Good Lives, a mental health and well-being initiative, to make sure our employees have their emotional and mental health needs accounted for, and that they have access to mental healthcare at all times.

How 6sense Can Help Your Team Avoid Burnout

In a demanding profession like sales, it’s almost inevitable to experience burnout at least once in your career. And one of the biggest reasons salespeople experience it is decayed lead data in your pipeline leading to disheartening dead-ends.

6sense can give you access to the buying patterns and contact information of more than 17 million companies and 250 million decision-makers across the world. Accurate, up-to-date data ensures your reps don’t have to stress over expired, poor data in their CRMs. 

You can book a demo with us and let us show you 6sense at work in its full capacity.

“As salespeople, your reps are already getting enough BS from their prospects. So as sales managers, you have all the more responsibility to not give them any further BS from your end.”

Anupreet Singh

The 6sense Team

6sense helps B2B organizations achieve predictable revenue growth by putting the power of AI, big data, and machine learning behind every member of the revenue team.

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