Sales Burnout is Real. So Are These Top Indicators and What to Do About Them

Sales is a hyper-social, customer-facing role that can get highly stressful. In this article we talk about the top indicators of sales burnout and how to tackle them.

We all know Sales is the job for the people person — the high-flying, always-on-the-go charmer that’s on the phone, in meetings and/or closing deals. The same goes for recruitment — you’re constantly talking to people, helping them find their next big opportunity.

You see, sales, success and recruitment both share the same problem . You’ve got a target to hit, a boss to report to, and if you don’t meet said goal your job’s on the line. In general, you have about a month’s job security at any given time, and sales and recruitment are often the first to be cut.

To quote Salesforce’s Day In The Life Of A Salesperson, sales is equal parts exhilarating, rewarding, stressful and lonely, an industry built of dedicated early-risers.

When you begin, you’re also often left with a list, a target and not much else to go on. The result is that you’re left to the wisdom of the crowd and the advice of your coworkers. Especially early on in your career, there’s a huge emotional and professional mountain to climb.

Related: Tapping Into Your Soft Side with Emotional Intelligence in Sales

Article overview:

  1. 6 Top Indicators of Sales Burnout
  2. Tackling Sales Burnout — 6 Proven Ways
  3. Anti-Burnout Resources
  4. Your Time is Your Time. Don’t Waste it

6 Top Indicators of Sales Burnout

1) You’re tired, no matter how much you sleep

It’s easy to forget that it doesn’t just take physical effort to tire you out. Mental stress — especially when you don’t get a chance to truly relax — can linger through even regular, regimented sleep.

2) Everything just feels more difficult

You’re having trouble closing leads that you used to be able to do without thinking. A half-an-hour sales call feels like it takes forever. You’re exhausted halfway through your day, and even small tasks feel like a dramatic undertaking.

Related: The 3 Biggest Mistakes Sales Reps Make on the Phone

3) You’re not eating

Burnout puts you in a form of fight-or-flight. Despite the fact your body desperately needs food, it’s running on instinct.

4) It’s hard to focus

You may not realize it, but you’re physically and mentally drained. And so keeping on task and getting everything done is much, much more difficult.

5) You’ve got a short fuse

This isn’t just you blowing up over small things — everything is irritating. Little things that used to pass you by now get under your skin. You’re ready to snap at any point.

6) You’re far less optimistic

In an interrupt-driven environment, you’re spending a great deal of time trying to keep hope alive that you can successfully prospect and close. Burnout creates a vicious circle. It makes you tired, irritable, and you don’t believe in yourself. All of this leads to poor sales performance thus making you tired, irritable and hopeless.


So, What Do You Do?

You can’t just take a month off of work to relax. So I’m going to lay out an approach to structuring your day to both relieve some of these stressors and keep burnout away in the longer term.

1) Approach your work with a plan of attack (and research)

In customer-focused roles, your only focal point at first may be one big list and a few set calls. The trick is to set a schedule that you can stick to and create a reliable drumbeat, with each part feeding into the other.

For example, it’s great (and I realize this is an oversimplification) to begin your day making an actual action plan and the research to back up said action plan for the rest of the day. This means that once you begin your outreach/prospecting, you’re armed with the things you’ll need without having to interrupt your workflow as you go.

When you’re feeling down about your work, you now have a structure to follow that exists in the good times and the bad.

Structure is also crucial for when you’re feeling like you don’t get enough done. You can point at your day and say “Hey, I did that” beyond the sales goals that you just have to follow for work.

2) Build a rhythm to your day, and try not to get interrupted

When you’re planning out your calendar, try and build your momentum and execution of your workflow around the meetings for the day.

If you know you’re going to be having a sales meeting at 1PM, don’t set up a meaningful presentation call at 2PM. Furthermore, if you know you’re going to dedicate specific hours to outreach (such as hitting clients that are on the East Coast), make sure to clear that time so that you’re able to focus your energy on one specific task at hand.

It’ll help save yourself from the mental burden of trying to do three or four things at once.

3) Explore workflows and playbooks that match your style, and experiment

Sales and Customer Success remain jobs that require you to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. You have to get something from almost nothing, and build meaningful, revenue-generating relationships from research and sheer aggression.

This means that there are likely thousands of sales strategies you can go after, and finding the right one is a mixture of:

  • Seeing what works
  • Understanding what works for you
  • Actively measuring said success

Most organizations set quotas for outreach, but going deeper into the metrics adds a meta-game to sales that breeds competition with yourself. Don’t simply resign yourself to one strategy because it works for someone else.

Read up on the best prospecting methods out there (even in books, Millennials!), and assess yourself objectively and numerically.

4) Actively seek mentorship (and self improvement)

We’re taught as a society that strength is being able to do things alone, but in sales and success that’s not true.

Great organizations breed a culture of mentorship. Your managers want to see you succeed, which means leaning on them and actively seeking their expertise. This means opening yourself up to (fair) criticism, which can hurt, but it also stops you from feeling exhausted and alone when things aren’t working.

Sales burnout can come for you even when you’re doing well, so keep an active dialogue with them during the good times and the bad. If you’re feeling exhausted, they’ll have advice, and absolutely have faced it too.

Mentors can also be a valuable source to help you calm down, refocus and sympathetically work through when you’re truly, utterly burned out.

5) Find ways to improve your productivity and efficiency

I’ve touched upon understanding the metrics of your own success, and the end goal is to improve your sales productivity and efficiency.

Take a step back from the process and ask yourself the questions beyond the quotas:

  • What does it take to get on someone’s calendar?
  • How do I engage with X customer in Y industry, and what does it take to get them to not simply reply but continue an ongoing dialogue?

You may find that certain industries aren’t responsive to emails or social selling, but are quick to pick up the phone and amenable to a chat. There are some that may entirely want to talk over email, but getting clear-cut answers from them may be difficult.

So how do you make a phone call easier? When you’re spending less time banging your head.

Also, as with every job, there are manual task and processes that can distract you from your goal. Make use of the top sales automation tools to free up your time, for example.

6) Finally, have self-compassion

This is the most important part of your anti-burnout strategy.

If you’re pursuing a career in sales, recruitment and success, you’re going to face failure and rejection almost every day.

Be aware of how this can affect you. Understand that it hurts, and it sucks, but rejections are part of the job.

Learn from them and, if they’re happening a lot, understand the commonalities, but don’t hate yourself or think you’re bad as a result. You’re a human being, and that’s what makes you great at your job.

This also means having the ability to notice you’re burned out, and taking the necessary measures. A personal day or a vacation definitely helps to disconnect.

Anti-Burnout Resources

  • It’s cliché, but meditation (using an app like Headspace) is a time-efficient way to relax and release yourself.
  • I also recommend reading as much as you can about the problem of being busy in general. Kevin DeYoung’s Crazy Busy is an excellent book on being overloaded, and finding space to do, as he puts it, nothing at all.
  • Tim Ferris wrote a very honest piece on burnout. Arianna Huffington has also written about how she literally collapsed from exhaustion, and how that has changed her for the better.
  • Counseling through an online counselor like Talkspace, or in-person might be a good idea too. People who seek counseling aren’t crazy! In fact, they’re making the incredibly smart decision to talk to a professional about their brain, a long term way to improve their health and happiness.
  • Exercise and more sleep are obvious, but what isn’t quite so obvious is the ability to truly disconnect from work. It’s a big concept with simple beginnings — it just means being prepared to put your phone away at 7:30pm and not check email past a reasonable hour.

Your Time is Your Time. Don’t Waste It

Sales burnout is a powerful, painful and real experience that’s only compounded by careers that require us to always be on the ball.

Keep that at work — make work a focused, organized, exciting and energetic experience that you put your all into. Then take your free time to relax and enjoy your life. Your work is part of, but not all of you. Burnout comes for us all, and you can absolutely beat it!

Don Erwin is an experienced software sales leader with a proven track record of building successful sales teams. Passionate about coaching and developing sales professionals to understand what it takes to be an A- Player. His specialties include leadership, mentoring, recruiting, talent development, building teams, forecasting, increasing top line revenue growth, go-to market strategy, sales process, and taking ownership for sales results. When not playing soccer, you’ll find him walking around the boardwalk in Santa Cruz with his wife and 11-year-old daughter.

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