Like a star that burns too brightly, sometimes, in sales, we can burn ourselves out. If you (or your team) are feeling the heat and ready to throw in the towel, you’re not alone.

Sales burnout is a real problem, one that can severely impact your business productivity, team morale and your bottom line. But don’t despair – there are things you can do to prevent and overcome sales burnout!

In this article, I’ll explain what sales burnout means, how to recognize the signs in yourself or your team and what you can do to deal with it effectively.

Sales Burnout Explained

The feeling of burnout is hard to explain, but you know it when you feel it. You wake up and the thought of work brings you dread. You get to work – the first steps feel like you’re Sisphyus getting ready to push the boulder up the mountain.

That sense of tiredness and lack of motivation is burnout.

But sales burnout isn't just a fleeting feeling of fatigue; it's a diagnosable state of exhaustion that arises from prolonged exposure to chronic stress. According to Dr. Britt Andreatta, author of Wired to Resist, burnout occurs when individuals have been dealing with long-term stressful situations without adequate relief or coping mechanisms.

The results are staggering when you look at the stats from this recent sales mental health study concerning sales reps and burnout:

For example, a whopping 76% of sales professionals express feeling stressed. The high-pressure nature of sales roles, with constant targets and performance expectations, contributes significantly to this stress.

Then, if you look at the “exhaustion” component of burnout, 63% of sales reps report constantly feeling tired. I have to say that makes sense since around 65% say they struggle to get a good night's rest.

And it not only affects the individual but the company as well. That’s because 40% of sales pros attribute their decision to leave their jobs to burnout. This highlights the severity of the issue and its impact on employee retention.

It’s this interconnectedness of stress and sleep disturbances that underscores the multifaceted nature of sales burnout.

But what is the root cause?

What Causes Sales Burnout?

Whether you're on the front lines as a sales representative, overseeing a team as a sales manager or leading the organization as a CEO, understanding the root causes of burnout is vital.

While your mileage will vary, the following are the four most common causes of sales burnout:

1. Long Work Hours and Work Overload

In the fast-paced world of sales, it's not uncommon for professionals to put in long hours—sometimes exceeding 70 hours per week. The competitive nature of the field often means that as sales reps excel in their roles, they're rewarded with more responsibilities.

This continuous cycle can make them feel like they're always on call, available 24/7 to meet the demands of the job.

The pressure to consistently perform at a high level can create a challenging work environment. Sales reps and their leaders need to recognize the toll that extended work hours can take on well-being and take proactive steps to mitigate burnout.

(Don’t worry, I’ll cover ways to deal with it later in the text!)

2. Poor Work-Life Balance Causes Sales Burnout

Finding a balance between work and personal life can be a struggle for all of us – especially sales pros. The constant drive to meet targets and surpass expectations often means there's little time left for personal relaxation. The blurred boundaries between work and personal time can lead to a situation where sales reps find it difficult to disconnect, even during evenings and weekends.

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial for preventing burnout, so acknowledge the importance of downtime and set clear boundaries!

3. No Clear Goals

Clear goals are like a compass and treasure map for sales reps. Goals provide direction, motivation and a sense of accomplishment when achieved. However, without well-defined objectives, the job can feel aimless. Sales reps may struggle to stay motivated and passionate about their work, increasing the risk of burnout over time.

Leadership should prioritize setting clear, achievable goals, fostering a sense of purpose among sales teams and promoting sustained motivation. And no, it’s not always enough to give your team more money – there is a big difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

4. No Feedback

Without regular feedback, sales reps may feel like they're in a professional rut. When the problem runs rampant, that lack of acknowledgment and guidance leads to a decline in morale.

Cue: a drop in performance.

Recognizing and appreciating the efforts of sales professionals is crucial for maintaining a positive work environment. Managers must provide constructive feedback and create a culture of continuous improvement to help prevent burnout.

For example, if your team is struggling with prospecting, don’t let them swim in the sea of issues without your help. Come together and identify the blockers. Then, prepare a strategy to help them overcome the obstacles.

5. Lack of Tools and Resources

Sales is all about 'selling,' but there are other tasks too. Things like paperwork, data management and finding resources can take up a lot of a salesperson's time. When sales reps have to spend too much time on these extra tasks, burnout happens faster because they can't focus on what they do best—selling.

For example, if you identify your salespeople spend too much time trying to find email addresses, it makes sense to invest in an email-finding tool like Findymail. Not only will that take tasks off their plate, but it’ll also affect the entire pipeline's success.

Having the right tools and easy access to resources makes the job feel less frustrating and makes the reps feel efficient, propelling the motivation flywheel forward.

6. Dealing with Rejection

Selling can be tough because there's a lot of saying 'no.' Whether it's losing a deal or not getting a response, sales reps often face rejection. Dealing with rejection is hard. If there's no support or strategies to handle it, it can lead to feeling drained and frustrated.

7. A Toxic Work Culture and Environment

Sometimes, it's not the job itself but where you work that causes burnout. A toxic work culture can show up as a lot of negativity, lack of support or too much competition between team members.

Another example is when managers don't share information, especially about changes that affect the sales team. For instance, if new rules come in without warning or asking the sales team, they can feel frustrated and powerless. Have that happen more than a few times in the same year and it’s a one-way ticket to Destination: Burnout.

To prevent burnout and promote a healthy company culture, work together, talk openly and make sure everyone feels valued. Your team needs to feel understood and involved in decisions instead of just being reactive to them.

Of course, these are only the main causes of sales burnout. However, there can be other reasons, like financial insecurity due to unpredictable commissions and a constant need to hit metrics. But if you address these four, it’ll be easier to spot other root causes.

How to Recognize Sales Burnout

Since burnout takes different forms for each individual, it can be hard to spot it in your team members or entire team. Here are a few hints to look for:

1. Snippy with Customers and a Negative Attitude

Feeling grumpy with customers occasionally is normal – we all have our tough days. But if the bad mood sticks around a lot, it might be more than that. It could be a sign of burnout.

So, if you or your sales team notice a constant negative vibe, it's worth paying attention to.

One helpful thing you can do is create a survey where reps can share their feelings anonymously. This survey not only helps with the negativity but also lets you learn about other issues like needing better tools and how the workplace feels.

2. Less Motivation, Focus and Engagement

Sales reps are usually energetic and show up on time. But if someone starts being late or not engaging in meetings like they used to, it might be a sign of burnout. They might feel like they've hit their limit and are running out of energy.

To help, you can offer some time off, work together to bring back their enthusiasm or even think about switching them to a different role. Also, if it’s severe burnout, it might be worth talking to them about taking a longer leave or considering other career paths.

3. Your Reps Don't Care About Professional Development Anymore

Things are always changing in sales; you have to keep learning to stay ahead. If you or your reps stop caring about improving skills and keeping up with trends, you could be looking at a clear burnout sign.

It's like losing interest in playing a favorite game. To fix this, you can offer training that gets them excited about growing again. For example, if a rep constantly deals with one type of lead, you could switch them to a different customer segment.

4. If Your Metrics Aren't Looking So Good, It Might Be Sales Burnout

Sales is all about numbers, like how many leads you source, deals you close, emails sent and meetings with potential customers.

However, if those numbers start decreasing, you could be dealing with sales burnout. This is where regularly tracking metrics helps you spot issues in time, so you can identify the underlying causes and create the right strategy.

For example, you might offer support, adjust targets or explore new strategies to prevent burnout from getting worse.

5. The Reps Are Unwilling to Change

I live by the motto, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.” However, sales is constantly evolving and it demands adaptation.

If you or your reps don't want to try new methods and stick to what you know, it could mean burnout. It’s not that they don’t want to – burnout likely makes them feel like there’s no point in learning new things when everything is always the same and exhausts them.

To help, you can offer more training, try new approaches, take a team-building break or give new tools a go. The goal is to bring back energy and stop the burnout from taking its toll.

Preventing and Dealing with Burnout in Sales

1. Focus on Coaching and Mentorship

Coaching is a powerful tool to prevent burnout among your sales team. For example, if you have those key people you always put the majority of the load on, you need to give your team training so everyone is at the same level.

The hallmarks of effective coaching include consistent feedback, ensuring each team member understands their progress and has a clear direction for growth. Yes, this includes your top performers, too – they’re most susceptible to burnout because they hit their targets so often that it’s easy to forget you should manage and guide them, too.

Coaching is the best way of instilling confidence and fostering a positive mindset. When team members believe in their ability to achieve more, it significantly impacts their productivity!

2. Provide Time for R&R

Salespeople often find it challenging to take a break, especially with the constant accessibility provided by mobile devices. We’ve all been in a situation where we were told to take a vacation, but we’d have to handle the piled-up work before and after going, so we’d just skip out on it.

Creating a system or network to handle after-hour needs ensures that they don't feel pressured to be connected all the time.

However, encouraging relaxation is about more than just time off work. It's creating a work environment that respects personal time, reinforcing the importance of disconnecting to maintain overall well-being.

3. Give Time to Friends and Family

Building connections with friends and family is the essence of life and it plays a crucial role in preventing burnout. When you or your team members spend quality time with their loved ones, it becomes a source of strength to deal with work stressors.

Whether it's sharing a meal, going for a walk or enjoying a movie night, these moments contribute positively to their mental and emotional well-being.

4. Focus on Physical Health

Physical health is another weapon in the battle against burnout. Regular exercise, whether in the morning or after work, not only contributes to physical well-being but also plays a crucial role in boosting confidence and reducing stress.

As a leader, encouraging your team to prioritize physical health is an investment in their overall resilience against burnout. Whether it's a morning jog, a gym session or even a brisk walk during breaks, these activities contribute to a healthier, more balanced work-life experience for your team.

P.S. If possible, allocate a team health & wellness budget.

5. Go Outside and Get Some Sun

Spending time outdoors, basking in the sunlight, is a simple yet effective strategy to promote well-being and prevent burnout. Nature has profound positive effects on physical and mental health. For example, sunlight exposure is linked to improved mood and increased vitamin D production.

Encouraging your sales team to take short breaks outside, even if just for a few minutes, can have rejuvenating effects on their energy levels and mental state.

Heck, you could even consider having meetings outside!

In the context of preventing burnout, these small moments of intentional outdoor time can act as a reset button, helping your team recharge and face work challenges with renewed enthusiasm.

6. Encourage Better Habits with Sales Training

Sales training isn’t just for picking up new tactics or boosting your qualification numbers. Instead, consider the core areas your team needs help with to understand their inner motivations and self-beliefs.

The best sales training equips your people not only with the skills needed for the job but also with the right mindset to navigate challenges and setbacks. In this way, practical training becomes a proactive measure against burnout.

7. Do Something Fulfilling Outside of Work

While sales might be a passion, having interests and hobbies beyond the workplace is equally important. Whether practicing martial arts, reading, playing video games or indulging in hobbies, dedicating time to these activities provides a healthy outlet for stress.

If you’re a manager, support your team’s pursuit of personal passions. Create special days where you come together and share interests or organize team-building activities around shared hobbies.

Tackling Sales Burnout for Success

If you or someone on your sales team is dealing with burnout, it's a serious concern that needs attention. The good news is, you're not alone; burnout happens to the best of us. And even though sales teams are more susceptible, burnout can be mitigated with a keen eye and the right approach.

Recognizing the signs of burnout is crucial. Whether it's constant fatigue, strained interactions with customers or a drop in performance, understanding these indicators is the first step toward finding a solution.

Remember: burnout is like a warning light on your car dashboard. Ignoring it can be very expensive! However, with the tips and guidance in this article, you’ll be able to effectively recognize and deal with sales burnout – whether in yourself or with your sales team.

Yes, sales will always be a demanding field. But you don’t have to accept burnout as part of the job. Recognize the risks, implement the right strategies and talk to your people. You’ll see how big of a difference that makes!