A Sales Leader's Guide to Reducing Burnout and Enhancing Workplace Wellbeing

17 mins

Uncover the impact of burnout, learn strategies for improving team wellbeing, and explore how to measure the success of mental health activities.

Based on recent data collected by the Bridge Group, over one-third—or 34.7%—of sales professionals leave their roles annually as a result of burnout. As a result, Sales Leaders who are looking to enhance their profitability, reduce the losses associated with bad hires—and hires that simply don’t work out—and improve their staff retention need to champion workplace wellbeing initiatives as a business imperative. 

This guide will discuss why burnout occurs so often among professionals in sales positions, and the impact that this harm to workplace wellbeing can have on sales performance and revenue-generating activities. 

We’ll also explore how Sales Leaders can play a role in facilitating a culture of support and self-care and show how they can signpost mental health resources for their staff, resources which should become a key part of your onboarding and sales management training for all staff, allowing them to advocate and care for themselves and their colleagues. Alongside this, we show you how you can measure the success of your workplace wellbeing initiatives, and the metrics you should be keeping an eye on.

Why Does Burnout Occur in Sales?

Whilst can occur in every industry, unachievable sales targets, rejection, and long working hours heavily impact salespeople’s workplace wellbeing. Whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional fatigue, sales teams will often be all too familiar with the stresses of the modern, sales-focused workplace. 

Factors that Lead to Burnout in Sales

Burnout is often the result of a confluence of several factors or stressors that can arise from our day-to-day responsibilities, or an inability to healthily respond to those stressors. But what is it about sales roles that make the professionals working in them seem predisposed to burnout, if the figures are to be believed? 

  • Vague revenue targets. Ambiguous sales targets make it difficult for your sales team to align their efforts or focus on the most impactful, revenue-generating activities, increasing the risk of stress and burnout.

  • A lack of performance metrics. Having no KPIs in place can not only impact your sales staff, but their leaders, too. An absence of performance indicators means that staff are more likely to encounter emotional fatigue from the lack of metrics to measure their success by, whilst the activities of supervisors and leaders can be hampered by misunderstandings around the level of performance expected from their teams.

  • Unclear processes. A lack of defined and clearly articulated processes can lead a team to waste resources and prioritise the incorrect responsibilities, compounding the stress that can arise from the tight deadlines and fast pace that define sales-oriented organisations.

Business leaders can go a long way to warding off burnout in their sales and senior leadership teams by ensuring they’re provided with specific, achievable targets which are backed by measurable metrics, KPIs, or objectives and key results (OKRs). Vital to success in sales-focused roles, these KPIs and targets ensure that your colleagues are provided with a roadmap to achieving success, and that supervisors can offer personalised coaching and mentorship which highlights areas for improvement. 

The Signs of Burnout

There are several common signs of burnout that a Sales Leader or senior member of staff can keep an eye out for to spot salespeople who might need additional support, including: 

  • Irritability. If you’re finding that sales staff are increasingly becoming grumpy with your customers and key accounts, or they’re alternatively short-fused when working with colleagues, it could be that they’re getting worn out.

  • Lack of attention to detail. Whether they don’t have the mental and physical energy to summon the motivation, or they’re developing negative feelings towards their role, burnout in salespeople can often lead to imprecision and mistakes. 

  • A drop in results. If staff that have started out strong are starting to miss their targets, this can create a self-reinforcing cycle of pressure, further impacting performance.

  • Absenteeism. An increase in the number of sick days taken could not only be a sign that salespeople are fed up with their jobs, but also that they’re so exhausted that they’re actually getting ill. Burnout can lead to tangible health problems, whether it's sleep disturbances, a 40% increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease, or further mental health and addiction issues.

  • Lack of creativity. Burnout can often mean that salespeople aren’t able to collaborate with their colleagues and effectively implement strategies to improve their sales performance.

Alongside this, salespeople often have to face competition not only from external companies, but from their colleagues, too. 

Alongside this, salespeople often have to face competition not only from external companies, but from their colleagues, too. 

This intra-company competition can pile on the pressure, with colleagues expected to outperform each other. This isn’t to say that healthy competition amongst colleagues can’t be an excellent motivator—but, as we’ll see in the next section, it’s increasingly important to encourage staff to lift each other up, rather than criticise one another. Not paying attention to this can significantly lower team morale, impacting even the highest-performing members of the sales team. 

The Impact of Lower Workplace Wellbeing on Sales Performance

Diminished workplace wellbeing and morale are behind an eye-watering $1.8tn of lost productivity in the U.S. alone, as an article in Forbes notes. At the same time, a Gallup poll highlights that severely burned-out employees are over 60% more likely to take additional sick days.

At the same time, the financial fallout of losing staff if you don’t head off signs of burnout in your sales team early can also be detrimental to achieving business goals. When we consider the cost of advertising positions and the loss of output from existing staff having to assess applications, interview, and provide onboarding and training support, you can lose your investment of up to 27% of each new hire’s average salary by failing to retain them.

There’s no doubt about it—burnout is bad news for overall sales team performance. As we’ve already mentioned, a lack of workplace wellbeing is often found to be behind a dip in your team’s ability to hit their sales targets, directly impacting your business’s bottom line. Whether it’s due to a lack of motivation or difficulty building a robust rapport with new leads, burnout must be addressed quickly to ensure it doesn’t further harm performance or your company’s reputation. 

Creating A Culture of Workplace Wellbeing

So, it’s clear that burnout needs to be avoided. But what practical steps can a Sales Leader take to ensure that their inbound and outbound teams are confident, healthy, and ready for the fast pace of a sales role, and how can they facilitate a culture of workplace wellbeing that will last over the long term? 

Strategies to Prevent Sales Burnout

It’s important that whatever steps you take to mitigate burnout in your sales team are not only pragmatic and targeted, but that they drive effective change in internal processes and culture that can ensure workplace wellbeing is taken seriously by staff. As a result, it’s vital that senior leaders don’t focus too much on individual operational tasks, which risk missing the target and can lead to further complications, including: 

  • Wasted expertise. The skills of senior leaders are best utilised in strategising and high-level decision-making, so it’s crucial to ensure that they’re not focusing too much on the minutiae to the detriment of broader, company-wide goals. 

  • Team disengagement. When leaders begin to take on tasks meant for their staff—such as the more fine-grained aspects of scheduling one’s work-day, for instance—it can lead to staff feeling undervalued or micromanaged. 

  • Wider shifts in team culture. If these habits go unchallenged, it can result in a culture where employees struggle to take full ownership of their tasks or relationships with key accounts, thereby increasing the risk of burnout and reducing the value and satisfaction they take from their tasks.

So, what practical, high-level strategies can be implemented to mitigate—and potentially altogether avoid—the risk of burnout in your staff?

Cultural Changes

When it comes to enhancing workplace wellbeing, the first task awaiting Sales Leaders and other business leaders is to reflect on their company values. This crucial—if often neglected—step ensures that any initiatives that are chosen are always linked back to financial and productivity goals, giving executives the confidence to know that any cultural shifts will have a positive impact on colleagues at all levels of the business, whether they’re new hires or time-served professionals.

Sales leaders and fellow members of the executive leadership team set the standard for the entire workplace. As a result, it’s important to encourage your team to model their behaviours after your own. 

If you fail to use your accrued annual leave, choose to work through breaks, or don’t give yourself the freedom to ‘log off’, then your staff will likely fail to develop their own healthy habits. Creating a culture of workplace wellbeing by caring for your own mental health and productivity not only encourages your teams to trust you and other members of the leadership team, but reduces the risk of burning yourself out—more effectively enhancing morale than if you were to say “...do as I say, not as I do”. 

Work-Life Balance

If there are particular employees whose performance and happiness are lagging, you can also encourage them to focus on their work-life balance by exploring flexible working arrangements with them. 

By offering to work with your employees to enhance their mood and self-esteem, you can make it clear that the business has their best interests at heart, thereby knocking out the fear of losing one’s job that can lead to the vicious cycle of stress that is often at the heart of burnout. 

Revisiting Targets and Ensuring They’re Achievable

It’s important to regularly revisit your sales targets. Reviewing the organisation’s goals and ensuring that KPIs are still attainable given current market conditions can help to give your employees clarity and improve motivation. Unrealistic targets discourage even the best sellers. 

Similarly, with many salespeople reporting to Forbes that they only spend an average of 28% each week on revenue-generating duties, if your sales targets remain realistic in the face of a slowing economy, it’s time to look more closely at your internal processes. 

Investments in Technology and Staff Retention Initiatives

Are there investments you can make elsewhere—such as in automation or productivity-enhancing technologies—that will enable your teams to carry out non-selling tasks more effectively and quickly? If so, it could be the key to helping your inbound and outbound sellers achieve greater success. Whilst you can’t control the external market factors, you can make an internal difference which will help your personnel to spend more time with key accounts and leads. 

If you’re interested in learning more about preventing burnout amongst your inbound and outbound sales teams, see our recent guide on Winning Strategies to Attract and Retain Gen Z for a deep dive into how you can build a growth environment, coach, and set achievable targets for this growing contingent of the global workforce.

Promoting Self-Care in Sales Training Programmes

Now that we’ve explored some of the practical techniques and high-level changes that can be put in place to combat workplace stress and burnout for your sales staff, we can look in a bit more detail at how effective professional training can prepare your team for the challenges and roadblocks they’ll encounter on a day-to-day basis when they’re completing their duties. As we’ll see, sales training programmes can be the ideal environment to put workplace wellbeing practices in place at all levels of your organisation. 

Stress Management

Many expertly-produced courses will encourage your early-career salespeople to develop stress management and organisational techniques which help to prevent your team from becoming overwhelmed with their workload, whilst sales management training will train senior staff to recognise the early signs of burnout mentioned in our first section, enabling them to intervene before it begins to impact business performance. 

Alongside this, sales training and sales management training provide personnel and supervisory staff access to mental health resources, leading to a healthy workplace wellbeing culture. 

Dealing with Rejection

If certain salespeople struggle with rejection, a training provider can offer additional modules that focus on building resilience and equipping personnel with the ability to bounce back from mistakes and the inability to close certain details. 

By teaching them how to reframe their negative experiences and failures as learning experiences, they can develop healthy coping mechanisms that prevent them from slipping into burnout. 

Collaboration Techniques

At the same time, sales training in the UK helps your staff enhance their mental health and performance and collaborate with their colleagues effectively, reducing workplace stress. 

The ability to build rapport and resolve conflicts are core sales skills that can similarly be applied to the interpersonal relationships of a fast-paced office, ultimately leading to stronger connections between colleagues, which contribute towards a positive environment.

Effective Coaching and Mentorship

Sales management training enables supervisors and senior staff to ensure that their coaching and mentorship sessions with colleagues are aligned towards achieving organisational goals and revenue targets. As a study conducted by the American Psychological Association highlights, business leaders and managers with a minimum of three hours of training in mental health awareness (MHAT) are able to improve attitudes and motivation within the office environment. 

This training allows managers to coach early and mid-career staff to personally and professionally grow, improving their prospects for internal mobility. Many sales leaders are promoted into managerial roles due to their success in meeting sales targets effectively, but this expertise does not necessarily lead to an effective and supportive approach to personnel management. 

Exploring sales management courses for your leadership team can help boost job satisfaction and employee engagement amongst lower-level colleagues, reducing frustration and motivating staff at all levels to progress in their careers when they see current leaders excelling in their positions. 

Measuring the Success of Workplace Wellbeing Initiatives

Measuring the success of workplace wellbeing and mental health initiatives can present a challenge for Sales Leaders, since the benefits of reducing burnout amongst sales staff might not produce straightforwardly quantifiable results for a financial quarter or more. 

Despite this difficulty, Sales Leaders do have several techniques at their disposal to track and communicate the wins they’ve earned by implementing mental health awareness training and other techniques for mitigating burnout, including: 

  1. Sales cadence. Monitoring sales cadence and comparing key pre-and-post-intervention metrics allows Sales Leaders to observe if noticeable changes have occurred as a result of their attempts to mitigate burnout. Increases in a team’s overall activity level and consistency can indicate that engagement and productivity have benefitted positively from the mental health and workplace wellbeing intervention.

  1. Sales revenue. A crucial measure of the success of any cultural change within a sales-focused workplace, tracking revenue will enable an executive to assess whether they’ve made a return on their investment into workplace wellbeing initiatives and enabled their staff to complete their duties more efficiently. 

  1. Employee engagement and feedback. An effective means of measuring the success of your mental health-focused sales training programmes, employee engagement surveys can help you to quantify and track how useful staff have found their experiences with the course, allowing you to pivot or offer additional resources where necessary.

  1. Resource utilisation. Confidentially tracking how many members of staff utilise the resources you’ve made available to offset burnout allows you to assess how effective these interventions have been, whilst highlighting specific employees who may need additional support to achieve their targets.

Absenteeism and staff turnover reductions. Tracking metrics such as the number of sick days the members of your sales team take can help you to highlight how successful your attempts have been to mitigate burnout, especially when they’re compared with data collected before you offered additional training and resources.

Point five in our list is perhaps one of the most important aspects of reducing burnout, since having the right people in the right roles is a crucial strategy to reducing further turnover and mitigating the impact that can be caused by the increasing number of responsibilities having to be delegated to remaining staff. 

There are some key techniques that can be used to reduce the risk of absenteeism and staff turnover, including: 

  • Recruiting for resilience. When hiring for roles, staff should not only assess for competency and skill, but for attitude, too. This can help to minimise the risk of future burnout. 

  • Providing clear definitions of roles and responsibilities. Underlining your definition of a role enables your salespeople to focus effectively on their tasks and not take on too much work. 

  • Talent assessment. As we’ve said, there’s a right role for any ambitious and talented candidate—working with an organisation such as Pareto, with 25 years of talent assessment experience, can help you to place employees in the positions that they’re most likely to succeed in. 

  • Skill enhancement opportunities. Leveraging the wide range of sales training programmes on offer and providing your staff with a broad range of professional development activities can give them the tools they need to succeed, reducing the risk of imposter syndrome or feelings of inadequacy. 

At the same time, business leaders have access to additional techniques and tools that can help them to quantify and report on sales staff burnout levels, such as the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), which enables Sales Leaders to track and provide support in cases where their teams highlight feelings of low energy, negativity and lack of motivation to carry out job-critical duties, and reduced efficiency. 

The MBI test is typically utilised before and after sales management training and staff training is provided, and can help senior leadership to understand and modify their approach if the intervention has not been as successful as initially anticipated.

Closing Remarks

Reducing burnout and enhancing workplace wellbeing is of critical importance within the sales environment. As vital members of the core leadership team, Sales Leaders can play an instrumental role in driving these vital initiatives. Recognising the profound impact of burnout on sales performance and overall organisational success, they can create and champion a culture of collaboration, mutual support, and self-care. Sales Leaders set an example for their colleagues, fostering healthy habits that underpin a resilient and highly motivated sales force. 

Practical strategies to combat burnout have found their way into sales training programmes, furthering the commitment to wellbeing within the workplace. Coaching, mentorship, and the ability to identify low morale have similarly been integrated into modern sales management training, enabling senior personnel to intervene early and reduce or entirely prevent staff turnover. 

Furthermore, sales training in the UK is structured to ensure that early and mid-career staff are equipped with effective stress management and organisational techniques, enabling them to handle an otherwise demanding workload and bounce back from rejection. As the sales landscape continues to evolve, sales training programmes and additional mental health awareness education empower sales professionals to navigate the challenges of the workplace with resilience. 

The influence of these interventions can be measured through a number of metrics, including sales cadence, revenue growth, employee engagement, resource utilisation, and absenteeism—markers that enable Sales Leaders to quantify the tangible impact of their work and underscore their commitment to workplace wellbeing. 

Prioritising the reduction of burnout is not just a strategic imperative, but a way of sustaining a thriving sales team. This commitment to support and assistance not only enhances team morale and productivity, but can hold the key to nurturing the resilient leaders that will lead the business to even greater success in the future.

We’re A Specialist Training and Sales Recruitment Agency

Pareto’s expert consultants have been working closely with organisations to help them realise the potential of their workforces for over 25 years. We deliver cutting-edge, practical, and bespoke sales training in the UK, US and via digital channels. At the same time, our sales recruitment agencies in London, Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, and New York allow us to connect global businesses with high-quality talent, no matter how complex the role. 

Contact us for a discussion of your requirements today.

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