Many tips for avoiding burnout often focus on what individual sales team members can do to avoid succumbing to the problem. However, management also plays an integral role in helping employees deal with stress and burnout both while they happen as well as preemptively. With the costs of work-related stress estimated to be as high as $300 billion annually for American businesses alone, burnout should be considered as much as threat to sales numbers as supply chain issues or market conditions.
- Keep an eye out for diminishing effectiveness on your team. Is it just one or two salespeople out of a team of ten, or are more than half of the team members much more sluggish than they were six months ago? Looking at metrics like sales numbers can indicate possible burnout or other stress. System-wide decreases as well as marked drops in performance for a single salesperson can help you determine whether to approach the problem organizationally or individually. CRM tools help track each person’s sales figures.
- Demonstrate a willingness to listen. While a single employee’s issues might not be reason to change the way a company does business, management should at least show employees that their concerns matter. Sometimes simply voicing a frustration or worry can diminish the effect it has on an employee’s job, and venting frustration or suggesting alternatives can help team members to feel as though management will take their concerns seriously. Do your best to take every suggestion or worry seriously.
- Watch for regular sick days. If a team or an employee develops a markedly higher incidence of sick days or personal leave over time, consider whether burnout might be the reason. Start by asking the employee if anything is the matter, rather than reprimanding. Sometimes, salespeople are looking for someone else to initiate the conversation.
- Try shifting employees around. Someone who consistently has above-average results with cold calls shouldn’t be chasing single, long-term leads. Shifting such an employee back to cold calling could improve morale. Similarly, employees who have been selling the same product or service for a long time, or working the same region, might do well with a lateral move to a different aspect of the business.
- Check in with your top salespeople occasionally. The same traits that make someone excellent at sales, such as high motivation and taking the job seriously, also render that person susceptible to burnout. Such individuals often take missteps more personally and get more readily frustrated over smaller issues. Even if such an employee continues to meet quotas or other milestones, watch for changes in the way he or she works.
- Don’t expect a single conversation, intervention, or vacation to solve the problem. Though conversations with burned-out employees can go a long way toward helping them find their footing again, don’t be surprised if things don’t resolve themselves immediately. The sources of the stress and frustration often still remain, even though the employee is likely better-equipped to deal with them, or has had some time to recharge. Fighting burnout requires lasting efforts.
- Take notice of employees’ successes. About two in five workers indicate that lack of recognition is a major component of their unhappiness at work. If multiple salespeople seem unmotivated or have entered a slump, take the time to recognize their accomplishments, past and present. A reminder of a major sale or a month where a salesperson exceeded quotas can improve morale and reduce burnout. Some employers reward employee accomplishments with seemingly-small gestures like delivery lunches or gift cards.
Additional reading: Creating Sustainable Performance, by Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath, from the Harvard Business Review, suggests that “thriving employees are highly energized, but they know how to avoid burnout.”
What do you think?
While none of these tactics will solve a burned-out team’s issues overnight, careful implementation over a long period of time can lead to a happier team with more consistent sales numbers. Burnout can definitely be preempted through data, especially when it comes to sales numbers and metrics that lend themselves well to tracking via a CRM system. Has your office developed a way of mitigating burnout that you’d like to share? Let us know your innovative approaches in the comments.