Sales burnout can be a career-ender. Here’s how you can recognize the signs and stop it before it’s too late. 

There are some industries where you can fumble your way through work, even with burnout. It’s not ideal, of course, but it generally doesn’t mean your career is going down the tubes. Sales burnout is different. 

In sales, you talk to people, set up meetings, make phone calls, and send emails. Even for the most outgoing salespeople, it takes a lot of energy. However, some people thrive in this type of environment. And a good salesperson can turn this energy into a fantastic career. 

But sales burnout can change that dramatically. Exhaustion sets in. You miss calls, bungle easy sales, or find reasons to avoid contacting prospects. It’s no mystery that before long, your numbers are dropping, and things start looking a little dismal. The key to prevention here is to recognize these signs and counteract them before they have a chance to grow. 

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sales burnout

Don’t let sales burnout burn your career

The first step in preventing sales burnout is understanding where it comes from. That’s actually the easy part since the World Health Organization describes burnout as “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

Many of us may recognize this as working long hours under pressure with limited or no support from management. For salespeople, it might look like unobtainable sales goals, micromanagement from a supervisor, or even a series of upset customers. 

One of the problems with sales burnout is that it creeps up, and the signs often go unnoticed until we’re deep into it. That’s why prevention is so important. And why it’s vital to recognize the symptoms of burnout so even if you can’t prevent it entirely, you can do something about it before it sinks your career. So, what are we going to do? And what are we not going to do? 

1. Management plays a significant role. If you’re managing salespeople – or supervising other managers who are managing a team – it’s important to understand the impact management styles can have on sales burnout. While you need to guide and support your team, be sure you aren’t overdoing it. Set reasonable sales goals, focus on the metrics and KPIs that matter, and give your team space to do their job. 

2. Don’t push through. The idea of pushing through sales burnout is, unfortunately, not uncommon. The problem is that burnout comes from “chronic workplace stress.” Working more isn’t going to address the issue. If some of the symptoms of burnout are decreased motivation, low energy, exhaustion, a negative outlook, and missing details on projects, ignoring it and pushing yourself to do more will only make things worse. Burnout is your mind and body telling you to slow down. 

3. Take a real break. Take that lunch break. Spend 10 minutes walking around the block in the morning. Leave work for 20 minutes in the afternoon. Your mind and body both need to refresh. Block these times out on your calendar if you need to. Going for a short walk gets your blood moving, which helps deliver oxygen to your brain, which means you can increase your focus and your energy levels. 

4. Exercise. If those short walks feel helpful, exercise could do wonders for you. Even 20 minutes of vigorous exercise can boost your energy levels and improve mental health. 

5. Guard your downtime. Is a vacation really a vacation if you have your phone on and your email up? Is a weekend really a weekend if you’re returning calls and setting up meetings? Even salespeople need time off. Use that “out-of-office” message. Turn off the phone, close your email, and take some time off. 

6. Just say no. You can’t absolve yourself of every job responsibility you don’t want. Still, you can also be upfront with people and say you don’t have the capacity to take on additional responsibilities or join another volunteer committee. 

7. Do something fun. It’s important to refuel yourself. Learn a new skill or attend a sales seminar. Find out more about the way people are using your product or service. Or take up something you love outside of work. Join a recreational soccer team, get a museum membership, or start a band. Whatever it is that appeals to you, it’s helpful to have that experience and a way to refresh your spirit. 

Don’t ignore the possibility of sales burnout. It can do real damage to your chances of success. Take steps to refresh and recharge yourself, and don’t be afraid to take some time off. You deserve it. 

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