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Sales burnout: How to support stressed-out teams

18 May 23

Whatever mood the market’s in, working as a salesperson usually warrants a certain level of stress. It’s a results-driven field that demands peak performance at all times. The push to generate pipeline and hit quota is relentless. The salespeople who succeed are those who maximize the hours in their working day and consistently plan for the months to follow. 

Yet sales has only become harder over the last year. Companies worldwide have shrunk their budgets, leaving many marketing teams unable to invest in new partnerships or even renew existing contracts. However, salespeople are still expected to achieve numbers that are similar to those from previous years.

The current economic anxiety is also impacting the level of support that salespeople can receive from their own marketing teams, making it even more challenging to break through to key accounts. All these factors are contributing to the rising burnout among salespeople. 

For this blog, we spoke to two Reachdesk sales experts – BDR Cassie Moreno and VP of Sales, EMEA, James Suwanpatra – to understand the warning signs of sales burnout and what managers can do to combat this phenomenon.

What is workplace burnout? 

Workplace burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion resulting from chronic stress that hasn’t been addressed or resolved. Symptoms include frequent tiredness, a lack of passion or motivation, negative feelings towards work, and reduced productivity.

According to a 2022 global survey by Microsoft, 48% of employees and 53% of managers are currently experiencing burnout at work. While it can be present in any field, salespeople appear to be particularly vulnerable – a Gartner survey from the same year revealed that a staggering 89% of salespeople were struggling with their stress levels. It’s no surprise that 54% said they were actively looking for a new job.

A workplace culture that doesn’t actively promote employee wellbeing can have huge ramifications. The cumulative effects of lost productivity, absenteeism, low morale, and high turnover are costing organizations an average of $190 billion every year.

The warning signs of workplace burnout

“One of the biggest warning signs of burnout is when a person starts sacrificing their wellbeing,” says Reachdesk BDR Cassie Moreno. “When you’re under pressure at work, occasionally skipping things like sleep, exercise, and eating well can feel like a natural solution – but it isn’t sustainable.”

During high-stress periods, it’s tempting to rearrange your lifestyle around your work in order to keep up. We can rationalize these sacrifices for a little while. Missing out on one lunchtime stroll to complete a task isn’t the end of the world, but if you’re going days without taking proper breaks away from your desk, that’s bound to take its toll. 

Regularly working late can disrupt both your sleeping pattern and your diet. When you’re stressed out and against the clock, the convenience of takeaways and fast food often takes precedence over eating nourishing meals.  

“Even if these sacrifices feel manageable in the short-term,” says Cassie, “the truth is that sleep, exercise, and nutrition are the foundations of our wellbeing, and should be non-negotiable.”

“If you find yourself constantly feeling sad, tired, numb, or not making time for the things you enjoy, you might need to take a step back and reflect on your relationship with work.” 

How sales managers can combat burnout

Celebrate every milestone

In a time of economic uncertainty, it’s understandable that organizations are keen to return to “business as usual” by setting ambitious targets to motivate their sales teams. But just as we’ve seen the sales landscape change over the last year, James Suwanpatra, Reachdesk’s VP of Sales, EMEA, believes that expectations should change along with it – if only to allow for celebrating the smaller wins and milestones that sales reps achieve. 

“Many companies are in a ‘rebuilding phase’ at the moment,” says James. “When you’re doing that, you’re not going to go from zero to a hundred overnight. It’s more about accumulating those smaller milestones along the way.”

Tricky market conditions are obviously beyond the control of your salespeople. If they’re managing to book demo calls and close smaller deals in these adverse conditions, that’s testament to their drive and commitment to your organization. To keep your salespeople feeling engaged and appreciated, it’s vital to recognize every achievement, even if it doesn’t always involve the “big fish” accounts. 

Gamify sales activities

Cassie says her manager does a number of things to help keep the team “focused and motivated”. For starters, the team regularly watches inspiring movie clips together – think galvanizing pep talks from sports coaches or any scene from the Rocky franchise – to dial up their can-do attitude. 

But gamified initiatives, such as a daily competition, seem to work particularly well for the team. For example, Cassie’s team has the chance to win gift cards or perhaps a treat from the Reachdesk Marketplace based on how many email replies they receive or how many meetings they book.

While sales quota is always a hot topic, Cassie’s manager regularly encourages the team to look at the bigger picture and their long-term goals in order to stay motivated. 

“Sales is a high-pressure career,” says Cassie, “But it can be high-earning too, so it helps to discuss what you would do with the money. It can be anything from buying a new purse to looking after a family member. As long as you know what you’re working towards, it’s easier to keep your eyes on the prize.”

Create an open culture

Sales is a fast-paced field, and sellers are often afraid to take their foot off the pedal. But instead of allowing team members to spiral in silence, you can help stop burnout in its tracks by creating a team culture in which they can openly discuss their stress levels and feel comfortable taking breaks throughout the day as required. 

When people know they can share their feelings without judgment, it can help them refocus and give them a stronger sense of belonging at work. Better yet, consider sharing your own experiences with burnout and how you’ve overcome it. This will provide your sellers with a tangible example of how stress can be successfully managed, and create a stronger bond between you and your team. 

Surprise and delight

A 2022 survey found that 57% of employees are more likely to be loyal and continue working for a company that rewards their teams with employee gifts. 

Our Reachdesk for People tool empowers people teams to send personalized gifts throughout the employee lifecycle. Choose from our curated marketplace of gift vendors and more than 3,800 eGift cards covering over 160 countries, and automate your sends to align with employee anniversaries or even awareness days (National Workaholics Day is July 5th, pass it on!). 

But Reachdesk for People can also be used to surprise and delight employees with spontaneous rewards. If someone in your sales team has expressed concern about potentially burning out, following up with a thoughtful treat can be a powerful gesture. From chocolate to bath bombs, you’ll find a range of comforting gifts to help your hardworking salespeople feel swell and ready to sell. 

Read our new guide, “Sales under pressure: How to hit targets in a challenging market”, for expert tips and techniques from top sales professionals. Learn how to approach sales conversations with confidence, optimize strategies, and give the right gift at the right time.


Robert Gould

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