“67% respondents agree / strongly agree that they are close to currently experiencing burnout”
In today’s fast-paced society, the line between work and life is fading, making mental health increasingly difficult to prioritize. Most individuals spend one-third of their adult lives at work, which can exacerbate conditions such as anxiety, burnout and depression.
The stress, depression and lack of feeling in control, that comes with burnout, are finally being formally recognized (the World Health Organization (WHO) recently recognized burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis), leading employers to prioritize mental wellbeing for their employees. This makes it, not only an ethical priority, but a business imperative.
UNCrushed reached out to the sales community to run a research study looking at the state of burnout in the sales industry. Burnout can have a serious impact on your performance, and in turn your sales number. While it is a small sample, many conversations we have had since continue to validate these findings. Here are the survey findings!
Read Tiffani Bova’ article ‘The State of Burnout in the Sales Industry’ in October’s edition of Top Sales World (sign-up for free!).
67% of respondents agree / strongly agree that they are close to currently experiencing burnout.
There are people on your team today, right now, feeling overwhelmed and crushed by the job. You, your company and your team are not immune to the fact that people are feeling burnt out, stressed, and in need of help. Be there for your team in good times and bad. Listen to what they are really saying, not what they want you to hear. If you show vulnerability to the stress of the job, it goes a long way to help others do the same.
Taking Time Off For Managing Burnout
60% of respondents agree / strongly agree that they would be viewed negatively for taking time off to manage burnout.
Finding a way to take the time, not only for yourself, but support, even expect, that same behavior from the rest of your team- especially if you are a manager or sales executive, is where it starts.
67% of respondents often / fairly often / very often work extra long hours above and beyond contracted hours.
Salespeople working 40 hours a week to 50 hours a week is relatively normal. However, those seemingly small sacrifices can all of a sudden get away from you. If one hour becomes two and two hours becomes three, you will soon find yourself in a 60+ hour work week without even realizing it. Ask yourself, “how can you carve out an hour a day to just do things that you want to do?” It could be listening to a podcast, or it could be going for a walk, it could be talking with a coach or a mentor. Go to the gym at lunch, whatever it might be - make the time.
24x7 with customers
74% of respondents agree / strongly agree that they feel they are on call 24x7 and have to respond to customers immediately or it will impact the relationship.
The responsibility of a salesperson is “I have to sell, I have to bring money in the door, and if I don't, people are going to lose their jobs. I might lose my job. My bills might not get paid.” It's non-stop pressure. We have trained customers over time that no matter when they want to talk to us, or need something, they just have to reach out- we always answer- at the dinner table, on vacation, with our kids- it doesn’t matter, we always make ourselves available for our customers. As salespeople we are trying to be as responsive as we can. Have I responded in time? If I don't respond in time, will my client go somewhere else? That responsibility carries a heavy burden. There is a large opportunity for sales leaders to be actually aware of the pace you are keeping and how that impacts the performance of your team.
Stress Levels / Workload Capacity
57% of respondents agree / strongly agree that their workload is in excess of their capacity.
There seems to be a heavy correlation between sales stress and burnout in general. As a sales rep, the pressure and stress you feel is almost non-stop. Ultimately, there is the daily risk that you will get rejected every time you pick up the phone, especially if it's a cold call. There are two things I learned early on. Firstly, you better have thick skin and know how to deal with (lots of) rejection. Secondly, you are not going to win every deal- the stats out now are a little north of 50% of people will miss a quarter this year, that means more than half of sellers will not get paid more than their base salary.
7 (out of 10) is the average stress level experienced by respondents.
The other part of the job that is leading sellers to feel stressed has everything to do with the day-to-day activities they are expected to perform and the productivity metrics that follow. Selling isn’t just about meeting with customers, there is a lot more that goes into the job. However, those other non-selling activities are capturing more than 60% of their time. Which if we do a bit of quick math, that means only 40% of a salesperson's time is spent on actually selling.
Nick Hedges outlines some tips for how to deal with stress in sales. Stress can be beneficial for salespeople for the same reason commissions, sales incentives, trips, and internal competition are effective: it drives activity. The art lies in actually harnessing those benefits. He suggests to find ways to balance the way you motivate your reps at all levels. For your higher performing reps, set expectations but give them more flexibility to set even higher goals for themselves so they can reach their full-potential. And for lower performing reps, make sure to put some formalized structure in place- incentivizing them to meet daily goals and celebrate small wins. This will keep them engaged and less focused on past losses and end of quarter goals, but rather on what they can control in the moment to help them get back on track
Office Politics / Toxic Work Environment
55% of respondents agree / strongly agree their office surroundings to be highly politically charged.
43% of respondents agree / strongly agree that their work environment is toxic.
Salespeople work in a fast-paced, high-stress environment, which can sometimes be a toxic environment- defined as any job where the work, the atmosphere, the people, or any combination of those things cause serious disruptions in the rest of your life.
These are some solid indicators that you're in a toxic work environment:
Little to No Enthusiasm
Lack of Communication or Negative Communication
Cliques, Gossip, and Rumor
Emilie Aries outlines some steps to take if you find yourself in a toxic workplace. Raise your concerns in the appropriate setting- a one-on-one with your boss, a review, or a sidebar meeting with your colleagues. Don’t blind-side your boss with a public call-out at the next weekly team meeting. When you broach the subject, try to frame your grievances in a positive way by saying something like, “Here’s what I think will help me be more productive and effective at work. Can we explore that way of moving forward?” Document everything you do. Save emails and write down comments and decisions from meetings, phone calls, and every person who interacts with you.
Company Wellness Initiatives / Stigma Around Mental Health In The Workplace
50% of respondents agree / strongly agree their company cares about their wellbeing e.g. supports time off, doesn’t expect you to work long hours, weekends, etc.
71% of respondents state their company has initiatives focused on wellness and / or burnout.
58% of respondents feel there is a stigma in their workplace in coming forward and talking openly about mental health.
From the data, we see that everybody seems to be hyper-stressed, yet they are afraid to come forward and say something for fear of the stigma that exists when you are dealing with mental health issues like burnout or anxiety. The stigma can be daunting sometimes.
This is good news that such a high percentage of people report their company has resources available to them to help cope with these challenges, yet people are concerned with coming forward. Why have that feeling and have that resource and not take advantage of them? It is likely that individuals are taking a cue from their managers as well as others on their team.
Ryan Bonnici, CMO G2 Crowd wrote “No one, at any business, should feel afraid to take a mental health day. And no one should ever be punished for doing so. As executives, we already have enough challenges before us. Let’s not allow this to be one of them.” (Read the full article ‘Workers are Afraid To Take a Mental Health Day’ here.)
“I have had many different sales roles and they are all the same. Stress is a part of it and working 50-60hrs a week and every weekend is a must. I have been told to work on weekends for years. If I do take time off, I still end up having to take calls all day and still close business. In reality I have burnt out and am leaving sales for good. It has caused me to gain weight, have relationship issues and family issues. Most sales companies are pressure cookers. Also I found I ended up drinking too much because of all the stress.”
“Salespeople are often viewed as the hero or the zero. Lots of individuals think all we do is take people to lunch and golf. What they don’t see are the ass chewings and blame game for other individuals who may fail in the organization. We compete with our people internally as well as externally with clients and real competitors and are often under compensated both financially and via recognition/praise. You have to really love people and helping them to stay in the field of sales.”
“Our company is open with mental health and flexible with employees, so there is not a need for a wellness initiative. Any burnout feelings I have are not due to my employer. They are due to the industry of sales. It lacks rigor and promotes self-aggrandizement, which leads to poor management and leadership. Diversity is lacking. There is a hiring stereotype (extrovert and always positive, go team!!!) and all sales gurus promote the same ideas to sell the same books. There lacks any type of modern development and we are still incorporating the systems put in place by John Patterson and Tom Watson @ NCR and ICM respectively. There is a lacking of new ideas.”
“These answers are based on my past experience and why I left the sales tech space.”
“My company has wellness programs but at my level of leadership I think it would be frowned upon to speak out about my own mental health. How I know I have burnout personally: I used to work outside of hours and was happy to do that...now nothing brings me joy in the workplace.”
Current state of things at my company: we were recently told that any rep who hits their monthly quota would get Friday, July 5th off from work without having to use PTO. The problem is only 2-3 people out of 27 hit their quota last month. When quota is not attainable these types of incentives don't motivate people any more than if they weren't there.”
While these research survey findings are based on a small sample, many conversations we have had since continue to validate these findings. We will be running a more extensive survey in due course. Please share your comments below on the findings!
DETAILED DEMOGRAPHICS ON STRESS LEVELS
average current stress level
18-24 years old - 5
25-34 years old - 7
35-44 years old - 7.5
45-54 years old - 8
55-64 years old - 7
65-74 years old - 7.5
Inside Sales Individual Contributor - 7
Inside Sales Manager - 7
Outside Sales Individual Contributor - 8
Outside Sales Manager - 7
Sales Operations - 8
Other - 6
Less than 5 years - 7
5 - 10 years - 7
10+ years - 8
demographics of survey respondents
18-24 years old - 2.20%
25-34 years old - 35.16%
35-44 years old - 30.77%
45-54 years old - 20.88%
55-64 years old - 9.89%
65-74 years old - 2.20%
Inside Sales Individual Contributor - 29%
Inside Sales Manager - 15%
Outside Sales Individual Contributor - 25%
Outside Sales Manager - 18%
Sales Operations - 3%
Other - 10%
Less than 5 years - 24%
5 - 10 years - 26%
10+ years - 50%