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How to Prevent Sales Leader Burnout

In the world of sales, there are few things more scary than the word “burnout.” We've all seen it. Reps struggling to get through each day, showing up exhausted, and unmotivated -- or not showing up at all. Whatever the underlying cause may be, it’s your job as a leader to help them get back on their feet.

But what about you?

On top of the pressure you receive from above, the constant focus on hitting metrics, and your ongoing drive to break sales records, you’re tasked with keeping your reps on track. It all adds up, and sometimes it can be too much. Sales burnout is a real problem, and it affects everyone on the sales team, including sales leaders.

How to Prevent Sales Leader Burnout

8 min. read

Sales is a stressful environment with demanding hours, plenty of rejection, and constant competition, so it’s no wonder why reps sometimes hit a proverbial wall. But while avoiding sales rep burnout is a hot topic among managers, too few people are talking about sales leader burnout.

As a sales leader, you have pressure coming from all directions and a long list of targets to hit, all while supporting your sales reps to ensure your sales process is running smoothly. And things only got harder with the pandemic; the line between work and personal time has been forever blurred, the social aspect of sales has gone by the wayside, and work from home just isn’t for everyone.

The bottom line is that sales leader burnout is real, and it can happen to anyone.

Whether you’re working from home, doing the hybrid thing, or back in the office, here’s how to avoid sales leader burnout:

  1. Get some sleep

  2. Build the right team

  3. Set boundaries

  4. Pick the right environment

  5. Practice self care

  6. Take advantage of tools

1. Get some sleep

The symptoms of burnout are often associated with stress. Lack of motivation, low energy, exhaustion, apathy, you know the deal. Do you know what else causes those symptoms? Lack of sleep. Recent studies on the link between sleep and professional burnout found that less than 6 hours of sleep per night was one of the major contributing factors to burnout. If you’re starting to feel burnt out, the first thing you should do is ensure you’re well rested before you start each day.

Here are a few things that have worked well for me:

Having a strong morning and night routine -- Getting up early in the morning and going to bed early at night, usually at the same time every day. A consistent sleep schedule will signal your brain when it’s time to sleep, and when it’s time to get up.

Avoiding screens at least 30 minutes before bed -- Blue light and constant stimulation are no good for sleep, so I try to cut them out long before I plan to sleep.

Writing stuff down -- Before bed, I write down everything I accomplished that day and what I would have done differently. If there are any other ideas top of mind, I write them down. Going to bed with an active mind will keep you awake.

2. Build the right team

Managing a sales team is stressful, there's no doubt about that. But managing a bad sales team is another beast altogether. Conflicts, arguments, and especially, rogue reps, add unnecessary stress. Without control or visibility over your process, it’s impossible to see into your team’s pipeline or check the status of their deals. And without metrics, there’s no way to ensure consistency or accuracy. Knowing this, and the fact that you’ll be the one to deal with the inevitable fallout, can be a significant source of anxiety.

Avoiding sales leader burnout starts with surrounding yourself with people you work well with, so it’s up to you to create, shape, and support a team whose values -- and efforts -- align with your own. At Proposify, we do this by build our team around our core values:

Start with a full trust battery. Unless proven otherwise, we believe that everyone in our company has the best intentions and can be relied on. We trust their expertise and experience, and respect their perspective. Trust is assumed, not earned.

Build the plane while flying it. We know that the only way to learn is to ship. We move fast, learn as we go, and repeat until we’ve got it right. Perfection is the enemy of done. When faced with a decision, we bias towards action.

Experiment constantly. We’re experimental and embrace failure as a way to learn, minimize risk, and stay innovative. We’re hungry to make things better and continually test our assumptions. We know that this is the path to innovation, growth, and results, and to do otherwise is to settle for mediocrity.

Feeling like everything is on your shoulders is one of the biggest sources of pressure for leaders. Having a team you’re confident delegating to can really help remove some of that pressure.

That doesn’t mean hiring “yes-people'' who won’t challenge you, it just means that you should have managers and team members you trust and feel confident in. At the end of the day, you need to be able to step back, give direction when needed, and keep people accountable.

3. Set boundaries

Setting boundaries isn’t easy. Especially in sales. Considering that only 21% of sales managers work 31-40 hours per week, there’s a clear boundary issue at play. Mix in mandated work from home with 24/7 access to work, and it’s pretty difficult to separate your personal life and your professional life.

That always-on, always-available attitude isn’t healthy, and it’s gotta go. Focusing on work around the clock doesn’t give you a chance to step back and unwind, and it’s putting you at risk of a burnout.

You can start to separate your work and personal life by creating clear boundaries between the two. Once you’re done work for the day, turn your email notifications off. If you work from home, try not to work from places you spend your personal time. If you need to work late, set a limit so that you still get enough sleep. The opportunities are endless, but it’s on you to draw the line.

Personally, these are some of the things that help me disconnect from work:

  • I block out personal and/or family time for lunch and dinner. I make sure that time is 100% for us, not work.

  • I "put on my button up shirt" when I'm working, and take it off when I'm not. This helps create a routine that signals on/off mode for work. I did the same with shoes for a while -- shoes on = work, shoes off = no work.

  • I allow myself to check in on work once after dinner, but only once my daughter has gone to bed.

  • I deleted Slack and Salesforce from my phone; less apps, less notifications. Plus, I plug it in and leave it on the kitchen counter around 7:30. It doesn't come with me in the bedroom when I go to bed.

  • I made sure EVERYONE I work with knows that I go to bed early, so nobody messages me in the evening.

4. Pick the right environment

While work from home was a blessing for many, it wasn’t for everyone. For people who valued structure, routine, and socializing throughout the work day, it was a pretty big shock. On the other hand, now that offices are reopening, people who got used to working from home are stressed about going back. Whether you prefer to work remote, in the office, or some combination of the two, the environment you work in can add or alleviate stress. If you have the choice, work from an environment that you’re most comfortable in, and give your reps the choice as well. This can help you set your reps up for success and allow you to work more effectively so that things don’t pile up or drag you down.

5. Practice self care

    You’ll never be at your best if you don’t put yourself first. Just as you encourage your reps to practice self care, you should be doing the same for yourself. Whether that’s meditating in the mornings before work, turning off your phone after hours, or scheduling your day to allow time to decompress, you need to find ways to slow down once in a while. Trust us. It’ll help you give your mind a break from sales, and when you come back, you’ll be less stressed and more focused.

    6. Take advantage of tools

      Inefficient processes can be a huge source of stress, and can definitely lead to burnout. If everything you do is littered with obstacles and roadblocks, your job becomes exponentially more difficult (and time-consuming). Whether those obstacles are coming from other departments, reps, processes, or external factors, you need to find a way to avoid -- or get rid of -- them.

      If your team is still sending proposals manually, we feel your pain. The process is way too time consuming, there’s no consistency, and zero visibility. It leaves plenty of room for error, and creates unnecessary stress for everyone involved. If you’re looking for a way to take back control, proposal software is the best place to start. It can help you establish responsibilities, define approval workflows, and gain visibility over the process, ultimately making your job (and your reps’) easier.

      Final thoughts

      Sales burnout can affect everyone, not just reps. And if you don’t deal with it, it can spiral out of control. The key to avoiding sales leader burnout is addressing it before it becomes an issue, but that’s easier said than done. Start by supporting yourself the same way you’d support your reps, and ensure that you’re not stretching yourself too thin.

      I'm a strong believer that my partner and I need to focus on ourselves. We need to be at 100% all the time, or we won’t be able to give our daughter our full attention. But if we only focus on our daughter, and don't focus on our own mental health, we’ll eventually crash and burn. And if we crash and burn, the whole household falls apart. It's the same being a sales leader. If you’re not at your best, your team won't be, either.

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